Building Trust, Engaging Crew Members & Employees

There’s both Good News and Bad News!

First the Bad News -Surveys generally indicate 35-50% of demotivation and turnover is caused by dissatisfaction with leadership and working relationships (with Leaders, Supervisors and/or those around them.)

Now the Good News –Leaders who build trust and engagement with Employees are rewarded with increased loyalty, retention of talent, motivation and productivity, plus, lower turnover, absenteeism, accidents and productivity. (Consistently 25-35% better than average in recent business surveys)

“Make yourself accountable and your employees will hold themselves to a high standard.”
David J. Greer, Wind In Your Sails
More people want to do a good job. While there are a few who won’t or can’t perform properly, the numbers are very, very low. Open, positive approaches work.


Common Sense?  While this appears to be common sense, many still struggle with it, as:

  • Few leaders, supervisors and managers receive training and support on leadership, one of the most challenging jobs of all (some do well in spite of this, but it’s often trial and error)
  • Immediate time and production pressures force a reactive approach, vs, planning for success
  • Leaders must quickly respond to seemingly new and unique situations (despite the fact that most of these situations have been dealt with previously, and planned solutions are available.)

The more you know about a situation, the better you can deal with it. To start with,

Step 1-Understand your obligations

Keep people safe, teach, coach and support them to be successful. They succeed, you succeed!

Step 2-Understand traditional employment problems and stereotypes

We need to actively overcome negative stereotypes that alienate Crewmembers, and saps their confidence. You may be a fine person, but your new Crew doesn’t know that. Also, they may have had some poor leaders in the past (Have you? Or, Were they good leaders you can learn from?)

Step 3-Decide what the job requires, develop a plan to share and collaborate with your Crew.

The clearer and more consistently you communicate your expectations, the better they can respond. Your newbies can learn better, while more experienced Crew who earn your trust, can be given more autonomy, which makes your life better. Build your team, that’s your job.

Engaged people have confidence that they have the skills, tools and support to succeed.


                                       Short Shots                              

Employee Engagement-A popular term these days.

  • Highly engaged people produce dramatically better results (30% better in some surveys)
  • Engaged Teams will do the job, but can contribute more. We need to encourage them.
  • Disengaged Employees may be re-engaged, but we need to assess our options carefully
  • Actively disengaged Employees are harmful, destructive & toxic. If you keep them they do harm.

Motivation and Engagement-What’s the difference?

To start with, Motivation is the drive we have to act, which may be influenced by factors, such as,

  • Our internal drives affected by personal abilities, upbringing, education & experiences, etc,
  • Our surroundings, leaders, mentors, colleagues, work environment, rewards, etc.

Leaders have a huge impact on Employee motivation, (good or bad), as does our work environment.

Engagement is an even higher level of commitment that builds on motivation, plus our confidence that,

  • We have the knowledge, skills and abilities to be successful in our work
  • We have the trust and support of those around us to enable that success
  • We are doing work we enjoy and have to tools to succeed.

How the Psychological Contract impacts our motivation, engagement, and performance.

As a starting point, all Employees have unwritten expectations of Employers, to be fair, keep us safe, teach us the job, and pay us properly*. Referred to as the Psychological Contract, we are,

  • Pleased, reassured and motivated when these perceived obligations are lived up to, and,
  • Disappointed (even angry sometimes), when we feel the Employer has let us down. That is, if they have not delivered on some aspect we felt they should have.

Both of these aspects have an impact on us, and our motivations.

*Note-As well as those traditional expectations, there are increasing expectations of Employees for development, as well as, opportunities for learning, growth and promotion.

On the other hand, Employers have expectations, on us, as well!

  • The basics include, showing up regularly, on time, do a good job & working well with others
  • More recent additional expectations include adaptability, flexibility, willingness to accept feedback, and to make an overall contribution.

We need of course, a balance, where both parties meet each other’s needs and expectations.

Recommendations and Action Planning

As you know, good Leaders encourage us to do better, by,


  • Establishing an environment for success
  • Planning-to address priorities
  • Communicating & collaborating
  • Training and teaching,
  • Coaching to enhance performance
  • Effective problem solving



Think, Plan, Act


  • What are the challenges we will face in our next film project (time, changes, new crew)?
  • What are predictable issues to address-clarity of expectations, setting standards for new Crew members, and/or, more experienced Crew?
  • What are basic expectations my Crew will have of me, and how should I deliver on those?
  • What steps can I take to confirm expectations, then reinforce them to ensure they are met?
  • What can I do to encourage Crew members to communicate with me in a timely manner?


  • While time is tight, we still have “opportunities for influence” to communicate key messages (e.g. Day 1, weekly wrap ups, short “coffee consultations”, especially with newcomers, “teachable moments”)
  • Ensure you develop a plan to use these opportunities for feedback, coaching, recognition of good work, or corrections, as needed. Fitting in short “coaching moments” gives your Crew confidence to carry on. It also builds your confidence that they are doing what you want.


  • Make it happen! Stick to your plan and learn who needs more input and support, and who is “picking it up” quickly so you can back off a bit, and address other tasks.
  • Make Crew Members accountable to touch base with you at appropriate moments. To let you know if they have questions, what’s working or not, or status reports on situations.
  • Film projects are always busy and dynamic. If you have a plan, and know what you want, your Crew can better deliver.


Consider this range of recent engagement survey results

  • 25% of employees are highly engaged, 40% are moderately engaged (Aon Hewitt)
  • 5% of employees are “not engaged” and 16.5% are “actively disengaged” (Gallup)
  • 29% of millennials are engaged at work, 16% are actively disengaged, 55% are not engaged (Gallup)
  • Engagement levels are consistent across every generation (Modern Survey)

Engagement and Trust Building Ideas

Use Days 1 & Week 1 to set the tone to communicate your priorities and expectations

The more they know you, the better they can communicate with you, but tell them when you may have time to talk, and not.

Ask your Crew to keep you informed in a timely manner on,

  • General updates at the end of the day to advise all is on track, or minor items to address
  • Notable non-urgent issues or developments you can hear on breaks in the action
  • Significant issues that can’t wait until later. (i.e. immediate safety issues, etc)

Walk through examples of these issues so that,

  • You are kept properly informed on priority issues, when needed
  • Your Crew understands priority issues, what to do with them, when to inform you (and when to wait)
  • Your Crew builds their own confidence, as well as trust in you

Be positive-your engagement builds engagement with others. Crew with motivated and engaged Leaders, are much more likely to be highly engaged themselves, and deliver superior results.


Determine what you can delegate and to whom, then seek opportunities to teach the others who need more guidance. Discuss your higher expectations with experienced Crew and clarify what you expect them to be accountable for on their own.

Where you have full confidence in them, but they still hesitate, you can gradually “push them out of the nest” to act independently. This gives you more time to oversee the ones who need more direct advice & support.

Be Alert!

Watch for issues such as lethargy, tardiness, carelessness, rudeness or lack of cooperation. These are serious issues with many causes, but you have little time for salvage operations. If you have done a good job of setting initial expectations, “they should know better”. You may want to intervene sooner than later, to learn what the issues are and decide if a reminder or a stronger tone is needed.