IT Best Practices

Building Trust in Virtual Teams

Trust is, perhaps, the most important element in the success of traditional teams. Without trust, team members aren't willing to depend on other people within their projects, leading to poor communication, lost effort, and the potential for failed efforts. Building trust “in person” is quite different than building trust in a virtual team, as one would suspect. It is this difference that Betsy Carroll explores and explains in this blog post found on Leadingvirtually.com. 

According to Carroll, in face to face teams (F2F), trust is built by sharing out-of-work news: the big game, weekend plans, family trips, etc. Liking and familiarity seem to be the factors in building trust with such a traditional team. Remote teams, however, don't share the same ability to interact: 

So how can trust develop in virtual teams? Researchers have found something interesting – it may not be that trust is harder to build in virtual teams. It may be that trust is simply built via different mechanisms in virtual teams. After a few studies on this issue, research suggests that trust in virtual teams depends largely upon reliability. When virtual team members feel they can count on one another to do what they say they will do, trust builds quickly. Surely this is influential among F2F team members as well, but researchers believe it may be the crucial factor in virtual teams.

Team leaders need to create opportunities for team members to prove they are reliable and trustworthy to other team members. Furthermore, team leaders should focus on allowing time for ice-breakers and small interactions before and after meetings. It's through these factors that virtual teams can create trust and cohesion between members, increasing the likelihood of success in project efforts. 

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