Trust – The Currency Of Remote Teams
The benefits of remote working speak for themselves. When you talk about increased productivity, reduced costs, better employee retention, it seems like such an obvious win for any company. Here at DistantJob we don’t just believe it works. We know it works. We place stellar remote software developers from all around the world in the perfect role. For us, it’s a no-brainer. Still, some people question whether remote working is right for their companies. Their concerns usually boil down to one thing: Trust.
Why Trust Is Important
One of the most common misperceptions about remote workers is that they slack off. If you work from home, you do it in your PJ’s, and you just watch Netflix for most of the day and then cram in enough work to keep your boss off your back just before a deadline, right? Wrong. Still, this idea hangs around like the side-effects of last night’s burrito in an elevator.
If management clings to this belief, it undermines the success of remote working in the organization. It makes it harder to convince senior management that recruiting from the global talent pool is the best thing for your project, and ties up valuable time in overseeing staff who could just be left to get on with it. Micro-management is murder – we should put on a t-shirt.
Lack of trust saps employee satisfaction. Take J, for example. J has been telecommuting for over a decade and has a proven track record as a freelancer in her industry. J recently started on a new project – but her manager lacks faith in remote working. He contacts J roughly every half an hour; Skype, Text, Email…all with the same question: What are you working on right now?
J is delivering, and her boss can see that. Her work goes in shared files, and she’s hitting every deadline, but still, he persists. Not only does replying to all these check-ins slow down J’s progress, it’s demotivational. Each question leaves her feeling accused of something. She’s starting to get resentful and will probably take her talents elsewhere once this project is over.
Trust underpins every interaction that we have with other people. If we aren’t able to trust, then we can’t function. Every time you get in your car and drive, you are trusting other road users to do their part – the stress of commuting and road-rage are symptoms of our fears that trust is misplaced and our disappointment when we feel it is.
Some people are inclined to trust than others, either naturally or due to experience. If you, or your boss, have had bad experiences with telecommuting in the past then it’s only natural that will affect your behavior now. But, the benefits of building trust in your organization are enormous, so, what can you do to build or repair trust?
As humans, we are naturally more inclined to trust people who seem similar to us. In this article, the Harvard Business Review suggests that one fundamental of trust is having things in common. The only way you can come to understand your employees better, remote or otherwise is to invest some time in getting to know them.
Make your sure schedule involves social time with your team, so you can learn more about who they are outside of work. Of course, getting to know your team starts with the recruitment process. As it happens we are aware of someone who’s rather good at finding the best remote workers, you can trust us on that one.
Once you have a team in place, especially if it’s a remote team, then you need to build trust within it. It’s a question of knowing what builds trust in face-to-face relationships and adapting it to make it work remotely. Create your team identity, ensure that meetings aren’t all business and encourage employees to share things about themselves so that those similarities can be seen; we covered that in detail in an earlier post.
When a team is first formed, most people feel inclined to trust each other; that’s what psychologists call ‘swift trust’. Although this sort of trust comes quickly, it can decay over time, so managers need to leverage this to cement it into something longer lasting. It’s important that you are reliable, that the rest of the team know they can trust you – lead by example, and you’ll show how to communicate effectively when things start to go awry.
One thing that is recommended for remote teams is sharing the power. This could be something as simple as letting whichever employee has the most responsibility for the current piece of work chair the meeting. Put the control where the knowledge and expertise is, and let your employees feel trusted and learn to appreciate each other's strengths.
If Doubts Creep In
If you’ve got a remote team, and you’re using technology to stay in touch, when paranoia starts to whisper in your ear, you may be tempted to search for technology to monitor your remote employee’s productivity. Don’t.
Employees hate it. Have you ever been followed around by a store detective when you were just minding your own business? Did that make you feel like a valued and trusted customer? And do you really want to tie up valuable employee time using monitoring tools when your team could be getting on with what you’ve paid them to do? Didn’t think so.
You’ll need to walk a fine line between managing and micromanaging your team. If you’re the sort of manager who likes to be in control then a remote team can be more challenging, which brings me to one of my favorite quotes about control: The closest to being in control we’ll ever be is in that moment when we realize we’re not – Brian Kessler. Ultimately the measure of an efficient employee is whether they deliver what you asked them to when they said they would. Until your remote team has a track record of doing that, you’ll need to give them the benefit of the doubt.
Trust Makes You Agile
If you use the Agile development methodology (and if you don’t, why not?), then you’ll already understand that employees are more productive when they’re given the space to breathe. Agile thrives on self-management and as it happens, so do remote employees. We think it’s a match made in heaven, and if you’d like to read more about why… You might want to download our free eBook.
Agile leads to efficient management. It encourages you to give up Command and Control and to let your employees shine at what they do. If you’ve hired the right people, nurtured their talent and left them to do what you hired them to do, you should be reaping the rewards.
As we said before, the building blocks of a team that you can trust is making the right hiring decisions in the first place. It’s important to choose a recruitment agency that knows how to identify not just great talent, but great remote talent. It’s what we do here at DistantJob, day in, day out and we’d love to do it for you. If you’re in the market to add more global superstars to your team, then contact us today, and we’ll do all we can to help