Videos

Building Trust When Working Remotely

April 15, 2021 - By Simon Sinek, American author on leadership, and motivational speaker.

COMMENT BY IAN MUNRO, LEGITIMATE LEADERSHIP, ON THIS VIDEO

In this video Simon Sinek suggests that building trust in virtual organisations, especially where new people have joined the team, is far more difficult than in traditional companies. One of the reasons for this is the reduced opportunity to connect interpersonally between meetings – the so-called water cooler conversations. The Legitimate Leadership Model reasons that trust is built primarily in four ways – getting to know people, giving people time and attention, passing the intent test, and handing over control. The first three in particular are sincere demonstrations of care, which in turn set out the conditions for the fourth – an increased propensity to extend trust, or hand over control. We are, therefore, in strong agreement with the video’s recommendation that leaders proactively seek and create opportunities to connect at a personal level with their people. Good managers have respectful, professional relationships with their people. Good leaders go about building sincere, personal relationships. Another point of strong agreement is the assertion that workplaces are likely to become increasingly flexible in their remote working policies. An investigation carried out by Legitimate Leadership last year found that one of the most important expectations people have of the future of work is increased flexibility – particularly in supporting employees who see value in spending some or possibly all of their time working from home.

OUR SUMMARY OF THIS VIDEO: Take it from someone who has run a virtual company for over a decade: trying to build trust without any kind of human contact is way more difficult. A big mistake that a lot of organizations have made is that because they’ve adapted reasonably well to teleworking they have missed the fact that many of the relationships pre-existed – they know these people.

But good luck building trust with somebody who’s entirely new to the team and has never physically met anyone.

That’s very different because we build trust between meetings. Isaac Stern said music happens between the notes. You build trust when you’re walking in and you’re a little early and you’re making small talk; you build trust as you’re walking out and you’re still talking about the meeting; you build trust when you bump into somebody in a hallway and you say, “Oh I’ve been meaning to talk to you”; you build trust when you knock on someone’s door and say, “You got a minute?”; when you say, “You want to meet? You want to have lunch?”

It’s these social interactions, over and over and over again. No one of them does it; like brushing your teeth for two minutes, it is nothing, but do it twice a day every day and it keeps your teeth clean. One of those things does nothing but the consistency of that human interaction over time builds this thing called trust.

It’s way more difficult to do virtually – not impossible, but way more difficult. Because now you actually have to schedule that time because there is no such thing as between-the-meeting. You show up for the call, and when the call is done there’s no human interaction.

So you schedule times for personal stuff. You have team huddles on a Monday and you say, “What’s on your heart and mind and here’s a fun or poignant question to answer … let’s go around the room.” You do not talk shop or the schedule or the results or the work at all. You give people an opportunity to share what’s on their hearts and minds. Or you have virtual lunches with people where you log on and just have a lunch.

And even then you still want to meet physically at least once a year as a group to solidify those bonds.

And by the way, brainstorming sessions – anything to do with ideas – are impossible to do virtually. You just don’t have the same flow of ideas, you can’t interrupt each other easily. Interrupting each other virtually is rude and disruptive; interrupting each other in a physical meeting of 10 people is easy, it’s no big deal – you can have four people talking at the same time and it’s fun because we’re all in the same flow and in idea-generation.

So we have to accept that, yes, the ability to telework means that we can keep organizations functional and moving during these pandemic times. But companies that think they never need to go back to the office are in for a shock.

If you asked me to envision the future of work, especially in the military, I would say you didn’t realize you had this component before. In the military and in the private sector, things will become a little more fluid – people will have the option to telework when they can and when they need to so it won’t be, “Next Thursday, do you mind if …?” Somebody will just email in the morning saying, “I’m working from home today,” and it will be fine. It will become a fluid part of our workday and way more socially-acceptable for people to work a half day in the office and a half day from home because they have to deal with something. They won’t need to take a day off – it will become a lot more flexible, I think.

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