How do we build trust within teams now?

We really are currently in a peculiar social place aren’t we?  For the many of us who have been lucky to remain well, we have created a little life bubble for ourselves. What I consistently see as we cautiously emerge from those individual bubbles, is the sense that we have all been on different journeys and seem to be arriving in different places.

Although not a fan of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs model, I note people are finding themselves scattered in new and unexpected places across it’s pyramid. A range of people that you and I are likely seeing:- those with no desire to return to old work commutes; others desperate to connect with people again; still others having an existential crisis and looking to make lasting changes; for others, their core concern is money; and then there are those for whom ‘time management’ entered a whole new level where they are simply trying not to drown in exhaustion each day as it comes.

What does this diversity of experience and motivation mean for managers trying to keep their teams together? And what does ‘together’ mean now? How does trust, as a base building block, get maintained in remote teams and times?

Ask any enlightened manager a year ago about building trust in teams, what they said might relate to openness, positive psychology and possibly vulnerability. They might talk about team meetings, brainstorming, being physically together… Today, there is a lot more hesitation about the ‘how’ whilst also a strong belief that trust is more important now that at any other time in their career.

As someone who has worked a lot in virtual and remote teams, I find they  vary wildly in terms of effectiveness. I believe much of this is down to the team’s social capital and having the skills to use the online space to build this.

The very real ‘Zoom fatigue’ that people are experiencing comes from poor meeting design in the new medium. The opportunity we have to physically move around, the feeling of being watched, the overload of social information in digital 2D, the lack of downtime from the screen. It’s a learning curve for us all to adapt well to the technology that is available to our home and work lives.

But it’s not just about what we do online, it’s also our sense of being ourself in the virtual space. Engagement online comes from the quality and warmth of conversation. Our presence, our fears and vulnerabilities, our lives that may not normally be visible at work. It is time well spent when the ‘air time’ in meetings focuses on rapport building, connection and a sense of belonging even when there is an urgent list of business stuff to discuss.

Online meetings are social spaces for people to connect; in the same way that the physical workplace will become for the foreseeable.

A virtual meeting benefits from online facilitation techniques. To maintain the warmth and engagement, they also need coaching techniques.

We don’t have to roll our eyes at having another Zoom meeting appear in our diaries. When it arrives, maybe we can think about what we can bring to that meeting that helps us connect in a 3D way again.

How comfortable are you on screen with closing your eyes, breathing quietly for a minute and just listening to what is being said without feeling the need to visibly perform? Maybe invite colleagues to do the same.  How can people draw something at home to help progress your agenda item? Can your breakout groups be over the phone whilst people take a walk outside?

After battling for so long to avoid work encroaching on our home lives, yes, perhaps it’s time to relax and play a bit more with our home space and let it warm our work lives.  By giving ourselves permission to bring our quirky selves to the virtual workspace, we find new ways to build trust with our colleagues that weren’t accessible to us before in that boring stuffy old place called the office.