Is virtual trust really ''a thing''?
Well, it better be because creating a virtual culture of excellence among remote teams starts with building trust relationships first and foremost.
Now, this is easier said than done. Earning trust and respect from your employees and also giving them your trust and respect becomes a sticky in a digital online environment where body language, tone, and attitude nuances are difficult to perceive.
Yes, of course you can ''see'' people in Zoom chats but do you really know what they are thinking from a 60 minute screen time discussion? Building trust at a distance reaches far beyond project scopes, deadlines, and deliverable outlines.
Define the borders clearly: How will a day be structured in relation to team discussions, catch up sessions, formal report back meetings, or impromptu virtual get togethers to deal with ad hoc issues and emergencies?
Infrastructure support: Gremlins of IT, BoT, Connectivity, Software, Applications, and Hardware will be even more annoying and disruptive because the wizard up on the fifth floor who used to run downstairs to fix laptops or smart devices is not that readily available. Take care to have appropriate tools and back-up plans in place when disaster strikes so employees can continue with their tasks and not become increasingly anxious due to downtime.
Consistent, Reliable, Responsive: CRR, the three fundamentals of cultivating trust in a virtual realm. Do what you say and say what you mean, all the time. It is as simple (and complex) as that.
Transparency creates clarity: Employees need to have clarity about what is happening in the organization, especially more so during times of crises such as Covid-19. Keep them in the loop and if you don't know what is happening, relay that in a diplomatic manner rather than covering up facts, making empty promise, or even worse, frequent bouts of radio silence.
Keep it authentic and interesting: Be real and engaging when delivering messages on audio or video streams. Employees can spot fakeness a mile away. If you were never the "suited and booted" formal manager at the office, don't try to emulate that now when leading your virtual team. Frequent video contact is essential to keep some sort of normality going and increase visual authentication.
There will be an adaptation period to settle into this New World of Work and this time is sure to be awkward and uncomfortable. Building mutual trust at a distance between management and employees can take weeks or even months to establish. Be patient and resilient in your managerial conduct and remember, Rome was not built in a day either!