Five ways to build trust among a virtual workforce

Trust is a vitally important ingredient for successful teamwork – especially when a colleague is based in a different location. Here’s how to develop and sustain it

1. Commit to regular calls
Having a schedule of calls set up ahead of time means you both know when you will be in contact and can prepare in advance. This is precious time – nothing breaks trust like constantly cancelling meetings – so safeguard these in your diary and have a quiet space ready so you can be fully present.

2. Keep your webcam on
Resist the urge to keep your camera off. Being able to see each other’s faces helps you to read non-verbal cues and build trust through eye contact.

3. Keep the conversation flowing both ways
Make sure your virtual meetings and calls are two-way and not just a brain-dumping or briefing session. Ask for feedback and ideas, and really listen to your colleague’s views and opinions.

4. Get clarity with active listening
Remember that in virtual meetings it is even more important to check the assumptions you are making about what your colleague meant, said or did. Paraphrase information and ask questions starting with: “Can I check that you mean…?”

5. Write it all down
Keep short notes of each virtual meeting so you can quickly pick up where you left off last time, check the progress you’ve made and stay accountable to each other. Of course, this is after you have covered off any personal topics.

6. Be patient
Trust takes time. In a virtual environment, it takes longer to build trust. Don’t rush to get straight down to business – discuss the background to the project you are working on and take time to talk generally about what you are both doing work-wise.

Nigel Purse is the founder of The Oxford Group, a global leadership and management training company and co-author of Five Conversations: How to transform trust, engagement and performance at work

Check our magazine for more useful information about dealing with working remotely

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