Friday, 16 June 2017

6 strategies to build trust with remote colleagues

In the geographically dispersed teams, one of the major difficulties consists in creating a relationship of trust. You cannot force people to trust you, and yet, trust is the essential ingredient which fluidifies the relationships and allows to obtain a true cooperation.
Barriers are multiple: geographical distance which limits the opportunities of 2-way communication and which often means you do not fully understand the local context, cultural distance, language barrier, psychological distance ("they" against "us", headquarters against countries, region A against the region B, etc...)
In this context, it is up to us to be much more proactive to develop a trusting relationship. Here are 6 tips which can help:

1) Make a good first impression
According to the proverb, we have only one chance to make a good first impression. If you can, start a new professional relationship with a face-to-face meeting. It generally saves a lot of time. Introduce yourself by highlighting your past achievements and the reasons why you were chosen for your role. Listen carefully and try to find common points, in the personal or professional life. We all have the tendency to trust more people who have similar interests.

2) Show your trust 
Trust is systemic and reciprocal. It is very unlikely that a person will trust you if you show by your attitude and behaviour that you do not trust him or her. It’s up to us to make the first step by presuming the positive intent of our colleague and showing trust. This means that we need to avoid at all costs excessive control and reporting requests.

3) Create the conditions of a frequent 2-way communication 
The 2 most frequent mistakes made in remote relationships are:  the overuse of e-mails, which are often read too quickly or misinterpreted, and the poorly organized conference calls (too many participants, no interactivity). Or still the worst alternative: the silence, the absence of communication. To strengthen trust with key partners, it is essential to make ourselves available by planning regular meetings, in one-to-one or in small group, and by preferring the videoconference to the telephone: video reminds us we are human and allows to detect weak signals misunderstanding or disagreement.
At a distance, it is also necessary to watch to be more explicit and to communicate better our intentions, "why" of our actions, the values which guide them. The lack knowledge of the context makes potential misunderstandings much more frequent.

4) "Walk the talk ": say what you are going to do, and do what you said you would do/
The confidence strengthens over time with the transparency and alignment between our commitments and our actions; It is even more true in a remote relationship. Make sure you conclude all the remote interactions with a precise and clear summary of what you are going to do, and by which date. Post in a common directory a file of follow-up of the actions, accessible to all the team members.

5) Show that you care
The nature of the remote exchanges (conference calls, e-mail) sometimes brings us to neglect the informal moments, where we get to know each other better and create more authentic relationships. Take time to understand better the context of your remote colleague and what you could  do to help them. Comment and share their comments on the internal or external social networks. Show your interest for their national culture and the major events of their country.

6) Take into account the culture of your colleague
We do not create relationships of trust in the same way in China and in the United States. In China, and in most of the Asian countries, the relational dimension is dominant. You need to dedicate a lot of time and energy upfront to create the relationship.
Other example: in certain cultures,  punctuality is highly valued. Being late at conference calls can seriously harm your credibility with colleagues of these cultures.

"Trust is built in drops and lost in buckets". It is unfortunately easier to lose the trust of somebody than to win it. It all starts with our own attitude and behaviour.

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