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Building High Trust in Remote Teams

Building High Trust in Remote Teams

by Judith Hirst, Greenbank’s Head of Leadership Development

Countless studies (Covey, Gallup. Maister etc) have shown that one thing that high performance companies have in common is high trust. While we might all of course personally value trust highly, the extent that trust impacts a team’s performance may still be surprising…

These studies have shown that in companies where people report high levels of trust with both their colleagues and their manager, there is also significantly higher productivity, morale, collaboration, engagement, retention, and life satisfaction while also having lower stress and burnout.

So clearly having high levels of trust leads to significant personal and business benefits. However, hybrid or remote working can present two unique challenges for leaders and their teams.

  • Without spontaneous, in-person casual conversations, it can be more difficult to build relationships and trust
  • Working virtually also means that our behaviours and intentions can more easily lead to misunderstandings. For instance, if someone is late for a meeting with you then you may assume this is because one of their meetings had overrun if you have seen the dashing around the office between meetings earlier in the day. However, when everyone is working virtually you can’t always see how busy your colleagues are and you might conclude they are disinterested, forgetful or don’t value your time!

As hybrid working is here to stay, this means that we need to take a more deliberate systematic approach to both developing relationships and building trust at work. But where should we focus our efforts? Well, here are some of the more useful tips we have come across from the research which we have split into 3 components

  • Benevolence
  • Competence
  • Honesty


Empathy, compassion, and kindness are still somewhat overlooked in their importance for building trust, but it has been shown that demonstrating care for others is vital for building trust as a leader – and not just with the person you are demonstrating care with – it has an equal power when people see you caring for their colleagues too! Now, this might come more easily when working in person, but when working virtually it requires more considered and deliberate actions. Some ideas you may want to consider…

DO – Get to Know Your Team
Dedicate time every week to connect and see how team members are doing. Put some time aside to focus on the person not just the task. Of course, it can be tempting during virtual meetings, especially when workload is high, to put these casual discussions to one side, however this is when stress is highest and probably the most important time to do it!

DO – Celebrate Your Team
Even among the best leaders there can be a tendency to underestimate the importance of celebrating achievements.

Many organisations have weekly or monthly internal newsletters where managers might highlight the success of their team members. You don’t want to be the manager never acknowledging your teams wins here, for one your team will notice and feel unappreciated. It can also look to others as if your team isn’t succeeding which in turn can make you, as a manager, look like you are underperforming!

DO – Give Trust from the Start
Many managers feel people need to earn trust over time and only once they meet a certain milestone do they deserve your trust. However, this approach can lead to demotivation and mutual distrust. So why not adopt the mantra of ‘Give trust to earn trust’? Perhaps demonstrate trust by providing insights and positive / constructive feedback on their progress, help them to make the most of new opportunities, encourage them to take initiative and actively support their development.


To be trusted you need to demonstrate your expertise and ability, importantly this doesn’t only mean the technical elements of your role – it also means your leadership skills.  In particular…

DO – Communicate Clearly  
Communication is obviously a key leadership skill, but dW i  deciding what to communicate to your team (and therefore what to withhold) can be challenging. This is particularly the case in hybrid or remote working environments when communication is less natural and therefore the sharing of information feels like a more deliberate choice.

It is important to remember that if you don’t communicate clearly and frequently with your team, they will fill in the blanks and there may be a tendency for them to jump to the worst-case scenario! As a team member once told their manager: ‘You DO know that if you don’t tell us something, we will make it up!’

DO – Be Consistent
A big part of trust is consistency, your team needs to understand why things are being decided and use that template for understanding future decisions or actions.  If one day you want them to focus on X and don’t care about Y and then with the next project, you want them to focus on Y and ignore X they need to understand why that decision was made. Without this transparency your behaviours will be unpredictable or confusing – which in turn can erode trust.

DO – Promote Sharing
Encourage sharing of capabilities by providing an open forum for discussing ideas.  One example we have seen working well is regular ‘lunch and learn’ sessions, where individuals or teams present a topic in which they have expertise.  This can both improve their own reputation and credibility with colleagues, whilst also encouraging sharing of experience and expertise across the whole group. This will also encourage others to consult their ‘expert’ colleagues when they need help!

DO – Be Clear
Don’t force your people to second guess you!  A big part of being a leader is making sure your team know their objectives and goals and what excellence looks like. With reduced communication and a reliance on virtual meetings, it is easy for people to make the wrong assumptions about is really expected of them – with major impact on both results and engagement.  A good way to ensure this doesn’t happen is to create (and consistently communicate) clear, fair rules and standard operating procedures for your team to follow. As a leader recently told us ‘The key as a leader is to make the implicit – explicit’.


The final component of trust is honesty, sincerity and follow through on commitments. As a leader you need to say what you mean and mean what you say. Honesty is perhaps the component of trust least impacted by a virtual workplace, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t impacted at all. For example, the sheer number of communication channels had increased so much that it can create the perception of mixed messages and a lack of honesty. So what should you avoid?

DON’T – Over Commit
If in doubt, under promise and then over deliver! Even failing to follow through on the small things can lead to a loss of trust – and virtual working, especially with back-to-back meetings, can stretch even the most organised leader! For instance, simply promising to follow up a meeting with information and then not following through can be enough to lead to people to question your reliability! So, stop and think before making a commitment and then let people know quickly if you are unable to deliver on any promise…

DON’T – Force Trust
Do not force the pace of trust, it needs to develop organically through your positive interactions, it cannot be forced or demanded. If you try and force trust you lose credibility and integrity. When someone says “By now I am sure you know you can trust me” when you believe you have not had enough interactions with them yet, you are likely to view them as insincere. Make sure you don’t fall into that trap!

In summary...

We hope this has given you some good ideas for what to do and what not to do when building high trust relationships. Trust us, it will be well worth the effort.. 😊

If, you want to learn more about how Greenbank can help you and your team to develop, support and encourage higher levels of trust at work please get in touch!

About Greenbank

Greenbank are an innovative, ‘boutique’ consultancy delivering completely tailored leadership, negotiation and sales development programmes to clients ranging from top 5 global firms to tech start-ups.

We are now delighted to be running truly blended programmes, which make the most of both virtual platforms and interactive face-to-face workshops, to deliver motivational, cost-effective development.

We also have our own industry-leading, multi-lingual, 360° assessment platform, Navigator360 which provides our clients and other training providers with a completely flexible approach to gathering powerful confidential feedback.

If you would like to discuss how we can help your own sales or leadership teams, then we would be delighted to have a relaxed conversation – please contact Ian Hirst or (+44) 7812 074359.