One of the presumed “facts” about working remotely is that trust will be reduced the longer people work remotely. While reduced trust is possible, it isn’t inevitable if people are aware of and take actions to maintain and build trust on a remote team. Here are some things you can do.
It Starts With You
Remote or face to face, here is the fact: trust builds when people start trusting. Trust is both a noun and a verb – and the more of the verb you do, the more of the noun you get. This means that if you want more trust at work, you need to be proactive. Don’t wait for others, take the lead. That statement isn’t a positional comment meant only for leaders – you can be proactive in maintaining and building trust across the team regardless of your role.
Things You Can Do
Yes, building trust might be harder in a remote work situation, but it isn’t impossible once you have decided to be proactive about it. Her are some specific suggestions for you:
- Share your knowledge and experience. The longer you work remotely, the less likely people will know what you are working on or what your experience and knowledge is. You can openly share what you know but do it in a helpful way. We all have worked with the “know-it-all” and that isn’t a trust building experience. Share what you know, most often in one-on-one conversations as a way to show your competence and build trust with others in the process.
- Make your positive intentions clear. When people know that your motives are altruistic, trust can grow. Think about the opposite for a second. If you think someone is focused on themselves and you see their motives as selfish, does that engender greater trust in them? The challenge of working remotely is that we often can’t see the motives of others as clearly, and too often assume the worst. If your intentions and motives are outwardly focused, let people know – your genuine positive intent will raise trust.
- Offer to help. This specific action ties the first two together doesn’t it? As a remote teammate we don’t always know where people need help or are struggling. When you offer to help when and where you can, others will appreciate it and trust will grow.
- Meet your commitments. When we deliver what we promise, we build trust. One of the best things you can do to ensure this is to know exactly what you are committing to. Get clear expectations from the other person and you have a much better chance for success. Remember that “Friday” isn’t the same as “Friday by 3 pm ET.” When you ask for clearer expectations you set both parties up for greater success.
- Work on your working relationships. Trust and relationships are positively correlated. As we work remotely our working relationships can be diminished, making trust suffer too. Make sure you are taking time to interact with your teammates, not just transact the needed business. Doing so will help build trust and make all of the other suggestions here easier to accomplish.
Doing these things can help you build your trust with others, even though you don’t pass in the hallways or collaborate in a conference room. As you do these things, others will reciprocate, and trust has the chance to grow to new and valuable heights.
About the author
Kevin Eikenberry is a recognized world expert on leadership development and leader of The Kevin Eikenberry Group. He has twice been named by Inc.com as one of the top 100 Leadership/Management Experts in the World.
He is the author, co-author or a contributing author to 20 books, including the latest collaboration with Wayne Turmel, The Long-Distance Teammate: Stay Engaged and Connected While Working Anywhere.