Trust – The Currency Of Remote Teams

Trust Remote Teams

The benefits of remote teams speak for themselves. When you talk about increased productivity, reduced costs, better employee retention, it seems like such an obvious win for any company. Still, some people question whether remote working is right for their companies. Their concerns usually boil down to one question: What if virtual trust falls down?

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. Why? Because we know how to build trust in remote teams.

Why Trust Is Important in Remote Teams

One of the most common misconceptions 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. 

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? That simple question every hour kills J’s productivity, and as we all know by now, micromanagement is murder in both virtual and on-site environments.

Trust should always be your leadership currency. 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 de-motivational. 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.

How Do you Build Trust in Your Remote Team

Trust underpins every interaction that we have with other people. If you can’t rely on your companions, your virtual trust will fall – meaning that your team can’t function and you lose productivity. 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.

For some people it is just easy to trust others, either naturally or due to experience. If your boss 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 in remote teams?

1. Getting to Know your Remote Team

As humans, we are naturally more inclined to trust who is similar to us. In this article, the Harvard Business Review suggests that one fundamental element 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. It is all about a sense of belonging. If they trust you, they will trust your project. 

2. Make Trust the Leadership Currency for Your Remote Team 

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 away.

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.

3. If Doubts Creep In and Virtual Trust Falls

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 and we said already a few times that trust is a better strategy. 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

Remote Teams Agile

If you use the Agile 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.

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.

Trustworthy Talents in Your Remote Team

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 remote recruitment agency that knows how to identify not a great talent but a 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 looking to add more global superstars to your team, then contact us today!

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Sarah Dixon

Sarah Dixon

Sarah Dixon is a remote work advocate and thought leader and a specialist in persuasive writing. She has an MA in Creative Fiction, is a children's author, and a writer of award-winning short stories.