The Secret Sauce To High Trust Remote Teams

Although swift and sudden, many teams have adjusted to working remotely. But as remote work drags on, team trust can easily fade if not purposefully maintained. Our research found 3 secret ingredients for what it takes to build high trust teams.

Grace Patterson
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September 2, 2020

We all know team trust is a critical foundation to any effective team. Yet how we build and maintain trust in a remote environment is inherently different from in person teams: 

  • In person teams draw on trust from relationships often based on informal interactions
  • Remote teams derive trust from seeing reliable, quality outputs. 

And while teams that made the sudden shift to remote work have likely established trust that carries over, over time this can dissolve without the right practices in place.

How to take your remote team to higher trust

Since going remote, we analyzed hundreds of client interviews that revealed three consistent and deliberate practices of high trust teams:

1. Be clear when communicating expectations

Because trust is built more on reliable and high quality outputs, managers should focus aligning through clear expectations. This isn’t about micromanaging, but rather defining work in clear ways - everyone knows what’s expected of them, by when, and who they can draw on for support.

2. Give the benefit of the doubt, often

“Now that we’re remote, interactions have become transactional and we know less about each other’s lives. I was getting frustrated with a colleague’s lack of responsiveness in the early mornings. Weeks later I found out that’s time she has set aside for homeschooling her kids.” - Manager, Financial Services

Ever made snap assumptions about a colleague? We’ve all done it. When you find yourself making assumptions, check yourself. Ask what you know versus what you think you know. It might mean asking direct questions, or having full team chats and check-ins. Conversations like these build trust over time, making it easier to assume the best rather than the worst.

3. Prioritize the power of reliability

Knowing how much reliability and follow through are valued in this context, make it your priority. As a team, track commitments and check-in on them as a group frequently, so nothing gets dropped unless it’s deprioritized together. Also, asking one another what’s one thing you can do to be more reliable sets common goals to work towards.

So there you have it. The secret sauce to high trust remote teams is three fold - one part clear expectations, one part benefit of the doubt, and one part reliability. The more you mix, the stronger the bond of your team’s trust across screens will be.


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