Remote teams: The power of trust
Updated: Feb 4
We’re not going to beat around the bush, setting up a company virtually has certainly been a challenge. Working remotely was not something that we decided, or chose, for ourselves. In fact, we have a shiny new office waiting for us at the English Institute of Sport in Sheffield. Nonetheless, remote working has become the norm in 2020 thanks to covid, and adapting to change has never been more necessary.
Although we miss being in the same room together we’ve learned some valuable lessons during this time. We’re going to take you through each of our simple secrets in more detail over a course of the next few weeks, but we’ll start with what we think tops the charts in any and every situation:
Trust is at the core of pretty much everything we do (even if we don’t realise it). Every new hire, every contract, every commercial partnership, every human relationship. There is absolutely no way that anything good can happen between human beings without it!
Now, we’re not saying that trust is easy, it’s actually really rather complicated. It’s also extremely personal and can, unfortunately, be easily damaged.
Without trust, you’ll likely see a dramatic breakdown in the dynamics within your team. It can cause friction, anxiety, mistakes, unnecessary blame, imposter syndrome, and a lack of self-esteem. All things that don’t lend themselves to success and good wellbeing for you and your employees!
So, how can you build more trust within your remote teams? According to Frances Frei and Anne Morris, trust has 3 main drivers: Authenticity, logic, and empathy.
“People tend to trust you when they believe they are interacting with the real you (authenticity), when they have faith in your judgment and competence (logic), and when they feel that you care about them (empathy). When trust is lost, it can almost always be traced back to a breakdown in one of these three drivers.”
We’re going to take you through some of our top tips when it comes to trust:
For Founders & Leaders:
1. Let go of control
When starting a company, or creating a new project, handing over a part of your baby to someone new is a huge moment. It can be hard not to be protective. But, as things grow you can’t do everything yourself. You might be the best in the world at something (if so, congratulations) but there will still not be enough of you to go around.
It can be daunting to relinquish feelings of control, especially when you don’t see what your team is getting up to. When working virtually, employees could be anywhere and doing anything … but you can’t watch them all day every day, and, even if you could, micro-managing would do nothing but destroy any trust you do have for each other.
Whether your employees are working at home, in a cafe, at a friend’s house, or in another country, you have to trust that they have your own, and your company’s, best interests at heart.
2. Empower your co-workers
As leaders, the best thing we can do is to empower those around us. We have to show our people that we have absolutely full confidence in their abilities.
If you start to doubt them, they will likely start to doubt themselves … which will lead to insecurities as well as a breakdown in self-confidence, self-esteem, productivity, and good quality work. It’s a negative self-fulfilling prophecy — and we wouldn’t want that, would we?
So, if you do find doubts sneaking into your mind, remember that whether you hired that person or not, they were hired for a reason.
3. Be authentic and human
If you don’t think that an employee is doing as well as you know they could, or as well as you expect them to, you don’t have to just sit there and do nothing (whilst building up feelings of frustration or distrust). The employee might not have the right training, or knowledge, and might be struggling.
Set aside time to give them a call and just check-in with them. Ask them how they’re doing and if there is anything that you could support them with. They might just want some reassurance, clarity, or advice. Do this every week in a 1–1 if necessary!
You’ll be surprised how something as simple as a very human and authentic interaction can break down resistance and boost employee work output and satisfaction (as well as create a more trusting relationship, of course.)
1. Try putting yourself in your managers' shoes
As for those following leaders or managers, we have to do all these things too. Trust that your manager cares about you as a person, have faith that they have the capabilities to lead effectively, and the skills needed to deliver success.
Managers are people too, so try to see things from their point of view. They might be dealing with things at work that you have no idea about and might be in need of some support from you as well.
2. Don’t be afraid of vulnerability
Whilst at work, if you are aware of your own weaknesses (which is a good sign of emotional intelligence) don’t try to cover them up. It might be scary but try to be transparent and ask for help when you need it. This will not only help you move your work forward but build trust between you and your manager.
If you are worried that you might have fallen behind, or are suffering from imposter syndrome, ask your manager for feedback and to help clarify your priorities. This will help show that you’re wanting to improve and continually bring the best version of yourself to work.
Having clarity over what is expected of you will not only help you to have trust in yourself (that you can and will deliver good quality work on time) but will also give your manager an increased sense of trust that you know exactly what you should be doing and when they expect the work. Jeff Polzer, a professor of organizational behaviour at Harvard, says that:
“People tend to think of vulnerability in a touchy-feely way, but that’s not what’s happening… It’s about sending a really clear signal that you have weaknesses, that you could use help. And if that behavior becomes a model for others, then you can set the insecurities aside and get to work, start to trust each other, and help each other. If you never have that vulnerable moment, on the other hand, then people will try to cover up their weaknesses, and every little microtask becomes a place where insecurities manifest themselves.”
At Beingwell, we put a huge emphasis on building the trust components of empathy, authenticity and logic into our culture. In this piece, we’ve tried to show how they’ve helped to improve our remote working situation, and we hope this helps you to create a strong sense of trust and wellbeing within your own remote team. Next, we’ll be exploring empathy (in more detail) and its role in the virtual office. We’ll see you then!
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