Do Your Distributed Employees Trust You?

By: Laurel Farrer

Here at Yonder, we are often preaching about the importance of trust, and how it is the key to successful virtual collaboration. But how do you measure the strength of trust within your team?

How do you know whether or not your employees currently trust you? As always, we’re here to help.

Ask yourself these questions about your team members:

  • Do they propose new ideas only when prompted? 

  • Do they question your authority or second guess your suggestions?

  • Do they withhold information from you?

  • Are they excluded from the decision-making processes?

  • Is your approval required for all changes and choices?

  • Do they hesitate to ask questions or ask for help?

  • Have they hidden complaints or concerns that you didn’t know about?

  • Do they keep mistakes and failures a secret?

  • Does there seem to be a delay in their response time when communicating asynchronously?

  • Do they display closed body language during video calls? (folded arms, eye contact avoidance, forced smiles, etc.)

  • Do they work more hours than they are contracted to provide?

If you responded “yes” to any of these questions, or you felt confused and defensive about your answers, let’s add trust to your to improve list.

Use these tips to start earning the trust of your team members: 

1. Avoid Micromanagement. Control is a universal sign of distrust, so if you’re keeping too close of an eye on the work of your team, it’s likely they are feeling demeaned. Try letting go of little things like requiring cc’s on all emails, sitting in on client meetings, requiring permission for minimal approvals, and double checking or revising completed projects. Doing this will reduce your workload and strengthen the autonomy of your team.

2. Practice Communication. Employees trust managers who are available for meaningful conversation, regardless of the topic. Baby step into communication with casual chats. When it’s time to discuss more sensitive topics, you will both be aware of each other’s style and tone to talk more easily. Also, make an effort to be humble and accessible in any correspondence. Be constructive with questions, transparent with answers, realistic with promises, and compassionate about feedback. These techniques give you an air of accessibility, honesty, and trustworthiness.

3. Value Opinions. One of the easiest ways to communicate you value your team is to encourage their input. Collaborate together to set goals. Ask about blocks that are hindering their progress and help them find a solution. Invite them to assist in making an important decision. Don’t just ask for their contributions, but sincerely consider and implement their suggestions, as if they came from your boss or an investor.

4. Distribute Workloads. Practice trust by providing your team with new, unsupervised tasks. Invite them to spearhead new projects, create teams to share the weight on big projects, or even delegate some of your own responsibilities. But remember: an infamous caveat of increased trust from a supervisor is assigning too much, so the employee suddenly is overworked. Keep track of each team member’s current workload and always inquire about availability before offering a new assignment.

5. Give Feedback. People love praise and reciprocate with confidence - in themselves and in you. Be liberal with compliments, credit, and encouragement. If the feedback is negative, be just as open and supportive. Don’t brush mistakes under the rug or angrily lecture about the negative ripple effects they created. Instead, use mistakes as a learning experience (for both of you!) Together, review the development process to find weak areas in the workflow, establish how the problem can be avoided in the future, set new goals for improvement, and hold them accountable.

When it comes to gauging and strengthening trust, the best tip is often to “go with your gut.” If a relationship is feeling strained or awkward, it’s your cue to have a transparent conversation about what is or is not going well. Consider trusting your team, individually and collectively. This investment will yield increased employee satisfaction, higher retention rates, and enhanced productivity.

How are you building trust on your team? What works and what doesn't? Tweet us @yonder_io to discuss approaches to strengthening trust on distributed teams. 

Laurel Farrer is the COO here at Yonder. She always has a notebook and pen within arm's reach, never sits with both feet on the floor, and drives (safely) without depth perception.