What did the pandemic do for workplace team trust?…

Way, way back in our history, humans realized that we can get more done if we combine our efforts and work as a team. This is how we start families, scale businesses, run countries, and everything else that matters. Teamwork is a building block of civilization.

But it wasn’t long after we realized the power of teamwork that we also realized the knife cuts both ways – and that bad team dynamics can keep us from getting anything done.

Working together successfully requires powerful trust, and powerful trust requires effective communication, and that requires psychological safety in the workplace, which requires – well, let’s just say, when it comes to a healthy team, everything affects everything else. It is a delicate balance to strike. And that’s when everyone is in the same place…

When the pandemic scattered our teams, many businesses discovered a new challenge: keeping teams successful when they’re remote. Suddenly team members were isolated, distractions were many, and things were much more likely to fall through the cracks.

And although the pandemic is no longer of such dire concern, it is apparent the world does not plan to return to in-person work en masse. One Findstack poll found that as of 2022, 40% of worldwide organizations are working in a hybrid at-home/in-office environment, while more than 15% are remote entirely. Yet remote teams continue to be plagued by a lack of trust.

Of course, this is a problem that many teams deal with, not just those who are remote. In The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, bestselling business author Patrick Lencioni identifies a lack of trust as the foundational team dysfunction. It is a problem so pervasive it contributes to the other four! And how much more teams have this problem when access to each other is not so easy as just walking into the next room.

As a leadership community, we have had almost four years to work out the kinks in the remote work setting. And it could take many more. But if you’re a leader working with a remote team now, you can start here:

  1. Practice regular and clear communication.

Clear communication is one of the best combatants against a lack of trust. This is true of in-office and remote teams. When a team transitions to remote, this does not change – only the method of communication does.

Leaders can foster an atmosphere of clear and consistent communication leading by example. Set the expectation of how, when, and how often your teams should communicate by frequently communicating with your team. Encourage them to share freely – not just updates but concerns and ideas, as well. Keep regular check-ins with individuals and departments to ensure everyone is on the same page.

2. Invest in relationship building.

Your team is made up of people, and people are not just tasks, timelines, and deliverables. When they are in the office, they are communicating about their roles, but they are also talking about their weekends, sharing vacation stories, and catching up on common interests.

There is no real replacement for this kind of interaction. But leaders can still make a team feel like a team and not just a group of employees. As you schedule regular check-ins, set aside some of them for social purposes: virtual coffee breaks or team lunches, social hours, etc.

3. Promote a growth mindset.

John Maxwell says, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” In other words, team members can’t fully buy into your leadership until they feel you care about them – personally. One of the best ways to demonstrate that is to engage with their development. Give your team feedback to help them improve, celebrate their accomplishments, and offer growth opportunities like personal or professional development workshops.

In closing, I have just two questions for you…

  • When was the last time you checked in with each member of your remote team?
  • When was the last time you checked in with each member of your remote team about something that wasn’t work-related?

Consider what your answers might be if they were in-office – and if it’s been longer than that, give them a call.

That’s all for now,