How To Build Trust in a Remote Team
(Our Top 7 Tips To Build Trust)
Trust is the cornerstone of any team, a team can succeed (or fail) based on the trust.
Trust is a huge part of running a team, any team, remote or office based. It improves productivity and provides a greater job satisfaction for you and your team. According to a Harvard study where they looked at how trust affected employee performance:
By fostering organizational trust, you can increase employees’ productivity and energy levels, improve collaboration, and cultivate a happier, more loyal workforce.
So as a manager, it’s essential that you build trust with your team.
But how do you go about doing this in a remote team?
When your team have not met before, and their interaction is limited, when team building activities are difficult to arrange due to where your team are based, it can be harder to build trust.
It’s even more so when people feel disconnected from their teams, isolated, working alone in their silos.
The key is to bring your team together, make them feel that there are other people there when they need them.
Building trust with your remote team can be done, as long as you put the effort in.
Our 7 tips will help you build trust and bring your team closer, to start with….
1. Get to know each other
A question: How many people do you trust? You can likely name a few, friends, partners, family, likely all people you know (as would be expected). OK, how many people that you don’t know do you trust?
Not many, if any at all. Trust is built/earned from getting to know people, this is why it’s important to get to know the people your working with. There are a few ways to encourage social interaction and interpersonal relationships within your team.
On breaks, encourage people to start a video call, talk and get to know each other, this is really help a new starter to acclimate and get more familiar with others to start building that trust.
When you need to have a video call or team conference, before going into the business discussion, have a brief chat, ask what they’ve been up to recently. This not only gets everyone more familiar with each other and their likes/dislikes, but also relaxes them for the call ahead.
Create a ‘water-cooler’ effect, a shared space where people can touch base with others. The most common version of this is an IM channel (like Slack), where everyone can share/talk about non-work related stuff.
2. Be responsive and reliable
As the team manager, you need to be reliable, to offer guidance, to resolve problems, and make the calls on difficult decisions. Nobody likes to feel like they’ve been left struggling without the help they need.
In an office, it’s easier to be attentive, if someone needs to talk to you they can come to your office. But in a remote team what can your team do? Send you a message, give you a call — but how do they know if your available ( PukkaTeam can help here).
You need to show that you are invested in your team, and this is accomplished by being responsive to them. There was a study done of a remote team spread over the globe and the results showed that there was more trust between the team when there was predictable communication.
To help your team know your availability, have a shared calendar that lets them know your plans for the week. This way they can then see when you’re in or busy with meetings etc.
Next, set aside time specifically for your team, which you’ll use as your ‘open door policy’. What we mean by this is that you block out time specifically for when your team can reach you, where you don’t have anything else scheduled (besides normal work).
You will also want to have a preferred method of contact for your team. For example, if you receive hundreds of emails a day and find your inbox fills up quickly, any team emails could get buried beneath.
Providing an alternative means such as IM, phone/video call, text message, Whatsapp message etc. means that they have a definite method of getting through to you. Their messages aren’t lost and you can be responsive, making your team feel like they’re heard and that you can be counted on.
3. Crystal clear transparency policy
Transparency is important, who do you trust more — someone who is honest or someone who’s evasive and hides?
The answer is obviously an honest person. This is the same for a team (remote or otherwise), you need to share the information openly with your team.
A study by Science Direct found that there is a correlation between an employee’s trust and a leader’s level of transparency. Business mission, work schedules, project progress, and task status, these should be freely available to your team. At Buffer, they even share everyone’s salaries, (though that’s up to you).
For this, you’ll need a place where everyone can access these details. A shared folder on Google drive with all the relevant information is a good place to start.
4. Invest in collaborative tools
This is part and parcel of managing a remote team, having tools to replace what’s missing from an office. You need to invest in tools to help bridge the gap of distance/separation.
Obviously, we’re going to say PukkaTeam (please check it out 😛), because it has video calling, a visual presence to see your team and know their availability.
But aside from that minor self-promotion, you should have a solid video calling service, regardless of what’s the most used communication method, there is nothing that provides the personal touch of face to face (‘cough’ PukkaTeam ‘cough’). For the most important conversations/meetings, you want to be using a reliable video calling service.
An instant Messenger, (we personally use Slack) as a less disruptive way of talking or leaving messages for colleagues without interrupting them as well as providing a virtuak water-cooler (like we mentioned before), to allow your team to show more of their personal and fun side.
A project and task management app (preferably with time tracking), allowing everyone to see what they need to work on is and what others are working on.
Email, because we always need this, for both internal team communication as well as with clients. Some sort of cloud file storage (like Google Drive), where you can securely keep your documents and easily share them with your team.
The tools you choose can make or break the collaboration, and the easier it is to communicate and work together, the easier it is to build trust.
5. Work towards a shared goal
Teams need a common purpose, which equips them to perform at their best with a clear path to success.
Think of the Avengers films, Loki, Ultron, Thanos — regardless of all their differences, disputes and problems thrown into the mix during these films, tthey always end up working together for the greater good.
And this is the same for your remote team, a common goal brings people together, creating a unified effort to work towards.
Even better if your team can have a real impact with decisions, allowing their voices to be heard for a project. If they feel their ideas and opinions are being taken into account, they’ll have more trust in you, and they’ll feel more engaged and involved with the project and the company as a whole.
6. Don’t micromanage (but do check in regularly)
There’s a fine line to walk here.
On the one hand, if you constantly calling and checking in on progress, it distracts your team from their work and erodes their confidence and trust, as it feels like you don’t trust them to complete their tasks.
On the other hand, not having enough contact can leave your team feeling stranded and isolated, making them feel like you’re not invested in what they are doing for you.
You need to find the balance for this, not only for your team but also in terms of the individual people.
For instance, you might find that John only needs to catch up once a week, whereas Sarah, due to the changing nature of her work, prefers to check in with you three times a week.
There are no set guidelines for this, it’s something you need to find on your own and it will differ on a person to person basis.
You can find this from talking to your team to see if and how often they need to check in with you. This helps everyone feel that they are heard and valuable, and that their efforts don’t go unnoticed and keeps you in the loop on progress.
7. But above all — lead by example
You show your team the path, they are more likely to follow.
By you setting the example of what is expected you will help the team to follow your lead. If you’re open and honest with them, they will reciprocate in return. If you’re honest about the progress and your long term aspirations, your team is more invested and more open about their progress.
If you make yourself accountable for your actions, your team will see this as the natural order of things and will feel more accountable for their actions.
Your team looks to you for their guidance and how they should conduct themselves, if you provide a positive example, they should follow suit.
Let us know how you build trust
We’d love to know about your most successful ways of building trust in your team, let us know in the comments 😊