Remember this? Standing up straight, arms crossed across your chest, eyes closed. You fall backwards, eyes clenching tighter and tighter the closer you fall to the floor. You think all hope is lost and the rendezvous with the wooden floor you had hoped wouldn’t eventuate now seems a certain outcome. Then thud! Just before that fateful moment, your friend, the one you entrusted to catch you, hooks their arms underneath yours, saving you from a particularly sore head that was once pending.
In reality, there was no doubt about it. You knew they would catch you, they’re your best friend. You had known them for 15 years, developed a rapport challenged in the toughest of times. Trust is a critical aspect of any healthy interaction. This is doubly true when regarding important tasks such as one’s professional livelihood. However, with the advent of the digital age, there have been drastic changes to how we interact and work; new professional relationships and environments are possible. One’s colleagues or team members no longer have to be seated next to you in an office space. Rather, it is possible to a part of a “remote team,” where individuals may be separated geographically but connected via technology.
When working with teams whose members may never have met each other – and who may even be located in different countries across the globe – trust issues can increase immensely. The question lies in how can organizations foster trust in such a professional environment? Consider the steps below to cultivate trust, which will lead to a stronger team ethic and the benefits that stem from it.
Less Emphasis on Work
It may appear counterproductive, but making an effort to be less focused on work alone can lead to great dividends. Project managers should make time to allow members of the virtual team to take the time to get to know each other on a more personal level. In other words, break some of the old standards that demand full focus on work related conversations only. Make an effort to create a structure that enables people to develop relationships that lead to trust. This will inevitably lead to greater cooperation, understanding, higher productivity and creativity in the future.
It can be beneficial to have all the team members interact with each other via social media. Set up a private Facebook group or a circle on Google+. Encourage teammates to share pictures; these can be not only of the staff, but also of their families and friends. Most individuals are family-oriented and tend to be more trusting of others when they start to see pictures of their children and to hear stories about them. Shared experiences will inevitably come to the forefront, strengthening the team’s sense of camaraderie and shared goals.
Establish Clear Goals and Guidelines
Clarity is essential for professional cohesion and trust. If distant team members are unsure of what their aims are, and how they fit into the collective whole, they will have less confidence in their effectiveness and support. Project directors must clearly establish the aims of the project, as well as how each individual should contribute to the end result. By establishing these principles at the onset of the process, tasks can be performed more smoothly to completion.
Educate on Cultural Diversity
If dealing with an international assortment of work colleagues, project managers should provide tools to assist teammates in understanding the customs that may be experienced in their interactions. Let the individuals from locations around the world learn as much as possible about the behaviors, norms, and expectations of those in other areas with whom they work. Perhaps a forum can be established where each team member can place their typical customs and expectations for reference.
Use Video Conferences Whenever Possible
Visual clues are critically important to developing trust. There is a psychological comfort found in seeing someone that is not replicated by sound or written word alone. The more visual contact we have with another human being, the more inclined we will be to trust them. Therefore, use video technology whenever possible to communicate.
Trust is a critical element to any healthy relationship. The business sphere is no different. Even in a remote work environment it is essential that steps are made to foster stronger relationships and bonds of trust. Through the steps prescribed above, you too can strengthen your organizations and gain the benefits of stronger professional relationships.
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