Reliable, cohesive teams are built on trust and strong communication. Fast Company warns that uncertainty about accountability in remote work leads to two common problems: managers micromanaging and employees overworking to prove themselves. But through developing a strong team culture, both of these difficulties can be avoided.
Let’s break down ways some ways trust and communication can help you develop a strong, flexible remote team
Remote teams have to trust each other. At the same time, the new normal of remote work can potentially create bad habits. But that doesn’t mean they are here to stay.
Based on Gallup’s How To Build Trust With Remote Employees, when employees don’t trust organizational leadership, their chances of being engaged are 1 in 12, which is especially apparent if your team is new to remote work.
Here are some challenges you may face as a remote team leader:
- Lowered trust from poor communication: You might find that people who worked well together previously seem to be hitting hurdles. Sometimes trust can be shaken by specific failures in communication, but most often there is a way to rebuild.
- Lack of trust from misperceptions: Trust can be eroded because of misunderstandings. A common blind spot for trust in remote teams happens when there is a perceived lack of reliability, when a milestone isn’t reached or an email is missed. These issues can be avoided by preparing people for the possibility, and helping them become confident at raising issues – this requires some assertiveness.
- Losing trust after the ball is dropped: Over time, multiple concerns and failures can erode trust in competence. It may start with, “They probably missed the task notification.” Then, this becomes a larger concern when a task notification is overlooked several times, leading to, “Maybe they don’t know how to do their job.”
Pay attention and catch these issues of trust before they evolve to a deeper level – the kind of thing that causes team members to start to pull apart from each other. Think long-term about the long road ahead and show your team that you value their investment in developing relationships. Through trust, you can help bring out your team’s sense of courage, determination, grit, and resilience – all qualities that will help them succeed.
Communication is the glue of remote teams. Whether building collaboration, transparency or flexibility, a team must clearly communicate in order to work efficiently.
In a recent academic study of remote workers and distributed teams, 100% of respondents (who were 250 people from countries like the US, Canada and New Zealand) ranked communication as the number one competency that is critical for success.
Here are some communication obstacles to look out for:
- Lack of established communication channels: The communication processes your team builds will proactively stop problems before they even start. UpWork’s Future Workforce Report showed that 63% of companies have remote workers yet 57% lack the policies to support them. Establish clear channels for keeping in touch, and decide on a reasonable response time so that everyone is on the same page. Building an all-team approach to communication will make everyone feel both supported and accountable.
- Pressure to be available 24/7: As the leader, pay close attention to communication obstacles that might lower productivity if you aren’t careful. One misconception might be that remote work requires being glued to your desk from 9-6 each day. Change the conversation to focus on output instead of seat-time. Meeting deadlines and producing quality work is far more important than working overtime, which leads to burn out.
- Feeling disconnected from the team: According to research by Igloo, 70% of remote employees feel left out of the workplace. Communication issues could be creeping into your team’s behaviour as they work remotely together. This can include people feeling out of the loop as well as information not reaching team members who need it. You could have the best processes in the world, but if your team doesn’t uphold them – they are worthless.
Trust and communication are foundational aspects of your remote culture. The father of business management Peter Drucker coined the phrase, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast,” which is especially true in this time where more people are working remotely than ever before. Focus on trust and communication and you’ll build a team culture that leads to strong relationships and productivity.