Let me ask you a question. Those people you work with, the other members of your team. Do you trust them?
Can you trust them? When they say they’ll do something, complete some task, do they actually do it? Or do they rely on others picking up the pieces of a project to make sure they reach their deadlines in time.
Imagine this. You stand up straight, eyes closed and with your arms folded across tightly across your chest. A member of your team is standing directly behind you. You fall slowly backwards, still with your back straight. Would your colleague catch you to stop you falling,? Can you trust them to do that if you can’t see them? Really?
This is a commonly used theatre technique used by actors to help them build close personal bonds with their colleagues, the rest of the cast. Theatre strongly depends on the dynamics of human interaction. Of course, your colleagues would catch you, right? Well, its actually a little more difficult than you think, to give up that trust and to hope that they won’t simply let you fall. Why not try it as a warm up to your next team day. As well as building those strong relationships for your team, it'll emphasise the intrinsic importance of trust.
No matter the situation, teamwork is built on trust. In his 2008 book, The Speed Of Trust, Stephen M.R. Covey makes the point that business actually happens at the speed of trust. Without trust, a team simply isn’t a team. Without trust, we’re just a collection of individuals working loosely besides each other at our own pace. Without having trust in each other, communication, collaboration, and results suffer. Deadlines are missed, information isn’t shared as well, and progress is slow.
If trust is a critical part of business, then it is even more critical in teams of remote workers.
Leaders should understand how to foster, develop and maintain a culture of trust in their teams, and there are several key ways to do that.
Leading by example is essential. Don’t promise the unattainable, the unreasonable or the unlikely. Be there for the team when you're needed. Try to avoid missing appointments. If your team see you as reliable, they’ll trust you and recognise the importance in trusting each other. As the leader of a remote team, its important to try and maintain relationships on the same level as you would with face-to-face colleagues you’d see every day.
Keeping all communication open and honest is key. If team members feel they can speak honestly, they not only feel trusted but more able to trust others. If mistakes happen - and they do, we’re humans after all - let them happen. That's life. Nobody benefits from an unproductive and unpleasant atmosphere of blame. Mistakes can always be turned into a positive force when we learn from them, whereas finger pointing simply undermines trust and weakens morale.
Of course, the best way to build trust is to create strong personal bonds, which, again, is especially problematic when managing remote teams. They can’t simply meet at the coffee machine or socialise outside of work. It would be a good idea to build some personal element into their communication. Encourage them to write a short bio of themselves, discuss their hobbies or interests. Trust is about the person, so building this personal element into the team’s bond is all too important.
Stephen Covey’s right. We work better together, and that means trusting each other. So ask yourself that question again. Would they catch you?