Remote work: Creating a culture of trust with remote employees and clients

remote employee trust

RNI, the Remote Nation Institute, is holding a series of half-hour webinars to help you help your employees work remotely, efficiently, and happily. As part of these learnings, we offer tips, based on years of remote work experience.

Every day, we’ll give you one concrete action you can take with your team to keep your people focused and on task.

Sophaya’s Tip of the Day

You need people to have confidence in your leadership and you want to build a culture of trust, but you and your team are working remotely. How do you take command, establish a team culture, and exert influence in a virtual workplace? It all comes down to two basics:

  • Have a clear end goal in mind
  • Build trust in your relationships

Remote team culture is a BIG thing and it takes a lot of hard work and consistent effort to develop it. We’ve talked about the need to set expectations in yesterday’s Tip of the Day. Expectations are not just tied to job requirements; they’re also related to a team’s cultural values. Identifying cultural attributes up front helps you devise a basic philosophy to guide how you and your team behave toward each other and toward collaborators and customers outside the team. Identifying the characteristics and behaviors for your team is also an important first step to building team trust. Take it seriously and do the work up front.

How do I identify cultural values for my team?

Keep it simple. Don’t complicate things or try to dictate behavior. Micromanaging never works and it might be impossible to do with remote employees. They work autonomously, out of your sight and they must be able to work independently in their own space. Focus instead on outcomes and ethics. For example, one of our team values is “Speak up and ask questions if you don’t understand”.  Our team assumes someone gets it unless told otherwise – we can’t read minds, nor can we see when someone is in physical or mental distress. If a team member doesn’t speak up, we can’t help. To help you get started on yours, here’s ours:

Sophaya’s Cultural Values

  1. Identify expectations up front, don’t assume. Ask for clarification if you don’t fully understand.
  2. Treat everyone like a friend you haven’t met yet. Give them the benefit of the doubt.
  3. Listen and empathize but hold people accountable.
  4. Own responsibility for yourself and your obligations – do what you say you’re going to do.
  5. Always speak your truth with respect and professionalism.
  6. No one knows everything. Speak up and ask questions if you don’t understand.
  7. Help those in need when you’re able but say no when you can’t.
  8. Ask for help before you get in too deep.
  9. Focus on your deadlines, but let people know ahead of time when you can’t meet them.
  10. Always keep an open mind.
  11. Get comfortable with being uncomfortable – keep pushing yourself to learn and be better.
  12. Focus on the solution, not who’s to blame.
  13. Accept that people are messy and get over it.
  14. We all make mistakes, learn from them and don’t make the same one twice.
  15. Take the work, not yourself seriously.

Notice these cultural values enable each team member, including you, to take responsibility for themselves. This is important. Remote leaders and employees must own responsibility for their actions and choices. This is where the building trust comes in. Trust and team values go hand in hand in remote teams. If trust is absent, no one will speak up when they are in trouble. If team members are worried about repercussions or ridicule, they will protect themselves. There is no team if everyone is afraid.

Identifying your team’s cultural values, then communicating them to your people is step one. Step two is building a workplace of trust so you can bring those values to life. There is no shortcut to building trust. It develops in response to each person’s day-to-day actions and how you, the team leader, hold each team member accountable. Trust is cumulative. It grows when you and your remote employees behave according to your team’s stated cultural values. When the team’s behavior supports those values, credibility grows. When a team member or a leader acts against the stated values, they lose trust.

Tune in tomorrow when we talk about the daily actions you can take to strengthen your team’s trust once you establish team values.

To learn more about managing a remote workforce, join us for our RNI Remote Work Series: You sent them home to work remotely, NOW WHAT?