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6 Signs Your Virtual Team Has Trust Issues

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Posted by Rick Lepsinger April 26, 2016

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Trust is the fuel that powers your team. Without it, the engine stalls and every initiative feels like an uphill battle.

Unfortunately, there’s no gauge that can measure your team’s trust level or tell you when you’re running on empty.

A lack of trust isn’t always easy to diagnose, but the symptoms are often present if you know where to look. Here are six signs your virtual team has trust issues.

1. Every Conversation Is Strictly Business

Intimacy is one of the four essential elements necessary for building trust within your team, and it requires more effort when you’re working from a distance.

Your team members don’t have to know every detail of each other’s lives, but they should know something about their families, what drives them and what teams they cheer for. If you can find common ground when it comes to things like sports and Netflix shows, it’s much easier to reach an understanding when it really counts.

One way to build intimacy from the beginning is to invite team members to share why they joined the team and what they’re looking forward to most.

2. Team Members Bash Each Other

When someone makes a misstep or does something aggravating, do your team members talk about it to everyone except that person? If so, that’s a sign of a toxic environment brewing. Everything may appear fine on the surface, but beneath it, anger and frustration are simmering and will eventually boil over. It’s impossible to trust anyone when everyone is looking over their shoulder wondering if they’ll be the next target.

3. Everyone Is In It For Themselves

Another important element of trust is a low self-orientation, or believing others have your best interest at heart. If your team members don’t feel they’re getting the support they need, or everyone is constantly focused on their own needs and goals, it’s not an environment that’s conducive to trust. The leader often sets the tone for the team, so make sure you’re not part of the problem.

Here are a few ways to shift the focus away from yourself and toward your team:

  •  Avoid interrupting 
  • Identify shared goals 
  • Find out what’s important to others 
  • Look for common ground 
  • Get input and build support before implementing a new initiative

4. People Are Reluctant to Ask for Help

Do your team members consistently try to take on too much themselves? If so, it could be a sign they don’t believe they can rely on others. Reliability is an important component of trust that is built by following through time after time. Within virtual teams, however, it tends to happen more slowly.

Hosting regular team meetings, brainstorming sessions and status updates can help team members see how their individual contributions fit into the big picture and break down silos. Whenever possible, make the effort to connect with your team in person or on video.

5. No One Owns Up to Mistakes

Does your team play the blame game? If no one takes accountability or is held accountable for their actions, it’s a sure sign your team suffers from a lack of trust. When teams are built upon mutual trust, people should feel free to have open and honest communication about what went wrong and how to fix it.

6. There’s Micromanaging To The Max

Within virtual teams, there’s a temptation for leaders to check in more often because they don’t see their team members face to face each day. But no one works well with someone constantly looking over their shoulder, even if it’s from a distance.

If you can’t trust your team members to work effectively from a distance, you should rethink your process for hiring remote workers.

Trust is built naturally among teams that interact in person each day, but it takes more effort to develop among teams that rarely (if ever) meet face to face.

If you lead a virtual team, you’ll want to join me for an upcoming webinar on building trust in a virtual team. The webinar is scheduled for 12-12:45 EST on Wednesday, May 4.

We’ll discuss the building blocks for establishing trust and share strategies you can apply immediately to your team.

Space is limited, so register now to secure your spot.

Virtual Team Success Book

Topics: Virtual Teams, Work Smarter Virtually

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