10 Ways to Build Trust Remotely

Trusting people you can't see

Posted Apr 27, 2015

"Office Workers Don't Trust Colleagues Who Work Remotely," read the headline from a recent survey. According to researchers the survey respondents believed remote workers were:

  • "Three times more likely than people in the office to miss deadlines, not follow through on commitments or mislead co-workers."
  • "Four times more likely to give a half-hearted effort, make changes without notice or not fight for priorities."

Those results were released the day after different research proclaimed, "Survey Shows Working Remotely Benefits Employers and Employers." If both surveys are to be believed it's clear there are benefits to remote work and there are challenges, especially when it comes to giving trust to those we cannot see.

With an increase in telecommuting, work-from-home options, and global talent collaborating from different countries and time zones, the question of how to build trust remotely continues to surface. How do we trust those we never see?

Ultimately the answer is the same whether the person is down the hall or across the planet. What it takes to build trust involves desire, competence, consistency, intention, and connection. The ingredients for trust building are the ingredients for relationship building. Both are grounded in best of self behaviors. That's true no matter who you are or where you work, and whether you work remotely or lead a remote staff.

Bing Image. Free to Use or Share.
Source: Bing Image. Free to Use or Share.

Ten trust enhancing ways to build trust remotely:

  1. Check your assumptions. Do you believe most people are inherently trustworthy? Or inherently not? Your expectations impact your reality.
  2. Articulate what it "look likes" on both sides to successfully work remotely.
  3. Start with yourself. Consistently demonstrate you're worthy of others' giving you their trust.
  4. Focus on word-action alignment:  make sure what you say is what you do.
  5. Be known for competence; add value, exceed expectations, get great results.
  6. Set a personal response standard others can depend on.
  7. Voice-to-voice matters; initiate it; when in doubt, over communicate; confirm understanding in writing after key discussions.
  8. Volunteer to take on additional responsibilities, issues, problems, or projects.
  9. Be predictable, reachable, dependable, and responsive.
  10. Make it easy for others to work with you and to want to work with you. Be a reliable and credible resource.

Remote staff and boss relationships have been around for decades. And while 21st-century innovation and technology have enabled work-anywhere options for some, the reality is that millions of people don't work next to those who manage them or they manage.

From regional or territory managers and home offices to multiple divisions, stores, plants or countries, you don't need to bump into someone in the hallway to develop a strong and trusting working relationship with them. What you need isn't physical proximity to build trust, but trust building behaviors. These include ingredients such as: going first with trust; elevating your communication; demonstrating behavioral integrity; showing up authentically; and building genuine relationships.

More tips for increasing trust in any work group:

•    Three Reasons to Not Always Trust

•    The Real Reason Most Leaders Aren't Thinking About Trust

•    How to Decide if You Should Trust Someone at Work

You'll find five trust essentials in my latest book: Trust, Inc.: How to Create a Business Culture That Will Ignite Passion, Engagement, and Innovation (Career Press, 2014).