Trust isn’t an abstract concept. According to author Stephen M.R. Covey in The SPEED of Trust: The One Thing That Changes Everything, trust increases speed and lowers business cost.
- According to a 2002 Watson Wyatt study, high-trust organizations outperform low-trust organizations by 286% in total return to shareholders.
- A later 2007 Watson Wyatt study found that organisations where front-line employees trusted senior leadership had a 42% higher return on investment than low-trust businesses.
The same principle applies to remote teams. Leading one means you don’t see your team in person doing their work. Remote workers don’t see the client who’s paying their salary. The whole arrangement requires trust between everyone involved.
Note, however, that you can’t force people to trust you. Instead, you need to demonstrate that you’re trustworthy. Here are several ways you can develop trust with your remote workers.
Set clear expectations
As your remote team’s leader, it’s your responsibility to ensure that each member knows what’s expected of them. This encompasses:
- The work each needs to perform.
- How much work they need to carry out.
- The level of performance expected of them.
Clarifying these expectations signals to your employees that you pay attention to them, appreciate their individual roles, and want them to succeed.
Provide what your remote workers need
Make sure that your remote employees have all the necessary information, equipment and materials to do their jobs properly.
If team members need to know how to access crucial information, teach it to them. If they need a specific tool to do a job, provide it (especially if they don’t know that there is such a tool).
But don’t limit your assistance to the bare minimum. Introduce them to colleagues with similar responsibilities, hold regular video meetings to promote a sense of belonging, or whatever else is necessary to engage your remote team.
Doing this establishes your concern for them.
Talk about your employees’ abilities
Take the time to know your team members’ best skills, and talk to them about how they can best apply these skills in their jobs.
Showing your knowledge of their skills tells them that you:
- Know them individually.
- Value their contributions to the team and organisation.
- Are willing to help them use their skills in their jobs.
You can demonstrate this knowledge by occasionally sending items to your team members which can help them in their roles (e.g. books) and explaining how the items pertain to their abilities.
Here’s a little secret: it feels great to see that your leader is looking out for you.
Continually provide feedback
Offering no feedback as a leader would likely lead to apprehension among your remote workers. Worse still, those who need to improve won’t.
If you’re not saying anything about their work, they’ll wonder if you’re pleased or not. When this happens, they won’t be sure how to adjust the next time, or if they need to adjust at all.
Likewise, your team will appreciate recognition so don’t hold back if someone deserves it. Acknowledging your members shows that you pay attention to their hard work.
To gain trust, you’ll have to give trust as well – because it’s reciprocal. As long as your remote employees meet the outcomes you’ve identified, does it matter if they sometimes leave their desks to do chores that are piling up around the house?
Your remote employees are adults, and they’re responsible enough to keep themselves in check; otherwise, why did you hire them in the first place?
By trusting your employees enough to do their jobs, they’ll learn to trust you as well.
Everyone makes mistakes; that includes you and your remote employees. Yes, mistakes need to be rectified but as the leader of your team, it’s up to you to react accordingly.
Losing your temper frequently will likely make your direct reports hesitant to ask for help or guidance. Instead, try to remain level-headed and introduce proactive measures (e.g. sharing pending tasks, verifying information) to avoid similar mistakes.
Hire the right people
Remote work isn’t for everyone; it requires a certain combination of traits to perform successfully. But what does this have to do with trust? Hiring the right people for the job makes it easier for you to give and earn trust.
You can actually choose from our pool of top candidates right away. Simply click the button below to browse a wide range of profiles on our Hotlist page.