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Building Emotional Trust into Your Virtual Team

A remarkable 28 percent of United States employees feel that their work team does NOT build relationships when working together on their assignments.

These employees, which make up over a fourth of the entire U.S. workforce, feel they are missing one of two forms of trust. Both forms are a necessary ingredient in creating high-performing teams.

The first type – cognitive trust – is based on logic. It develops based on rational, calculative assessments of one’s perceived integrity and capability. Cognitive trust is facilitated by team members who demonstrate credibility, consistency, communication, and consideration.

Many teams may have cognitive trust, but lack in emotional trust. Emotional trust stems from the social bonds among team members and their leaders that is expressed by genuine care and concern for each other. It is emotional trust that moves team members beyond feeling like their relationships with co-workers are strictly transactional. It enables teams to resolve conflict more effectively and improves productivity. And, it is the glue that holds team members together during the tough times.

The absence of this emotional trust is what leaves a fourth of the workforce disappointed in the relationships they have with co-workers. Making the time to establish real human connections can pay off with the long-term success of working teams.

For virtual teams, whose team members work from different locations, building and sustaining these relationships requires extra attention and experienced leadership.

Here’s a Tip

When team members show both a professional and personal interest in one another and are willing to share things about themselves beyond task-based conversations, they discover personal commonalities and connections that become the threads of trusting relationships. Here are some examples of ways you can build emotional trust on your teams.

  • Express genuine interest in others
    “Wow! You really know a lot about marketing. How did you develop this expertise?”
  • Ask questions and really listen
    “It sounds like you are really busy. What’s a typical day like for you? What are some of your challenges? Can I tell you about one of mine?”
  • Share non-work interests
    “I heard you mention on the call the other day that you enjoy cooking. I like to cook, too. What are some of the foods you most like to cook? My family’s favorite dish that I make is …”
  • Offer praise, encouragement, and assistance, if needed.
    “This section of the report is just what we need. I know this wasn’t easy for you to complete in the short timeline, but you did it. Thank you! I have a little extra time next week, I’d be happy to help with the final section if you’d like.”

Without trust, goals are more difficult to accomplish, and results are ultimately compromised. Team leaders and members need to invest time and attention to build trust within their teams. The payoff is well worth it.

For more information about ways to boost the performance of your diverse teams, go to my book, Literally Virtually: Making Virtual Teams Work.

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