Are the challenges of leading remote teams unique?
What kind of leadership does it take to lead remote teams well?
Leadership in any context is challenging. So, what are the key challenges? What strategies are effective, and what type of leaders succeed most often in these environments?
It’s interesting to note that challenges leading a remote team aren’t necessarily unique — but they do show up as a bit disorienting, feeling like they take more time, and possibly more complex in ways uncommon in shared workspaces.
Here’s our view of the third key challenge, Building Trust and Connection, and some best practice for leaders of remote teams:
Building Trust and Connection
- As a leader of a remote team, you become the key contact point for the team and often the business. People will look to you for inspiration, guidance, clarity, confirmation, and much more than you might expect. And of course, your behaviour and reactions will be amplified which means others perception of you can become more important than reality
- It’s important that trust, the foundation to strong relationships, is established, maintained and grown when F2F communication is not possible.
- Trust must be earned though; it is not a given. Trust is a feeling – and the trust equation is a great way to explain this feeling. Understanding this equation means you can use it to help strengthen your relationships with not only your team, but all business connections.
The TRUST Equation
The three aspects of the TRUST Equation are credibility, reliability, and intimacy – these are the aspects we want to increase. The denominator is self-orientation, which we want to decrease. Here’s an explanation in more detail.
- Credibility is simply ‘do they know what they are talking about?’ We trust people like doctors and lawyers because they are trained professionals. They’ve had to pass exams and been tested to make sure that they are credible and that they have a level of knowledge which allows them to advise people. We trust them as experts in their field.
- Reliability is about delivering on promises. Does this person deliver on their commitments or do they consistently fail? Repeated failures to do what you say you are going to do undermines trust – e.g. if someone is consistently late to meetings it erodes trust. So, when they say they’ll meet you at a set time there is a part of you that knows it is unlikely to happen – this shows a lower level of trust in that person…. And if they can’t get to a meeting on time, what else are they going to fail to do?
- Sometimes people are their own worst enemies when it comes to this. They commit to help or support others but because they’re too busy or disorganised, they fail. They usually have the best intentions but their failure in doing what they say they’ll do, has a big impact on the trust people place in them.
- Intimacy is about whether you can trust someone to keep something confidential. Do you trust them with information, or have they let you down? Confidentiality is the backbone of doctor/lawyer relationships with their patients/clients. This is to protect the individual, but also to maintain trust in their profession…so if they should break this trust, there will be legal consequences – and most importantly, everyone is clear on this from the start.
- Self-Orientation is the one denominator in the TRUST equation. It’s all about where this person’s real focus lies. Do they have my best interests at heart …… or are they doing this for themselves? Are they really helping me or are they simply doing this to get something out of it? If people sense that you don’t care about them or their needs, they just won’t trust you.
- This principle stands in terms of how people feel about their business or employer too. Does my business train me and help me to improve so that I can advance my career? Or does it just expect me to deliver my tasks for which I get a salary in return?
- However, it’s important to look at these factors from a personal perspective when leading a remote team. People don’t often trust institutions or organisations – they trust the people in them – and particularly the people designated as leaders within those businesses. Companies are often described as credible and reliable – the first two elements of the trust equation. The last two however, are specific to individuals.
- To build trust in a business, the people within it people must demonstrate intimacy and self-orientation. This builds trust in a profession or institution. It is vital to the long-term success of the business and although many companies say that they ‘put the customer first’, they don’t back it up with their actions – therefore it undermines trust in their business.
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All the best
Lindsey & Charlotte