Trust is an integral part of working virtually. Given you are usually reliant on electronic communication methods and are without some of the more subtle communication cues such as body language, it is important that the team you build is based on a strong foundation of trust. Without a trusting environment, small issues can fester and become bigger problems that are harder to resolve.
To build trust within your virtual team, it is important to lay the framework of an environment built on trust. But how do we really do that?
Firstly, the framework you build must support trustworthy behaviour. How do I do that? Open and transparent communication as a rule.
The two primary elements of a virtual assistant role that can cause mistrust are:
- Hours worked
- Work output quantity and quality
My policy is that these two elements are visible to all. That way there is no confusion. The data does not lie.
Hours worked by my virtual teams are visible to all staff. We use TimeDoctor to measure and track all hours. Whilst this tool provides value in terms of processing payroll, it also provides a platform where the team can see the hours being worked by every team member.
Work output’s quantity and quality are similarly managed through open and transparent communication. Each staff member sends their “End of Day” report to their Manager and ALL staff in their team. Everyone gets to see everything – an interesting byproduct of this approach is that problems between staff are often resolved before reports are sent which makes management a little easier too.
Providing open communication around those two elements has established the framework for an environment based on trust.
But now that you have the basics in place, what’s next?
As a leader of a virtual team, there are a number of behaviours you must demonstrate to maintain that trust:
1. Stick to your word
If you promise something or make a deal, stick to it. Every time.
2. Maintain privacy
Some of your staff will come to you with private issues, respect their confidence and keep private conversations private. I know it is easy to copy and paste a Skype chat and send it across to someone else for an opinion. Never do that.
3. Address performance issues
If you have a non-performer in your team, address it fast. Delaying a hard conversation with a virtual staff member can erode trust from the rest of your team.
4. Never show bias
Playing favourites is a sure fire way to build trust with a minority and break trust with the majority. Always operate in an impartial manner.
5. Encourage communication
Encouraging your staff to communicate and resolve issues without your involvement is a great way to not only show that you trust them to resolve the issue, it also provides the staff members an opportunity to build trust between themselves as well.
When you lose the trust of your virtual team, it can take a lot of work to build it back. Sometimes, it is irreparable. It makes sense to invest in establishing a trusting environment from the start and ensuring that as a leader, you behave in a manner that promotes trust. Over the longer term, you will see the benefits of this approach with your reputation, credibility and results demonstrating that you are both a person that people want to work for and someone clients trust with their business.