On a traditional team, trust evolves as a function of demonstrated actions over time. However when working virtually, members typically do not have the opportunity to develop trust in the traditional gradual, cumulative way. The challenge for you, as a leader, becomes how to build trust rapidly across boundaries and borders.
The stark reality is that virtual team members do not usually have time to get to know each other. Typically, the team needs to focus quickly on critical tasks and has little time to build relationships. Despite this fact, virtual teams require a high level of trust in order to be successful.
You can’t compel team members to trust one another. It’s asking a lot of people to protect the interests of their virtual team – initially total strangers with different ways of thinking and acting. Because of this, building trust and a cohesive team culture from a variety of national norms, values and traditions can be overwhelming. Without high levels of trust virtual team members quickly lose morale and motivation. You need to foster a sense of trust in each members’ competence and a commitment to team goals. Each member must believe that the entire team is doing their work conscientiously – with the team’s goals at the top of their priority list.
Building trust on virtual teams may not be easy, but it can be done. If the following guidelines are incorporated into attitudes and work practices, trust is likely to emerge: