Wednesday, 28 November 2012 07:39

5 Steps to Being a Trustworthy Virtual Team Leader!

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As a virtual project manager, you have probably come across this question an innumerable amount of times: Do you trust your project group? This question presents a valid concern, but what is equally, if not more important is the other side of this question: Does your virtual project group trust you?

By being a project manager in a faceless workplace, building trust is arguably the most significant part of a successful team. Think of trust as a pivotal block in a game of Tumbling Towers. As soon as this single piece becomes loose, the entire structure falls apart. Don’t let your team dynamic suffer at the cost of a single loose block. Here are 6 tips that will help your virtual group see you as a trustworthy project manager.

  1. Be true – Like the old adage says, “Mean what you say, say what you mean”. Being true to your group is the first step to ensuring their trust. It may sound simple, but it is also the most important. In certain situations, you may make promises with the full intention of keeping them. However, there is always a possibility that new circumstances may develop, where old promises are no longer feasible. What do you do?

    In such situations, it is essential to communicate your problem to your team and detail what you are doing to fix it. Note that the verb used here is “doing”—and not the word “trying”. “Doing” and “Trying” are vastly different. “Trying” is a safe, passive word that can excuse you from your responsibilities. “Doing” is affirmative and confident word. It is a no-nonsense word that means you are taking action. When the group sees you acting, they will begin to trust you. So don’t try: Do. Do and be true.

  2. Don’t keep secrets—In other words: COMMUNICATE! Communicate your feelings, communicate you thoughts, communicate your actions, communicate your trust. The more transparent you are as a project manager, the more transparent your group members will be with you. Communication with co-workers should also exceed work related discussions. If your group considers you as a comrade, the trust will follow automatically.

  3. Keep secrets—This is not to contradict the previous point. In this context, “keeping secrets” means to maintain the confidentiality and privacy of group members. If a team member confides in you, your duty should be to keep the information private. Be aware of what you say, as certain information can easily slip out to others involuntarily.

  4. Be approachable—As an approachable project manager, you automatically allow your team to open up to you. Group members will voluntarily give you feedback on work related issues and possibly personal issues as well. Your team will realize you are a reliable source of support, advice and overall mentorship.

  5. Don’t be suspicious –There’s nothing more irritating than an overbearing parent looming over your shoulders while you work. Scratch that…there is: An overbearing co-worker. What you may call an “hourly status report” translates to “I’ve got my eye on you” for the rest of the group. If your virtual employee has agreed to have a certain task completed by noon, take this or her word for it. 

In the situation where the work is not in by noon, don’t assume the team member has slacked off. Instead, ask if he or she needs any additional support or they need a bit more clarification. Also consider if the employee is experiencing any personal trouble at home or other external discrepancies. 

Be present to your project group, not persistent. Give support, but also give space. Think of how trust functions in your workplace. Remember, it may be a small word, but it has a big meaning–and perhaps a bigger meaning in virtual project groups. 

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Claire Sookman

Distinguished as Canada’s pioneer in virtual team building, Claire specializes in helping teams that are geographically dispersed reduce their costs and reach their maximum potential, through training, coaching consulting and designing.

As the driving force behind the training/consulting firm of Virtual Team Builders, Claire Sookman brings to the table over a decade’s worth of corporate and public sector training experience, working with well over 4,500 Managers in the past three years alone. Specializing in virtual team building and communication strategies, Claire's company provides training that enables global teams to work more efficiently and effectively.

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