Functioning and productive workplace teams need to trust each other. What if you were collaborating with your coworkers on an important project, but you didn’t trust one of your colleagues to complete their tasks? Even if they’ve proven themselves untrustworthy, that creates more work for everyone else. Conversely, no one wants to be the person that everyone else doesn’t trust to measure up to expectations.
It’s arguably easier to foster trust amongst teams when they work together in person because there are more opportunities for building rapport. Distributed environments present unique challenges — technology enables unprecedented levels of collaboration, but there’s often more room for miscommunication and less time to get to know one another. Trust, though, is equally critical in either place.
How do you go about building trust in virtual teams? Keep reading for a few tips to make your work environment as frictionless as possible.
An essential element of trust is transparency. Keeping employees or colleagues in the dark about important subjects makes them feel undervalued. Imagine how it would make you feel if one of your managers withheld critical information from you — you’d likely feel as if they didn’t trust you, which would make you, in turn, not trust them.
Transparency also enables everyone to perform their jobs. Knowing the context of every project and situation empowers workers to make more effective decisions and manage their time accordingly. Trusting the people around you with important information reduces the likelihood anyone will encounter bottlenecks or obstacles, which creates a ripple effect to foster more trust overall.
In order to work well together, your team also needs to trust its technology. Nothing causes stress like a communications platform that fails you repeatedly. However, a functioning one removes a significant obstacle and allows your team to work remotely in the first place.
Put careful thought into which tools your team will use to connect. Try to shop for platforms that offer organizational and minute-taking features to prevent information from slipping through the cracks — even if everyone gets along well, you can optimize your department’s trust even further when everyone can reference meeting details later. The Spot app, for example, transcribes calls in real-time, so you can trust that your meeting notes are documented accurately. Spot also facilitates walking meetings which not only boosts creativity but provides an excellent team-building opportunity because you can participate in step challenges.
You’ll prevent a lot of hiccups if everyone understands the company culture, especially for new employees. Educate new hires about your culture during the onboarding process and get current employees up to speed if your culture is changing (or if you’re just defining it in writing more clearly). Company culture includes answers to questions like:
It’s easier to build trust when everyone knows what the inter-company norms are — but make sure those norms are healthy and put workers first!
One of the best ways for building trust in virtual teams is to encourage everyone to acknowledge when they need help. People thinking they have to find all the answers themselves or accomplish tasks they’re not experts in sets them up for failure. There’s no shame in asking for help, so make doing so an integral part of your company culture.
You’ll need to lead by example for this one. If you’re a manager or executive, admitting when you don’t know something encourages everyone to trust you because you’re not prioritizing your ego or putting on a facade. Honesty is the key ingredient to trust, and it breeds more of itself.
Trust requires, of course, healthy working relationships. Friendships at work are great, but not everyone needs to be tight-knit to trust each other. Have your employees or colleagues participate in virtual team-building activities that ultimately inform everyone how each other thinks, operates, and problem-solves. Your team will learn important details about each other to be mindful of. They’ll also learn new social practices and exercises that will help them be deliberately trustworthy.
Sing praises publicly, too. Not everyone will have time for cross-departmental relationship-building, but if someone needs something from across the company, they’ll know who to trust because you’ve established that those people are good at their jobs.
Another helpful tip is to establish well-defined asynchronous processes that are tested and proven for efficiency. People will trust each other if they also trust the functions they need to follow, such as putting files in the right places, communicating with the right people, meeting sufficient deadlines, and checking other necessary boxes.
This tip is particularly important for virtual teams because of timezone differences. Suppose employee A in the U.S. needs to complete tasks that enable employee B in India to do their job. In that case, employee B’s life will be so much easier if they can log on to work in the morning and trust that everything their colleague sent them will be ready to go, instead of causing frustrating delays.
Accountability is an essential component of trust. Check in with your employees and coworkers regularly to ensure everyone has what they need to succeed and that they’re on track to get things done on time. Accountability isn’t about hounding people if they miss a deadline by a day; instead, it’s about avoiding communication breakdowns that leave people confused about what’s expected of them. Coach workers who are underperforming instead of disciplining them too harshly, and make sure no one is carrying too much of the workload.
Building trust in virtual teams is critical for their success, and trust requires clear and consistent communication. Contact Spot today to learn how we can help your business promote transparency and facilitate a productive company culture.
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