Trust me.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010 Leave a comment Go to comments

(Photo: SFview)

How do you trust someone you rarely see? When leading a virtual team it is important to build a trusting environment for everyone involved. When there is trust people tend to excel, grow, and hold a strong commitment to the company.

Building trust and maintaining it is one of the unique challenges that virtual teams encounter. Without a lot of face time, it is very difficult to create the relationships that are necessary for success.

Relationship Development

Trust is an important factor in relationship development. Like any good relationship things take time to grow. When your team is remote and you do not see them face-to-face this can be especially challenging. Make the time to work with each of them personally. Be sure to contact them weekly even if it is just to touch base. A one-on-one call will let them know you are thinking of them and will be there help should anything come up.

Keep in mind; this may be something you have to ease into if you have not shown an interest in the past; otherwise they may think you are prying and become suspicious. So take it slow, work to re-develop those relationships and with any luck it will lead to stronger bonds.

Availability Through Communication

With differences in time zones, varied schedules, and the lack of physical presence it can be tough to have a so called “open door” when you lead a team of remote users. As a leader you need to be cognizant of this a do everything you can to make yourself available. After all how can your team trust and rely on you if they are never able to reach you?

  • Always take their calls or return their calls promptly.
  • If you only have a moment, let them know and schedule a definitive time to speak with them further.
  • Hold weekly conference calls to allow for corporate communications, success and improvement stories as well as an open forum for issues affecting the team.
  • Use instant messaging, not only does it allow you to be easily accessible, but it also creates a feeling of fellowship when you can see everyone’s availability at a glance.

Avoiding Speculation

It is easy to loose trust if it seems a member of your team is not holding up their end of the bargain. In a remote situation it things are not always as they seem. Say for example you have called a member of your team several times in one day and have not been able to reach them. Are they taking a nap? Are they running personal errands? Are out doing yard work? Maybe not. It could be they are on the phone or in a meeting with a client. It could be they are working toward an important deadline and not picking up their phone to avoid distraction. Refrain from being presumptuous and make sure it’s not just your perception. If you find this happening with regularity, address the situation and avoid speculation.


Consistency is important in developing trust with a virtual team. It is important to:

  • Hold regular conference calls or video conferences for the team to communicate with one another and feel as if they are sharing the same conference room.
  • Have monthly or quarterly in-person meetings if possible. To allow rapport to build through face-to-face conversations as well as team building exercises.

Part of consistency is holding yourself and the group to distinct timelines by:


Doing what you say you will do is a principle of great significance. To build trust in a virtual situation, leaders must be responsible and reliable.

Maintaining promises is important. Often when people go sight unseen it is easy to forget their needs. To grow trust you will need to fulfill any promises you make to your team, delivered in full and on time. I have found by keeping a task list using assigned due dates helps to keep you on schedule.

In promoting a team atmosphere the team members not only need to feel they can rely on you, but also the competency of their co-workers.

“We normally develop a respect for co-workers competence, by observing them. When we are virtual, we don’t have this opportunity.”

It is important to work hard at displaying the talents of each team member amongst the group. Some ways to do this are:

  • Creating team projects where you group team members together in order to complete projects occasionally so they develop rapport and learn the strengths of one another.
  • Instilling a buddy system allowing team members to call each other for business advice and general company questions. This is often best accomplished with veterans and rookie employees as well as employees from different divisions.

Promoting a team atmosphere

Can team members trust each other if they never see one another? Absolutely, but systems need to be set in place in order to allow teams to gather around a “virtual water cooler.” It is vital to promote a team atmosphere even when your team is remote Some exceptional tools you can utilize to connect which help greatly are:

  • Instant messaging.
  • Weekly conference calls.
  • Webinars.
  • Virtual conference rooms.
  • And believe it or not — the telephone!

While implementing these programs do not forget the personal touches:

  • Celebrate team accomplishments.
  • Give a “shout-out” when it is someone’s birthday.
  • Let the group know when a team member has hit a milestone in their career with the company.
  • Take personal experiences from members of the team and tie them into your meeting topics.

Trust is a two way street; the leader and the team members both have to work hard to grow that trust and build dependable relationships with one another. Without the trust factor you are bound for team failure.

What are some trust builders you have done with your team?

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  1. Tuesday, May 1, 2012 at 2:23 PM

    Jason, just a quick note to let you know that your article is featured in latest issue of Manager’s Review:

    For this issue, we reviewed more than 400 articles on virtual teams, but only selected the top 1 percent for the final issue and your article was one of them.

    Congratulations on this remarkable article, and keep up the good work!

    Manager’s Review

  1. Tuesday, February 9, 2010 at 1:28 AM

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