Running a business exclusively in a virtual location is an option that our ancestors would probably never have imagined. Yet we are running as fast as we can in a digital age where brick and mortar will soon be the exception rather than the norm. Trust is a problem that often arises in a virtual workplace, due to a number of problems and limitations.
The fact is, if you do not trust your team, they will not trust you. And, they will have little reason to trust their colleagues (that is, the people you have hired). Trust management involves most of the tactics you would use in an offline work environment.
Trust begins with solid recruitment
It is a fact that you will not be able to spot all the stinky during the hiring process. However, a lazy approach to hiring virtual staff will usually result in more bad hires than if you put the emphasis on proper recruitment. Have a business interview and a test process in place to eliminate potential bad recruits. This is really not so difficult, and the information is readily available.
It's not because you run a virtual business that you only do the bare minimum by checking their track record. If trust is a problem with the type of business you run, and the type and extent of tasks that you give to virtual staff, a criminal background check and even a credit check are excellent idea. Untrustworthy people are not likely to apply with such barriers to entry.
Empowerment promotes trust
It's really hard to make the transition between an employer who needs to have his head in every way. Hard but not impossible, and if it looks like you, you have to do it – millennials and Generation Y will not support it. When it comes to managing a virtual team, you do not have a choice. Promote greater trust in your team by allowing them to share power and responsibility within the company, rather than imposing on them all tasks and procedures verbatim.
A leader is someone who delegates responsibility, not one who micromanages every detail. You must always be there to delegate and distribute advice when needed. However, to succeed, you must let your expenses run their job – to find the best way to do their jobs, and help grow your business. When you offer trust, trust will be given back – pure and simple.
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Engagement reduces surprises
Empowering means letting go – a lot! This does not mean that you should lose touch with what is happening. You must engage constantly, or risk failing something that puts your trust in the employees (and theirs in you) at risk. A leader knows what is happening within his team, so that sudden surprises do not occur and outweigh a vital trust in his team. When you know what your people are doing, you can step in when it becomes obvious that they are going in the wrong direction.
Also, when you know what people are doing, it's easier to spot those you really should not trust. It is an act of delicate balance, and it takes a lot of observation and experience to master. However, you must speak to your people – as an advisor and not as a dictator – in order to fully trust your team. They will also trust you more because they realize that you are approachable and want to be fully involved.
A virtual watercooler is essential for remote teams
Applications like Trello, Slack and GoToMeeting allow easy collaboration. There are a multitude of other tools with built-in collaboration features, such as Google Suite. The key is accessibility during the workday. Otherwise, the team members will feel isolated and you will feel separated from them. A place to go out, have impromptu or daily meetings and socialize throughout the day is essential.
Trust involves communication above all else. Many entrepreneurs make the mistake of thinking that they can start a cloud business and stay in touch by email only. However, consider how many times it takes more than a question or two for someone to understand a complicated concept or need help to understand a complex problem. One of the benefits of Google Hangouts is to be able to connect anyone with an internet connection or data to connect with people anywhere in the world using voice and video chat
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Assumptions constantly hinder business. Sometimes you assume that you can trust someone when you really should not do it. Then, we assume that you can not trust someone when he gives you no reason to doubt them. When someone feels that people are taking the worst of them, mutual trust disappears very quickly.
Assuming you have a lazy employee sitting at their desks in their pajamas, they have not changed in the last two weeks is a bad way to see them. So, suppose that they are absorbed on Facebook or Twitter instead of working on your business. Paying for results rather than at the time is always a good idea, if you can do it. Allowing virtual employees to structure how and when they work for you can often yield better results.
However, if what an employee does with his time during work hours affects your bottom line, the task and time tracking software like Asana or Capterra can track what employees do through the screen captures and the use of the software. In this way, you always support trust with visual data.
Take Away Sale
It is important that everyone in the business trust themselves. This is even more important in a virtual environment, where you can never sit on a table of your employees. Trust is a two-way street, but as a leader, it is your job to ensure that processes and best practices are in place to support it.