“I haven’t ever seen one of my team members, not even on video.“

One of my clients recently shared this in the middle of our calls. This line provided the rationale for so many of the challenges they were grappling with.

Do you lead a “fully remote” team and care about fostering trust and belonging in your people?

One thing to watch out for is “phone-only meetings”. When people have never met or built a relationship in person, there is a much greater weight on an “audio only” conversation to foster trust and safety. When we can’t pick up on facial expressions and body language, it is much harder to truly get to know another person which makes misunderstandings and incorrect assumptions more likely. This ultimately creates inefficiencies and impacts team performance & business results.

Here are some ideas on how to navigate communication, culture, and trust building

1) Use your words – Make an extra effort to use your “words” to express emotion and communicate more clearly when on a phone call. If something feels confusing and unclear, ask for clarity. When a team member shares about a death in the family, use your words to communicate what you are feeling. Remember, they can’t read the empathy expressed on your face.

2) Use video strategically – When you are used to not having to comb your hair or wear a nice shirt, a change to turning on your video can feel like a chore. I won’t lie there is something valuable about walking meetings or heating up your lunch while you also listen to that meeting BUT there is a cost to be mindful of. Mix things up and identify a few high-stakes meetings especially where tough decisions are to be made, controversial topics need to be explored, etc, and agree to turn on video

3) Share context & find internal champions for change – If the executive team just sends out a memo and asks people to turn on video without any context, the likelihood of the change sticking is low. Let people know why you are going from “audio only” to audio and video for communications and find internal champions who are willing to turn on video and have them share the impact with others in both formal and informal ways.

4) Prioritize in-person gatherings – And finally, I know this is obvious but it bears saying — make room for in-person gatherings at a periodic cadence. These could be off-site or planning meetings or critical workshops that require brainstorming or alignment from different groups of people.

How about you, which ones of these resonated and what else would you add? What are some of your favorite practices and rituals for building trust in a fully remote culture?

Pic Credit: Jonathan Velasquez

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