It can be argued that since the pandemic we have developed a lack of connectivity with others that may be impacting, trust, emotional intelligence, and performance in contact centres.

Research from CIPD showed that, in the first year of COVID-19 (2020), trust in business and leaders rose, driven in part by the admirable response of many organisations when it came to looking after the needs of their multiple stakeholders, from employees to suppliers, customers and communities.

However, as the pandemic dragged on and since we resume “normal” Trust has started to dwindle. We’ve seen this in some high profile leaders, sharing their views on home working with feelings that there is “laziness” in employees who are working from home!

This is classic absence of Trust and a clear lack of Emotional Intelligence in those leaders.

So, what are the key things we need to have in place to build trust and EI in leadership and boost performance? How in a remote world do we become more emotionally connected and how do we build up levels of emotional intelligence in frontline and leadership teams?

These were the questions we tackled in April’s The Contact centre network event hosted by FAB Solutions Founder, Garry Gormley with panel guests in the fields of emotional intelligence and leadership coaching who came together to shed light on the topic of Emotional Intelligence, Leadership and Trust.

The panel included Sandra Thompson, an Emotional Intelligence coach from EI Evolution, and Kay Littlehales, an Imposter Coach from Tipi Training, both bringing decades of expertise and unique perspectives to the table.

The Relevance of Emotional Intelligence in Leadership

The conversation kicked off with Sandra Thompson discussing the importance of emotional intelligence (EI) in leadership roles. Sandra, who has been deeply involved in EI coaching after studying with Daniel Goleman, emphasised that the post-pandemic shift to remote and hybrid work models has tested leadership on various fronts.

She noted that emotional intelligence is not just a desirable trait but a crucial skill in navigating the complexities of modern leadership and how a lack of EI can lead to increased friction and toxicity within teams, highlighting the need for leaders to develop this competency actively.

What is the role of Emotional Intelligence in modern leadership?

The role of emotional intelligence is indispensable in leadership and the global disruptions during and post pandemic, have put leadership skills to the test, particularly emotional intelligence. Leaders now, more than ever, need to adeptly manage not just the logistical aspects of their roles but also the emotional dynamics of their teams, especially given the increased prevalence of remote and hybrid work settings which has removed that watercooler conversation and the osmotic relationship we have when we are face to face with teams.

Emotional Intelligence in Times of Change and Crisis

Sandra pointed out that emotional intelligence is particularly crucial during times of significant change, such as the ongoing adjustments to post-pandemic realities. Leaders with high EI are better equipped to guide their teams through uncertainty and change, ensuring that the organisation not only survives but thrives.

Sandra elaborated on how emotional intelligence has become more critical as leaders navigate these unfamiliar waters. She pointed out that emotional intelligence helps leaders manage stress, adapt to change, and maintain team cohesion, all of which have been crucial in recent years.

Effective leadership, she noted, involves understanding and managing one’s own emotions as well as empathising with the emotions of others. This skill is vital in times of crisis, helping leaders to make more informed, compassionate decisions that consider the well-being of their teams along with the organisation’s objectives.

The Impact of Emotional Intelligence on Business Outcomes

The discussion also highlighted the tangible benefits of emotional intelligence in the workplace. Sandra mentioned that organisations led by emotionally intelligent leaders tend to have better team dynamics, higher employee engagement, and improved customer satisfaction. These organisations not only navigate challenges more effectively but also see substantial benefits in terms of business performance.

Trust and Leadership in a Hybrid Work Environment

Building strong emotional connections can only really be done when teams feel comfortable with their leaders and the organisation. To this point the conversation pivoted towards how an absence of trust can bring up those walls and prevent leaders from forging strong connections with the team.

Kay Littlehales contributed to the discussion by addressing the challenges of building and maintaining trust in a hybrid work setting. With her background in addressing imposter phenomenon and enhancing leadership skills among young leaders and senior executives, Kay pointed out that the physical distance that often comes with remote work arrangements could create gaps in trust that previously didn’t exist. She stressed the importance of intentional and meaningful communication to bridge these gaps, ensuring that leaders maintain strong connections with their teams regardless of geographical barriers.

Trust and Leadership in Hybrid Work Environments

Kay discussed the challenges of maintaining trust in hybrid work environments where traditional, informal interactions are less frequent. The physical separation that characterises remote work can erode trust unless leaders take proactive steps to foster it through consistent and meaningful communication. Trust, she pointed out, is foundational for effective teamwork and is a critical component of a healthy organisational culture.

The Impact of Emotional Intelligence on Operational Models

Kay emphasised that the shift to more remote and digitally mediated work has made emotional intelligence even more essential. Leaders must be vigilant and proactive in recognising and addressing not just the work-related but also the emotional and psychological needs of their teams. Both Sandra and Kay stressed that this shift demands a new kind of leadership— one that prioritises emotional well-being as much as productivity.

Building and Sustaining Trust Through Intentional Leadership

The conversation also covered the necessity of intentional actions to build and sustain trust. Kay underscored the importance of leaders being transparent, reliable, and consistent in their interactions. Trust is built over time and maintained through consistent positive engagement and by leaders showing that they value and care for their team members, Kay referred to this as “Effort Leadership” the effort you put into building and understanding the relationship you have with your team, an intentional and proactive choice by leaders.

Kay emphasised the importance of deliberate and consistent communication and the need to retain the spontaneous and organic development of trust through more intentional and deliberate actions to keep it alive remotely.

Practical Strategies for Enhancing EI and Trust

Both Kay and Sandra shared practical advice for leaders looking to improve their emotional intelligence and build trust within their teams:

  • Active Listening and Empathy: Leaders should practice active listening, where they genuinely focus on understanding others’ viewpoints without premature judgment. This fosters a culture of respect and understanding.
  • This not only improves communication but also enhances mutual respect and understanding within the team.
  • Regular Check-ins and Meaningful Interactions: The need for regular and scheduled interactions that go beyond work-related topics to foster a deeper connection and build trust. Especially in remote settings, scheduled and spontaneous check-ins can help maintain and build interpersonal relationships and trust.
  • Training and Development: Ongoing training and self-awareness exercises can significantly boost a leader’s EI, making them more effective and adaptable. Continuous learning opportunities, such as workshops and seminars on emotional intelligence, can significantly enhance a leader’s ability to engage empathetically.


A key takeaway is that there is a strong endorsement of emotional intelligence and trust as critical components of effective leadership in all conversations we are having with leaders and its more important now than ever before.

These skills are not just nice-to-have but essential for any leader aiming to cultivate a responsive, committed, and high-performing team. Leaders are encouraged to actively develop these competencies to enhance their effectiveness and contribute positively to organisational success.