In the COVID 19 landscape, many people are either working remotely or not at all. There are three steps to Build Trust Working Remotely:
- Character Trust - acting with integrity by following through with what you say you will do.
- Competence Trust - your ability to do your job and help others navigate their jobs.
- Connection Trust - caring, engaging and listening to your team.
Building Trust is a huge challenge for leaders and teams to earn with their coworkers particularly in remote work environments. Many leaders that I have worked with had this issue long before social distancing. Managing and leading a remote workforce is not a new challenge, but it is amplified in the new reality that we live in. So the burning question for leaders is,
How do I earn trust and the influence to lead people I don’t see?
In a world filled with technology and various information sharing platforms, there is a temptation to overuse virtual meetings to the point of inhibiting (even demotivating) productivity. We fool ourselves into thinking that more meetings equal greater connectivity with our team. It can have the opposite effect if done incorrectly. Meetings must be informative and direct productivity, but they are also an opportunity to build stronger connections with your team and earn their trust.
How do you earn trust with another person in the first place?
Your team needs to get a repeated experience of your Character (follow through), Competence (help them solve problems), and Connection (caring, listening, and engaging). Strength in one of these leadership principles will not compensate for weakness in another. Leading for results without building trust is unsustainable, but being trusted and not producing results is unacceptable.
Character trust is repeated experience of you acting with integrity and following through on what you say. This principle remains as true in a virtual environment as it does in the physical workplace. One of the companies I work with manufactures and services air compressors. They have done an exceptional job of this. In webinars and other virtual methods, leaders have made the appropriate adjustments and consistently followed through on promises to their teams to stay engaged. Their leaders haven’t taken a “Coronation.” They believe in their culture and they understand they have a responsibility to the people who report to them. No one is left on a virtual island.
Competence trust is established by repeatedly using your experience to help others navigate the challenges they face. By sharing information, providing resources, and helping their teams develop new skills to navigate a remote environment, leaders demonstrate that they are knowledgeable and trustworthy. The goal is to help your team accomplish the daily responsibilities of their job, and equip them with the information and confidence they need to handle the ongoing stresses caused by the pandemic. Can you say that your team is equipped to handle today’s events because of the tools and knowledge you’ve shared?
Connection trust is the repeated experience of you caring, listening, and engaging with your team. To earn this kind of trust is already a challenge in the physical workplace, and it is an even bigger challenge with the quick shift to virtual platforms. Company after company reach out to us at Focus 3 and ask,
How do we keep our teams focused on doing their jobs, and staying connected to us (leaders) and the rest of the team?
This is the remote workforce dilemma.
Building connection starts by making it personal. The best leaders are consistently demonstrating to their teams that they care. Caring is when you take something that is important to the other person and make it important to you in a way that they can feel. Listening to someone’s concerns and communicating that they were heard and understood is foundational in this challenge. This requires a personal touch. Not everything is a group meeting. Call individuals outside of the team environment and hear their concerns. Ask probing questions to understand. This lets them know you were listening and are seeking to help them achieve a goal or navigate an issue. They will feel that you are connecting with them and the problems they are trying to solve.
Apply these leadership principles to your organization. Through virtual meetings and individual calls you can earn trust through the consistent experience of your Character, Competence, and Connection. Pay attention and follow through on commitments. Share your knowledge to help others get better. Care, listen, and engage with your team on a personal level to help them navigate this challenging time. Influence is earned from your behavior, not granted by your position.
A client shared with me a great quote that read, “Don’t abdicate authority after you have earned trust.” When you have earned the trust from your people you are in position to lead them for results. The best leaders are demanding, but they earn the right to do so.
Now, do the work!