Outsider’s View: Teams and Trust

Working as an independent you soon realise that building and maintaining trust as an ‘outsider’ is a very special challenge.  Consequently, you have to take your communication and team-working abilities to a whole new level.

Assumptions need to take a back seat, instructions must be more explicit, relying on old ways of working is a no-no.  It requires extra effort, plenty of patience and, to be frank, at times a healthy helping of humour!

Now, at this moment in 2020, multitudes of people have had to adapt quickly to being on the ‘outside’.  Connected yet apart.  Real yet virtual.  Teams separated yet still together.

I’ve been asked on several occasions over the last few weeks about working from home.  Thoughts and tips to help individuals.  My response has generally been related to finding your own pattern and pace of working.  Presenteeism is your enemy; giving yourself head-space is your ally.  But what about the team dynamic?

Many team members already work remotely; different countries, different time zones, different organisations.  Virtual teams are not a new phenomenon.  The main point about these existing virtual teams is that they are created with the virtual / remote dimension in mind.  Teams which have suddenly become virtual have not had this luxury.

So what’s the answer?  Well ‘an answer’ actually… wouldn’t want you to think I’ve become a dictator all of a sudden.

For me the answer can be found in the intersection of three different elements.  Yes, you’ve guessed it, there’s a Venn diagram coming.

Teamworking and trust as a Venn diagramThe three elements which overlap to help build and maintain team trust are…

roles  |  purpose  |  practices

Together they are a powerful mix.  Easy to define and agree; bringing a flexible framework and points of reference for a team no matter where its members are located or where they are from.

But where do you begin?  What was once true, may now have temporarily changed. And will probably change again.  That’s why it’s always best to start with purpose.

Purpose:  Coming together for a common purpose is a great motivator plus it feeds self-esteem.  At any moment in a team’s lifecycle, being able to create, adapt and communicate a unified team purpose is the foundation of building and maintaining trust.

Roles:  When normal structures, models and responsibilities have been rapidly changed, knowing why you are part of a team and how you contribute to its success is so important.  Understanding how you are helping the collective achieve its purpose is a motivator because it reinforces your sense of personal value.

Practices:  The way in which teams work together is even more critical in a virtual setting.  Having conflicting or limiting practices is bad enough normally; in remote-land it is much more polarised.  Finding the best ways to communicate, when, how; agreeing amended timescales; factoring in time to do the human stuff, help teams stay strong and united.  Why?  Because they help to build and maintain trust.

Being on the ‘outside’ whether by choice or circumstance, whether it’s new or normal, brings fresh opportunities to build the trust at the heart of teams and relationships.  Personally, I believe that can only be a good thing for us all.  Take care everyone.

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