3 Tips for Building Trust with Remote Teams

Getting Things Done – Building Trust Equity

Building a strong team involves finding people who will bring their skills and talents on board – and who are a good fit for your company culture. Additionally, building a strong REMOTE team requires building trust equity between workers. There’s no way around it, remote teams simply have to be able to trust their teammates. They rely on each other to make sure work is being done and you rely on all of them to keep projects moving efficiently toward your goals.

Managing a remote workforce means that you don’t have to worry about enforcing rules to make sure butts are in seats for a set number of hours during each day. But the trade-off for this kind of flexibility means, at the end of the week, that everyone expects you to have something to show for your work week. It means you trust your teammates will get something done - but also that your teammates equally trust you to deliver. Earning reciprocal trust is something one literally has to work for.

To develop implicit trust amongst your teammates, you can create a regular team check-in time. This “temperature check” provides a way to track and measure weekly results, evaluating each other on what was completed during the previous week. It also helps maintain a culture of accountability, and moves everything forward in a way that ensures everyone is invested in the outcome.

Related: 5 Ways to Build Company Culture within Remote Teams

If you prefer not to add another conference call to your calendar, you might choose to use a shared drive or live document where everyone can update his or her status. Since noone wants to be the only teammate with nothing new to show this creates a desire to finish something important each week.

3 Ways to Build Team Trust without Doing Trust Falls 

1. Listen.

This one would be SO easy if we were more aware of doing it more mindfully. Many of us are just horrible listeners. We're either too busy, absorbed in our own activities, assume we already get the point, jump to conclusions, or are already planning our own responses while others talk. Sometimes we just don't respect others enough or care enough to REALLY listen. We need to do better to be better. By practicing to listen better, you'll start to see that people perceived you as more approachable. Employees will see that you are open-minded and ready to hear and understand their ideas or concerns. 

People know when you're faking it. It has to be real or it's a wasted opportunity. Active listening provides the chance to engage your team, encourage them to come to you with ideas or discuss why some ideas can't be a priority during your current strategy or focus. When you stop listening, it's likely your team will stop engaging with you. 

2. Be open to DIfferent perspectives.

In one of my former roles, I worked with an analyst who was incredibly bright and so intuitive, EXCEPT when it came to how he talked to other team members. He joined the team and immediately started calling everyone's babies ugly. He delivered comments in a tone that exasperatedly implied that NO ONE else was intelligent enough to think of or fix the issues he pointed out. The team knew about every single problem, but the resources and budget weren't yet in place to fix it. It built resentment and frustration, not trust. He was seen as an expletive, not an expert. 

I suggested that he try approaching the team differently - this time, operating under new assumptions:
  1. The possibility always existed that he could be wrong.
  2. No matter how smart any of us are, we can't possibly know everything.
  3. None of us has the same knowledge, experience and insight as everyone else, so being open to other perspectives could bring the best ideas, if we are willing to listen. 
  4. Being humble and open to learn from others is not a weakness. It's powerful to let people share their ideas and experience - and then collaborate with them for the best outcome. 
You can build trust through giving honest praise and appreciation of others' ideas, recognizing contributions and being open to change, innovation and improvement. In that way, teamwork really can make the dream work, instead of providing nightmare fuel to your coworkers. 
 

3. Give employees freedom.

There's more to this freedom thing than just the flexibility remote work provides to the schedules of your team. Not only will your team appreciate the chance to put your company culture through its paces, but people will often thrive when they're given the option to challenge the status quo in a way that will have a meaningful impact on their work.

We all benefit from the freedom to grow, learn, "run with scissors" and even ... gasp... the freedom to fail.

Some companies out there operate on leveraging fear - creating the terrifying feeling of "will I lose my job if I mess this up?" While accountability is to be expected with any job, no one should live in fear that the tiniest misstep will spell their ruin. 

Fear creates toxic cultures, and toxicity kills trust. Instead, create a culture of freedom and autonomy to try new things - provide the framework of the company mission and vision as guardrails - and then let it rip! The results will not disappoint, and your team will enjoy working for you while helping the company grow. 

The Impact of Trust on the Bottom Line

Paul J. Zak, Harvard researcher and author of "The Trust Factor: The Science of Creating High Performing Companies," has invested over 2 decades researching the neurological connection between trust, leadership, and organizational performance. He found remarkable quantitative results associated with trust-based cultures.

Zak concluded that those working in high-trust cultures:

  • Enjoyed their jobs 60% more
  • Were 70% more aligned with their companies' purpose
  • Felt 66% closer to their colleagues
  • Had 11% more empathy for their workmates,
  • Experienced 40% less burnout from their work
  • Earn an additional $6,450 a year, or 17% more than those working at low-trust organizations

So there you have it: scientists have done the heavy lifting and established what we intuitively already know. Organizations who want to attract and retain the best people and achieve the best results, have to develop a culture of trust to achieve success. 

 

Tags:
remote teams, teamwork, business success, field management, workforce management, field execution, business growth