Building Trust in a Remote Environment

Shantera L. Chatman, MBA
3 min readDec 3, 2020
Photo by Dave Lowe on Unsplash

Simon Sinek says, “If you do not have trusting teams, what you do have is a group of people who show up to work lying, hiding, and faking.” This resonated so loudly with me when I first heard it because I can recall not trusting many of my leaders when I worked in corporate America. I would pretend to like their jokes and lie about wanting to go to lunch with them often. It was the game I played and one that so many still play.

You may be asking, “Why does this matter?” I will tell you why. Because without trust, leaders have no idea who their employees are and how they feel, especially in a remote working situation. Consider the following:

Distrust says:

· “Sure, I will get it done by Friday.”

· “Of course, I can add this task to my plate.”

· “No problem, I’ve got this.”

Distrust is having to lie because you are afraid your job may be in jeopardy if you say no.

Trust says:

· “This is a lot of work for me right now.”

· “I may not be able to handle this responsibility.”

· “I’m scared.”

Trust is being honest with leadership and having no fear of retribution.

Leaders are responsible for the people on their team. They must create a team of trust. It is hard work. It is a process, but it is worth it. Leadership is not a goal you achieve and it’s there forever. Leadership is a lifestyle that must be constantly worked on to maintain. According to Gallup, just one in three employees trust the leaders of their organization. That lack of trust is impacting engagement, loyalty, retention, and productivity.

45% of people say lack of trust in leadership is the biggest issue impacting their work performance. 66% of employees are not engaged in their work costing their employers up to $500 billion annually in productivity losses.”

So, how do you build trust now that we are in remote working environments?

Share the Power

Centralized power is less effective in remote environments. You want to create an environment where everyone feels like they have a say in how the project is progressing. Try rotating leadership responsibilities based on the project phases. For example, if you are leading a team to create and promote a new company intranet, the developer can take the lead during the actual development phase as it is their area of expertise. This provides leadership opportunities to those who may not otherwise have it.

Some leaders tend to think building trust is impossible in remote environments, so they do not try. This is not a good option because teams cannot function without trust and it is the leader’s responsibility to be proactive and build it. Deepwater Horizon is one of my favorite movies, but unfortunately it shows what can happen if there is no trust among teams. As engineers tried to raise concern about a pipe on the oil rig, others discounted the concerns and ultimately insisted on moving forward without proper testing. Disaster ensued and we all know what happened after that. If you do not know, you can simply research it online to see multiple takes on the disastrous explosion in the Gulf of Mexico.

Woman presenting to her working team at a whiteboard.

Trust is the foundation to performance. Without it, performance will be poor or at a minimum, not at the level it could be if trust existed. I am sure you want your teams to thrive and deliver quality results. If so and you are in a position of leadership, do the work of a leader and do all you can to foster an environment of trust. Yes, it will be more challenging in a remote environment, but it is possible. Your team will show their appreciation by communicating more, working harder, and collaborating on key projects. Besides a healthy bottom line, you will also have a team that trusts one another and you as well. They will want to come to work and will be more apt to follow your example in times of change.

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Shantera L. Chatman, MBA

Shantera L. Chatman, MBA is a transformation consultant and culture curator. She is President of PowHer Consulting (PowHerConsulting.com).