How to Build Trust with Remote Teams

How can I build trust with my team working remotely?

Trust in the workplace essentially refers to our confidence in people’s ability to get things done, as promised.

If you need to ask this question, it signals one or more of three things.

  1. Your company culture is toxic.
  2. You’re hiring the wrong people.
  3. You’re a control-freak micromanager.

And here’s how.

Your Company Culture

Trust-based company cultures don’t lock people up in what Basecamp’s Jason Fried calls a ‘presence prison’.

People aren’t required to signal their productivity by showing their face in the office, or on Slack and Zoom. These are poor surrogates for actual productivity and can paradoxically also have a negative effect on it.

Trust-based cultures, like the ones epitomized by Amazon and Netflix, give their people autonomy. They communicate asynchronously instead of in realtime because this gives their people time to actually think — what they were hired to do in the first place.

And they operate on conviction, not consensus-seeking meeting after meeting, which might serve to decrease the frequency of bad decisions in the short term, but in the longterm kills innovation and growth, as well as employee morale.

High-trust companies are two-and-a-half times more
likely to be high-performing organisations
relative to ‘trust laggards’, according to Interaction Associates.

Your People

If need to ask to ask the question, it signals that perhaps you haven’t got the best people on the bus to begin with.

If you have hired values-aligned people who have truly bought into the mission of the organization, driven people who would rather contribute something to the world than weasel their way out of real work by accepting yet another meeting invite, and people who are fit for their roles insofar as their strengths are concerned, then you needn’t worry about keeping your eye on them.

As Richard Branson puts it, “I hire people that are smarter than me, I give them a meaningful mission and the resources they need to succeed, and get the hell out of the way”.

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This question reveals a lot about the manager asking it…hopefully not you… and can be translated to “how can I keep a watchful eye over my staff to make sure that they are at their computers doing work?”

But it’s not about where you are, and how long you’re there, but that objectives are met and value is created.

Somewhere along the way from the algorithmic-based work of the industrial revolution to the cognitive work of today, we forgot to adjust our metrics.

Sure, hours could be conflated with output on the factory room floor or in a coal mine, but not when we’re engaged in cognitive work, and especially not after we’ve reached the upper limit of deep work, which, as it turns out, is only four hours a day.

Ultimately, we should be striving to get things done, not get hours in.

August 18, 2020




Steve Glaveski


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