Trust is one of the cornerstones in successful alliances and partnerships. We build trust in many ways, for instance, we observe people’s behaviour and unconsciously it helps us to answer the question “Can I trust this person?” Similarly, we keep an unconscious eye on things like how one performs actions, lives up to commitments, and we assess if body language tells us the same as a person’s verbal language.

Usually trust is built and strengthened through personal meetings. Of course, email correspondence and phone or video calls help too, but meeting a person in real life always adds another dimension and accelerates trust-building.

So, how do you build trust in a remote environment?

My suggestion is to focus on these three elements:

1 Communication

Communication has always been important for alliances. Like I always say, it is about Communication, Communication, Communication and when you think you’ve communicated, communicate again! However, in a remote environment where many people are swamped with video calls, it is very easy to lose sight of your partners. Think how you can optimise the communication with your partners, it might require the use of different communication patterns and tools for different partners.

2 Consistency

When consistency is missing it is almost impossible to manage an alliance and it leads to frustration amongst the partners. Success only happens when there is consistent behaviour from all the people and all the partners involved in an alliance. In a remote environment consistency will be closely aligned with communication. Consistency is about behaviour (for example, is a person living up to his/her promises?), and communication will be the carrier for your partner experiencing that consistency.  

3 Curiosity

Alliances are created between organisations and driven to success by the people involved. It is important to get to know the person behind your contact. That’s not about his role or education, it is about showing interest in one’s personal life. Be curious during your video calls, ask questions about what you see or hear. I’ve had, for instance, conversations about dogs, bicycles and airplane parts attached to a wall!  I’ve also discussed cooking and home improvement projects. It helps to know the person behind your counterpart and what drives them!

Curiosity helps to build a relationship and will make your communication and consistency easier. All together, these three pointers will help you to build and maintain trust.

Additional sources about Trust:

  • BCG and St. Gallen Symposium jointly created an interesting white paper with focus on trust building within organisations. 
  • Read the book “The Culture Map”* by Erin Meyer and learn about the cultural nuances a.o. in trust building.
  • Learn about the Trust Equation from TrustedAvisor.
  • Read the book “Trusted Leader”* by David Horsager and learn about 8 leadership behaviors that help to build and maintain trust.