Recent events have produced an increased need for managers to be able to lead virtual teams. One critical ingredient to lead a virtual employee – reciprocal trust between a manager and an employee. Trust is the foundation of any mutually beneficial relationship and the focal point of leadership.
It follows that developing the interpersonal skills and behaviors most likely to produce trust and reinforce a positive relationship with employees will result in loyalty. Leaders who earn mutual trust with employees will become more successful at maximizing the engagement of each virtual employee.
- Cultivate You Virtual Relationships. The old saying goes, “out of sight, out of mind”. This saying can go both ways with virtual employees. Take the time to get to know your virtual employees personally. Spend time asking them questions that can help you connect with them and find common ground. People are more apt to trust people they like and connect with.
- Take Time to Communicate Effectively with Virtual Employees. Employees in a virtual environment may feel disconnected from the team, the company, and manager expectations. Sending texts and emails is not enough. Create opportunities for two-way communication. Communicate in an online platform or by phone so employees can ask questions and you can check for understanding. This will help to keep lines of communication open and clear.
- Help Virtual Employees Whenever You Can. Virtual employees usually don’t get to see you every day, so it is important that they know you are there for them. Make sure you are checking in with virtual employees on the progress of assigned projects and tasks regularly. If employees don’t have the resources needed or need additional coaching, make sure you provide it. This gives them a sense of security and continues to build trust.
- Always Do What You Say You Will. Trust can be lost a lot easier than it can be earned. Interactions with virtual employees are, in many cases, substantially less than with employees that work in the same office with you so make every interaction count. Show employees they can trust you; when you tell a virtual employee that you will do something make sure you follow through.
- Work with Integrity. Integrity is a value that promotes trust. Virtual employees need to trust you have their back and support them whether you are with them or not. Just like doing what you say you will, if you always do the right thing, you will be known as a person that others can trust.
- Admit Your Mistakes. No matter how good you are there will be a time you make a mistake. If you don’t admit it or try and blame others trust will be broken. Show you are human by admitting your mistakes. This helps employees connect with you and builds trust.
- Utilize Team Decision Making When Possible. When managing a virtual team, it is harder to get buy-in and keep people motivated without giving them a voice in decisions. When opportunities arise that do not call for the manager to make the decision, get the team involved in green light – red light thinking. Let employees create absolute and desirable criteria to weigh ideas against so the best possible solution is agreed upon, and they are motivated to accomplish the solution. This shows them you trust their input reciprocally builds their trust in you.
Trust has to be earned – slowly over time. When leaders take the time to cultivate their employee relationships, they can accelerate the growth of trust with their virtual employees. This trust helps leaders to lead effectively while motivating virtual employees to stay engaged and give their best effort.