Trust is probably the most crucial factor in any working relationship — indeed, in any human relationship. It can be a challenge to engender trust in your colleagues at the best of times, but when you’re not on site with them, it’s even harder.
In a face-to-face working relationship, you may not be particularly conscious of the need to build trust, or the innate tactics you use to do so. But when you’re working remotely, it can be a good idea to give a little thought to trust, and to be conscious of it as you build your remote working experience. Here are what I see as the most effective and most straightforward ways to build trust remotely.
1. Communicate in person.
Don’t leave your communication to email, forums and instant message. Pick up the phone or get on a video chat with your colleagues regularly to develop a sense of presence, rapport and accountability. As humans, we rely a lot on factors like body language, facial expressions and tone of voice to learn about other people.
Making the effort to communicate “in person” — even when you’re located a long way from the office — can do a lot to engender trust with your coworkers.
2. Deliver what you promise.
Yes, we all miss deadlines occasionally, but it’s important to deliver on your promises to your colleagues. I think this is especially important when those promises are yours, rather than deadlines or deliverables that have been set by a group or external party. If you say you’ll do something, do it.
If you say you’ll do something and you fail to deliver, be careful in the way you handle it. Speak to the affected colleagues as soon as you realize you’ll miss the deadline. Explain the situation, answer their questions, and project a new delivery date. Don’t just take full responsibility for your missed deliverable — proactively help your colleagues solve any problems that result from it. This will give them the message that you’re not afraid to accept the consequences of your actions, and that you genuinely care about your coworkers.
3. Be consistent.
Consistency and predictability are crucial to others’ ability to trust you. If you’re inconsistent in the way you work, operate, deal with teammates, or approach your responsibilities, you’re likely to unnerve your colleagues. This discomfort may not be conscious, but it will be there. Think about that boss you had with the wild mood swings — the one whose attitude you could never gauge or anticipate until you were asking them a question. It was difficult to trust that person, right?
Behaving in a way that lets people predict your behavior, work quality, and professional approach will allow them to trust you and encourage them to rely on you — the ultimate compliment in a working relationship.
These are the key factors that I use to build trust in a remote work partnership, and I’ve found it worthwhile to be conscious of them as you deal with colleagues remotely. What tactics do you use to build trust from a distance?