In this week’s Ask a Trainer guest post, Kevin Eikenberry and Wayne Turmel offer advice on how individuals can foster trust and connection with their teams while working remotely.
Dear Kevin and Wayne,
I currently work on a team with six other employees. My organization just announced that we will have the option to continue working remotely even after we’re all vaccinated, and it sounds like most of the team is going to take advantage of that option. I enjoy many aspects of working from home, but I have found it harder to stay connected with my co-workers in a remote setting. I don’t think we have the same level of trust in each other that we did when we all worked in the same office. What are some signs that mistrust is starting to become a problem on my team? Are there steps that I can take as an individual contributor to help restore trust?
Too many leaders micromanage and spend too much time checking up on their team members. If we want to be successful leaders of long-distance, remote teams, we must extend greater trust to each team member. Here’s the fact: The more trusting we are, the more trust we will build.
Trust is based on evidence. If a co-worker becomes silent and withdrawn, or if I’m not seeing proof of engagement from them, or if they never say anything during meetings, then I begin to wonder what’s going on and end up having to infer. This is where relationships between co-workers come into play. The better the relationship is between colleagues, the more likely it is that they will understand each other’s intent through their behavior.
Too often in a remote working world, all our conversations are transactional. I’ll ask a colleague a specific question about work, and that’s all we’ll talk about. We need to make sure that we’re not just transacting with co-workers but are still connecting with them and continuing to build relationships with them. Trust comes from growing, building, and maintaining relationships with our co-workers.
It’s important for trust to be explicit and transparent. One of the mistakes teammates make is assuming that everybody understands what’s going on, that everybody works the same way, and that everybody thinks the same way that they do. If you don’t explicitly talk about what is happening in your work and personal life, then sometimes we end up with situations where one person just wants an answer to a question and the other person wants to talk about the basketball game last night. Maybe the first person can come back to talk about basketball another time, or maybe they can talk about basketball for a few minutes rather than half an hour, to keep the relationship going.
To maintain and continue to build trust, we have to be more intentional so that people know where we’re coming from. Next time you interact with a teammate, take your time, slow down, and really engage with them and the work you are both doing.
Learn more from Kevin and Wayne about staying connected as a remote teammate on the Accidental Trainer podcast. Their episode will air on April 21, 2021.
We welcome your comments and engagement on these posts. All posts are reviewed to ensure appropriateness based on ATD’s requirements for postings in our online communities.
Please note: Content shared in this column is provided by the author and may not reflect the perspectives of ATD.