6 Tips for Building Trusting Virtual Work Relationships
March 2020 brought much of the world to a standstill as countries around the globe entered their first lockdown. It would radically change the way people connected and do business. Suddenly we were not allowed to meet, hug, shake hands, and chat about our lives in close huddle over a cup of coffee.
At first, I welcomed the quietness of the streets and the peacefulness of staying at home seemed like a gift. But after a week or so, the inability to meet meaningfully with others made me feel lonely and too reclusive. I reached out to colleagues and friends and realized I was not alone. They were feeling disconnected and isolated, too.
My role at Pinsight is to lead the people function, the hiring and development of our core team and certified assessors. When discussing how to continue connecting, engaging, and developing with my colleagues, one of them suggested starting a virtual book club to share ideas and keep in touch. I jumped at the idea. Pinsight is a virtual company with assessors, employees, and consultants based around the globe.
At first, it created a space where we could discuss how we were personally dealing with the isolation, how our countries were reacting to the pandemic, and what we were doing to try and feel like things were kind of normal. People shared their stories, they spoke from their hearts, tears flowed, and empathy and trust was built.
What Happens When Trust Is Established?
Once trust had been established we began transitioning into personal and professional development discussions. Each fortnight we focused on a theme and read articles, book excerpts, watched TED talks, etc. to help us identify areas we as individuals, groups, or an organization could improve upon.
The fortnightly meetings became places to get to know others, learn more about the challenges we were all facing, share ideas, build connections, develop trust, show vulnerability, give and receive empathy, and engage in meaningful ways. Now, with further lockdowns ahead, here are some things I learnt about facilitating trusting virtual work relationships:
6 Strategies for Building Virtual Work Relationships
- Ensure everyone’s video cameras are turned on, show active listening (through your eyes and expression), and offer encouraging comments.
- Facilitate the meetings with warmth and genuine interest in others. Encourage participation and model sharing in an open and sometimes vulnerable way.
- Create an atmosphere of trust by being non-judgmental, caring, and empathic.
- Link to: Building and Maintaining Relationships Through a Virtual Network, Rebecca Hambrick, April 2020, www.pinsight.com
- Link to: The Side of Empathy Leaders Never Talk About, Michelle Brown, June 2020, www.pinsight.com
- Ask thought-provoking questions such as:
- What resonated with you when you read the article?
- How did you feel when you listened to the TED talk?
- What relevance does this article have to your life now?
- Be sensitive to the tearfulness of others, thank them for their open honest expression, and for the intimacy and closeness it adds to the group.
- Be sensitive to introverted team members who may feel less comfortable talking about their feelings and their views and gently encourage them to contribute without putting them on the spot.