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Summary:

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 […]

skyhawk_2Trust 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?

  1. Along with being consistent I try to send out a card with a little note stating that it was a pleasure to work with them. So far it has yielded pretty good results in building trust and a professional friendship.

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  2. Nice tips I’ll take that into account for my startup, somewhere I saw think it was here to send postcards on holidays like new year :)

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  3. Good job, Georgina.

    Working from Australia, many of my business dealings are global across multiple time zones. Many times I have never physically met people.

    I would add:

    1) Be available: people hate playing message tag;

    2) Be flexible: go out of your way to accommodate time zone differences;

    3) Be cost-sensitive: recommended ways of saving costs e.g. there are still many people who forget about/ or haven’t even heard of voip (e.g. skype);

    4) Be noise-sensitive: long-distance lines can amplify ambient/background noise. Call from a quiet place where they can clearly hear you;

    5) Be patient: voip calls are not as interactive as landlines – you have to wait your turn before speaking. Always let the other person finish talking before you start. This sounds very basic, but you can easily destroy trust if you ‘compete’ with people for talk time.

    Georgina, these are just a few of the smaller things that can build trust and help you stand out from the pack.

    Best, Robin

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  4. Absolutely. Some great points. It’s amazing how many people ignore these factors when dealing remotely. I think Consistency is really the most important of those factors, as it will avoid confusion and ameliorate a number of other issues.

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  5. To your list I would add “authenticity” of marketing especially the website or blog put out there by a service provider. Before I contact someone online to become a client or customer, the first thing I do is check out their website and read their blog. If it’s canned or fake in any way, I move on because they have not engaged my trust or confidence. Once I make contact with them, I observe how well they live up to their online image. All of this happens before I sign a contract and start doing business.

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  6. Video conferencing is an indispensible tool for teleworkers who, as you note, need to stay connected to colleagues and clients. The face-to-face communication it enables is far more valuable for building relationships and trust than audio or email communications that don’t really allow emotional connections. It also helps managers deal with any anxiety they may have about allowing telework by being able to see their employees whenever they want/need to.

    Cheers!
    Jeannie.McPherson@TANDBERG

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  7. [...] Google Wave started creating a lot of buzz as it was gearing up for launch. TypePad released a new version of its blogging platform and added microblogging features, while Aviary made online photo editing a snap; Aliza asked if Twitter is really better than Facebook for your business; Charles reviewed business-oriented virtual PBX system Grasshopper; Celine shared some SEO basics; Amber explained why your blog is your mothership; and Georgina wrote about how to build trust remotely. [...]

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