9 Tips to Strengthen Trust with Remote Teams
May 6, 2021
“Extending trust is the ultimate act of leadership, the defining skill that transforms a manager into a leader.” – Stephen M. R. Covey
As many businesses explore new ways of working with remote or distributed teams, managers are being called upon to lead differently. Without a direct line of sight into their employees’ work, it’s increasingly important that they encourage team members to operate in whatever way best suits that individual, not necessarily the manager, to realize their goals.
To successfully make this shift in behavior, it requires trust. For managers, they must trust their team members to get the job done and act appropriately. For employees, they must trust their manager to support them with the tools and information they need while also helping them push aside roadblocks to accomplish their objectives.
Trust has always been an important component of successful workplaces. And now, as we work in new and different ways, it is more critical than ever that managers assume positive intent, make the choice to trust in their team members and take action to help employees trust them in return.
Why Trust Is Essential with Distributed Teams
Research has shown the positive effect that face-to-face and in-person interaction has in terms of building trust, so when working remotely, it’s important that managers consciously create trusting, positive relationships with employees to support engagement as well as the company’s bottom line.
Great Places to Work has shared data highlighting that trusting workplace environments:
Drive revenue – Publicly-held Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work For have market returns that are nearly three times the average.
Enhance innovation – The most innovative companies achieve more than five times the median year-over-year growth than the least innovative companies.
Trust also inspires staff by creating a positive, motivating environment. When employees are empowered to make decisions, they gain a sense of autonomy, which raises engagement by 17% and satisfaction by 15%. When employees have the freedom to think independently, collaborate and move ideas forward, it’s no surprise that productivity and engagement follow.
As managers look toward business recovery and adapt their practices to suit present and future needs, trust is essential to success.
Considerations to Build Trust Across Remote Teams
1. Support employee wellbeing
Working from home – even under normal circumstances – can blur the lines between work and life as employees may increasingly answer late emails or take phone calls at off-hours. While it’s not problematic to adapt your schedule, it can become so if employee wellness isn’t a priority.
To build trust, ask about your employees’ wellbeing and encourage them to take breaks and make adjustments to support work-life integration. And, ask about their life outside of work. Doing so particularly resonates with those with a Social preference while also reminding all staff members that you care about them as individuals.
2. Outline and adhere to rules of engagement
As teams work differently, it can be helpful to establish rules of engagement. While staff members with a Structural preference may be particularly interested in having clear expectations about what the new format means for meeting schedules, communication protocols and focused work time, rules of engagement will help everyone on your team succeed.
As a few specific considerations, set clear expectations about your team’s communication channels and specify off-hours for emails or messaging so employees know that their time is being considered and honored.
3. Offer flexibility
While it’s important to provide rules of engagement, flexibility is one of the primary benefits of remote work particularly as employees take care of themselves, support family members and children as well as navigate project deadlines. Offering flexibility indicates trust as it demonstrates that you are confident that your staff will meet their commitments.
To balance flexibility and rules of engagement, it’s a good practice to ensure that team members notify one another if they will be away from their desks for an extended period during the standard workday.
4. Invite innovation from employees
When employees feel that their opinions are valued, they are more likely to trust their managers and share ideas, which can help your company innovate and accelerate performance.
Encouraging employees to share their ideas also connects with those who have a preference for Conceptual Thinking and naturally gravitate towards brainstorming new ways of doing things – something that can be particularly important in times of change.
5. Overcommunicate with team members
As your team gets used to working with colleagues in different locations, it’s wise to err on the side of overcommunication. I recommend considering the Expressiveness spectrum when identifying how best to connect.
Those in the first-third of Expressiveness appreciate having time to digest information ahead of time, so try sending any pre-work or essential pieces of information in advance of your conversations via email, intranet, Slack or Teams channels. On the other end of the spectrum are those who appreciate processing information out loud, so be sure to share and reiterate information via phone calls or video chat. By communicating via a multitude of channels and repeating essential information, your team is more likely to feel supported and informed.
6. Actively solicit questions
When you share information, invite employees to ask questions. Seeking input particularly resonates with the Analytical Attribute, which often utilizes the question of “why?” when approaching their work.
As you manage teams that may be in different places, receiving information at different times and in different ways, I invite you to make time to address questions to ensure team members can air apprehensions, understand the path forward and agree to next steps.
7. Work toward consensus and listen to input without judgment
Those in the first-third of Assertiveness will have more trust in their manager and team when you show that you are working toward consensus, while those in the third-third build trust by having an opportunity to share opinions and deliberate on the best path.
Giving employees a chance to assert their viewpoints while balancing them to align on next steps will help your entire team trust in your leadership and in one another.
8. Explore options before committing to decisions
As you push forward initiatives, you can build trust by showing a sincere interest in exploring options and discussing ideas with your team before committing to a path forward. Doing so will support those team members in the third-third of Flexibility.
It’s also important to stick to your decisions as best you can, which will be appreciated with those in the first-third of Flexibility. If things do need to change – and inevitably, some will – provide reasons why to maintain trust across the Flexibility spectrum.
9. Be vulnerable with team members
In a previous blog, I discussed the connection between vulnerability and trust, highlighting resources from Brené Brown. I believe this connection is more apparent now than ever. To summarize a few points from my post, vulnerability is not about oversharing. It’s about being open, being honest about mistakes, voicing concerns and accepting feedback. When you do these things with your team members, they will have greater respect for you and greater trust.
As businesses expand their remote working options even outside of a pandemic, trust will be essential to successful operations. After all, when employees have confidence in their manager as well as their fellow team members, work moves more smoothly, productively and positively.
If you’re looking for additional suggestions to enhance trust with your teams, I invite you to revisit a blog from my colleague Shana Bosler who shared tips to build trust with each Emergenetics Attribute.
Source: Emergenetics International