Building Trust in a Virtual Team

November 11, 2013

trust in virtual teams

Trust and accountability in the virtual environment start with you: you need to hold yourself accountable for your own deliverables. This helps within building trust. Once others see that you are committed to your accountability, people will trust you. Because virtual teams may work on short-term assignments and move on to new projects, it is important to build it quickly. I refer to this as building ‘Instant Trust’ (trust that builds instantly – and breaks instantly too when tasks are not performed, integrity is broken and reliability/accountability are at stake).

In the video below, Charles H. Green refers to listening and reciprocity (pay attention to build influence). I agree with him and would add that to get trust one must first give trust. So, start small… Get comfortable with moderate vulnerability. One rule above all that guides virtual team behavior, and is especially vital when virtual team members haven’t met in person and so they cannot pick up the nonverbal signals inherent in face-to-face communication. The rule is: Assume positive intent of your teammates. Or more simply, give others the benefit of the doubt.

As a virtual manager/leader, your most important task is to build trust. Therefore, your key role as a Chief Trust Leader (CTO) is to build trust in you, in the project,  and in a unified team. Despite the challenges of distance, time, and space.  Make sure that the communication is strong enough to defeat the obstacles of geography, isolation, and history. It is communication that enables us to build the trust we need for success.

Leadership is no longer perceived as power and control over people. Twenty-first-century leadership is even more important, exciting, and challenging. It starts with giving away power, giving people the benefit of positive intent, and giving up some of your guard to demonstrate vulnerability. And like any good relationship, trust within a team is never complete; it must be maintained over time.

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About The Author

Yael Zofi has transformed modern workplaces for more than 20 years with her groundbreaking work in cross-cultural communications and virtual team management. Her impact is evident at global companies, such as JP Morgan Chase, General Electric, and Pfizer.

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