“What should I do to boost trust and transparency in my team?” or “How do I foster a high-trust culture in a virtual work set-up?
Questions like these must be raging through your mind – especially if you manage a remote team.
The remote work culture has gained momentum after the onset of the COVID 19 pandemic. However, despite its benefits such as eliminating the commuting time, better work-life balance, improved productivity, reduced overhead costs, etc., it has one major downside – lack of trust and transparency.
A survey reveals:
18% of remote professionals surveyed reported the lack of transparency/honesty about something important as the cause of conflict.
Thus, it’s evident that to minimize these conflicts and promote cohesiveness, building a high-trust culture is the need of the hour.
Many organizations are taking initiatives and revisiting their work management practices to achieve this, yet face myriad roadblocks.
This article takes you through some actionable insights that can help you combat these challenges and foster trust and transparency in remote teams.
But before that, let’s first understand why it has emerged as a significant challenge in the first place.
1. Maintaining trust and transparency: Why is it a challenge in remote teams?
With remote work set up, coffee and lunch breaks with team members, walking to a colleague’s desk for a quick chat, watercooler conversations, etc., are things of the past. The remote work setup has made it impossible for the team members and managers to have these in-person conversations. It has led to the feeling of isolation amongst them and made it challenging to stay transparent and trust their coworkers.
Moreover, the lack of non-verbal cues such as facial expressions, body language, and other gestures can lead to misunderstandings as the members may fail to appreciate each other’s intent. As a result, it can create mistrust between them and disturb the synergy between the team.
Besides, communication barriers are more pronounced as teammates are dispersed across geographical boundaries and operating from different time zones. It becomes difficult for a manager to bring everyone on the same platform to interact and share the project’s progress, roadblocks, and so on. Thus, it creates a lack of transparency, which causes a ripple effect on the trust between team members and managers.
All these reasons cumulatively make it a daunting task to establish trust and transparency in remote teams.
However, despite these roadblocks, a high trust culture can offer myriad benefits once established. The following section enlists them:
2. Significance of fostering trust while managing a remote team
Barbara Kimmel Brooks, the co-founder of Trust Across America, says,
“Trust starts with trustworthy leadership. It must be built into the corporate culture.”
Here is why:
I. Minimizes internal conflicts and discrepancies
When there is mutual trust between the team members and managers, there is little or no room for confusion and ambiguity. Therefore, it helps bring everyone on the same page, find a middle ground, and work harmoniously, leaving minimal scope for internal differences.
II. Boosts overall productivity and engagement
HBR’s findings reveal:
People at high-trust companies report 50% higher productivity compared to low-trust ones.
When a manager trusts remote team members and practices autonomy, it encourages the workforce to work more responsibly. Moreover, trusted teams feel confident and reciprocate with higher commitment and productivity.
III. Acts as a catalyst for building a high-performance culture
When people trust each other, instances of conflicts go down significantly. It prevents them from getting emotionally drained or distracted and enables team members to give undivided attention to their work and be more productive. These factors help them perform better, which contributes to a high-performance culture.
IV. Reduces unplanned attritions
Trust and transparency between team members and managers help strengthen interpersonal relations.
When teammates share a strong bond with peers and their leader, it naturally generates a sense of belonging in them.
So, their odds of leaving the organization go down automatically, thereby reducing attritions.
V. Promotes team cohesiveness and transparent culture
When teammates are honest with each other at the workplace, it naturally develops a culture of transparency and fosters trust amongst them. Moreover, it helps them understand each other’s perspectives better, enabling them to work cohesively.
Given the benefits of trust and transparency, let’s learn some best practices to maintain them.
3. 7 effective ways to build trust in a virtual team
As already stated above, the remote work setup varies substantially from the physical office environment. So, it is vital for a manager to walk the extra mile to build trust in remote teams.
Here are a few powerful strategies for that.
I. Define clear roles and responsibilities for virtual teams
In-office work culture lets managers explain the key responsibility areas to individuals better. However, geographically dispersed teams working in different time zones make it cumbersome for leaders to communicate and explain individuals’ roles and responsibilities. Nonetheless, leveraging appropriate tools and channels can help overcome this challenge.
For example, you can conduct one-on-one video calls to help individual team members comprehend their roles. Besides, you can also send emails with clearly defined key responsibility areas to each teammate. While it’s important to elucidate individual KRAs, it’s also vital to bring the team on one platform and help them understand the interdependencies. It will allow teammates to understand each other’s responsibilities and sync their efforts better to achieve end goals. Well-defined KRAs also prevent role ambiguities and boost transparency.
II. Conduct virtual team-building sessions
Virtual team-building sessions help remote coworkers familiarize themselves with each other’s working styles, viewpoints and connect on a personal level. Further, it helps them understand their peers better and work in tandem. Therefore, the management should make regular virtual team-building activities a part of the remote work culture. They can be anything ranging from group discussions, brainstorming sessions to online games, etc.
One of the ways to make every session more inclusive is to consider team members’ specific preferences and customize the activities accordingly. It will make them feel heard and build more trust. Also, the organizer should book a slot considering everyone’s availability so that no one is left out.
III. Make feedback sessions a priority in virtual work setup
Gaining complete visibility of individuals’ work and tracking their progress becomes more tedious during remote work. Moreover, the absence of detailed in-person interactions makes it difficult for managers to identify any roadblocks that are hampering the team members’ performance. To combat this, managers should conduct one-on-one feedback sessions with individuals, understand their progress, and resolve issues, if any.
While listening to their concerns, managers should also acknowledge their achievements and highlight the areas of improvement. When a manager puts additional efforts into improving employee performance, team members feel valued and trust them. Besides, regular feedback provides more clarity on expectations, thereby boosting transparency.
IV. Adopt an empathetic approach while working remotely
Various reasons could lead to distractions for people while working from home. For example, there can be a financial crisis, household exigencies, health issues, etc. If a teammate displays signs of stress during video calls or indirectly via lack of concentration in work, more errors, or absenteeism; managers should look into the matter and support the individual to get back on track.
They can start with a video call, interact with them, and try to find if the reason behind their stress is work-related or personal. Accordingly, they can provide emotional support, help them eliminate the stressor by offering some alternatives. Your compassionate gesture won’t only facilitate their speedy recovery but also lay the foundation of long-lasting trust and respect for you.
V. Empower remote teams with greater autonomy
Due to the lack of frequent in-person meetings and check-ins, a remote team manager is skeptical if the team members will succeed in meeting deadlines, ensuring quality, etc. Therefore, they inadvertently start micromanaging the team members. However, this micromanagement via rigid schedules, frequent check-ins, or interruptions does more harm than good.
It disengages team members and compels them to feel that the manager doesn’t trust them. Thus, managers should take the opposite approach and practice autonomy.
Entrusting teammates with their tasks and providing them better control over how they do it elevates a sense of responsibility and promotes confidence.
Moreover, when you let them explore their creativity and individual working styles, it also strengthens their trust in your leadership.
VI. Be proactive and transparent in communication
Often in a virtual work setup, conveying the latest updates on projects’ progress, changes, etc., becomes challenging. This disrupts the transparency and also misaligns the teams’ efforts from the expectations. It can further lead to a lack of trust between team members and managers. To avoid this ordeal, managers should give due diligence to regular communication.
Moreover, urgent meetings should be conducted to convey any changes or issues instantly. It gives enough time to deduce a viable solution together as a team and also eliminates last-minute hassle. Moreover, clear communication regarding every nitty-gritty of the project reinforces transparency and thus generates trust.
VII. Leverage the right tools and technology to facilitate virtual collaboration
Collaboration between remote teams is necessary to boost productivity, engagement, and accountability. Thus, you should provide an appropriate tool inventory to the team to ensure an uninterrupted exchange of information. For instance, a messaging app and a video conferencing tool can be equipped for meetings and real-time updates. Similarly, a file-hosting service app like Google Drive or OneDrive can act as a central data repository.
Additionally, resource management software can give enterprise-wide resource visibility and help you maintain the resource health index. These are some examples of useful technology. However, you can build an inventory that suits your organizational needs. Overall, these tools cumulatively facilitate conversations, real-time feedback exchange, break communication silos, and enhance transparency.
By leveraging these strategies, you can garner transparency and build a high-trust organization.
Denise Morrison, the former president and CEO of Campbell Soup Company, says, “The single most important ingredient in the recipe for success is transparency because transparency builds trust.”
So, it is high time you focused on building trust and transparency in remote teams and reinforced a positive and productive work environment. With the right mindset and above-mentioned practices, you can effortlessly achieve it all and ensure your company’s success.
What’s your take on building a high-trust culture?
5. The Glossary
6. The SAVIOM Solution
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