We all know that remote work is becoming increasingly popular among both employees and employers. The culture of remote work is slowly changing the way we accomplish objectives, but it does come with its own set of challenges. The largest challenge is building trust and making sure that everyone is doing their job. If you can’t see your team members face-to-face, how do you know if they are working? How do you make sure that they are doing the right thing at the right time?
Remember that adage about trust being the foundation of any relationship? Well, when your colleagues work with you from far-flung locations, trust is the foundation on which you'll build your team. It's what will ensure that everyone is doing their job, and it's the glue that will hold your team together—whether they work in an office or from home.
Building trust is a lot like building any other relationship. It takes time, patience, and honesty. And it's not something that happens overnight. So what are some ways you can build trust with your remote team?
1. Mobilize and empower your team, rather than micromanaging them.
In his book, Primal leadership: Realizing the Power of Emotional Intelligence, Daniel Goleman writes that “virtually all leadership is a matter of mobilizing others.” The most effective leaders don’t just manage people, they mobilize them. They’re able to tap into the emotional energy of their team and inspire them to work together in a common direction. In other words, they help people feel like they’re part of something bigger than themselves. This is especially important when you’re managing a remote team.
Give them the tools and resources they need to succeed, but also give them the freedom to take ownership over their work. This means allowing them to make decisions about their workloads and schedules, rather than micromanaging everything from start to finish. You will likely find that giving them a little freedom will provide you with a ton of desired results.
2. Expectations, goals, and feedback.
Remote employees can easily get lost in the shuffle if they don't know what's expected of them or how their work fits into the larger picture. Make sure everyone on your team knows what they're doing, why it matters, and how their efforts contribute to achieving business goals. This will help them to feel like they have more control over their work and give them an opportunity to offer input on how best to achieve those goals.
But it's not enough for you to set expectations and goals; you also need to provide regular feedback so your remote employees know where they stand in relation to those expectations and goals. Make it a priority to provide it regularly, and make sure that the feedback is specific and timely. If your team has a weekly meeting, for example, you might use this time to give them feedback on their performance over the past week.
3. Be there when they need you.
Be there for your people when they need you. It doesn't matter whether you're in the same building or on different continents. If they don't feel like you have their back, then there's a problem. If someone on your team has a question or problem that needs to be addressed, try to make yourself available as soon as possible. If this sounds like an impossibility you likely have a workflow opportunity.
It is crucial that you as the leader of your team or organization have set yourself up to be a leader of service. Often times this can be rectified by simply having a team huddle and encouraging transparent feedback on your leadership style.
4. Share your vision!
It's important that your team knows where you're going. If they don't know what the big picture looks like, how can you expect them to get there? That's why it's so important to keep them in the loop as much as possible. Share with them when you've got something new coming up and let them know why this is important for the company or project at hand. This doesn't matter if you are a small MSP startup or a massive Fortune 500 company, the facts remain the same. Keeping everyone on point and aligned to your vision is a key factor in any organization's success. This only becomes more critical when you are not face-to-face in the workplace.
5. One-on-one meetings.
One-on-one meetings with my team have proven to be a vital part of the remote workflow within HC-Resource. It's a chance for me to get feedback on how things are going and to hear what's working and what's not. I also like to share with them some of the things that I'm working on and how their work relates to it. It's a great way for us to stay connected and up to date. We currently have clients and employees on four continents. The only way we get to share our visions is by creating the time to share them. This simply would not happen if we didn't align our yearly calendars in Q1 to ensure these meetings take place!
The one thing I'm most proud of is the fact that we've been able to foster a culture where people feel comfortable enough to come up and share their ideas or concerns with each other. That's what makes us stronger as a team. That's what builds the trust that is so important to our success.
Ultimately, communication is the best tool for creating trust in remote teams. It may sound counterintuitive, but if it's a one-sided relationship, communication is all the more essential to building trust with your remote team. If you aren't speaking with them, you won't know what's going on and how they feel. In addition, do whatever you can to make sure that communication channels are well established from the get-go—it will save you a lot of headaches in the future!