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Thanks to modern technologies, working groups and teams are now spread around the globe. Electronic communication channels (such as email, instant messengers, Skype, social media, etc.) have given organizations the ability to hire the brightest talent and meld them into globally remote teams. For increasing numbers of workers, gone are the days when you sit in the same office or even the same building as your colleagues.
While teams should benefit from a wider and deeper talent pool, the remoteness of their members also causes issues that could damage the collaborative effort. Chief among these is the issue of trust. When teams have daily face-to-face interaction, individuals get to know each other. They understand each other’s views and values, their politics, culture, and personal life. In modern, globally remote teams, it is highly likely that you don’t even know what some of your colleagues look like. It is hard to trust total strangers.
In this article, I examine a few strategies that will help build trust in remote teams, especially the impact of a motivational email to employees.
Communication is a key component of collaboration, and even more so when teams are remotely sited. The likelihood is that team members will come from very different cultural backgrounds. In a recent article, ‘Cross-cultural management challenges and how to face them’, I described a 3-step strategy to avoid the need to resolve cross-cultural misunderstandings by preparing for them first:
Encourage your team members to adopt this 3-step strategy, integrating with high-level emotional intelligence. This will help team members become more tolerant and flexible toward cultural differences, and more able to trust.
All collaborative teams need to work with standard rules of communication, but this is especially true of remote teams. Members must understand the acceptable methods of communication, how team meetings will be conducted, how decisions are made, and how conflicts will be resolved. It is even more important to communicate in detail the goals, roles and responsibilities of the team and individual members.
In-house teams have an undeniable advantage when it comes to building trust. They have the benefit of human interaction over an extended period. Individuals in remote teams usually have no idea of a colleague’s work ethics, personal life or working environment. These disadvantages make the building of trust even more difficult, and the employment of strategies to build an environment of trust even more important.
Such strategies might include:
Email will undoubtedly be one of the main communication channels used by remote teams. While a good medium for communicating information, email is notorious for miscommunicating emotion. Adhering to these rules of email etiquette will help get over this hurdle, especially when writing emails intended to motivate:
I cannot emphasize this last point strongly enough. Look at the email through the eyes of the recipient. Be sensitive to cultural differences, and consider how the message will be read and received. Only when you are certain it conveys the meaning you intend should you click send.
By now, I expect you can appreciate the difficulty that team leaders have when trying to motivate a remote team via the medium of email. Two CEOs who have overcome this conundrum in spectacular fashion are Howard Schultz of Starbucks and Satya Nadella of Microsoft.
Nadella sent his email globally upon being appointed to the CEO position. He opened by explaining how humble he felt to be a part of such a great organization as Microsoft. He described the honor of being asked to lead the company, and his desire for everyone to achieve even greater success. He included a narrative, which explained who he is and why he came to Microsoft: a perfect mix of personal and professional. Finally, he spent half the email discussing the ‘we’ of his global team, its values and mission. He finished by saying, “Let’s build on this foundation together.”
Howard Schultz sent an email in response to a dramatic stock market fall. He sent it to all 190,000 of Starbucks’ worldwide workforce. He reminded them that the company had witnessed such turmoil before. He told them they would likely experience increased anxiety and concern from their customers. He reminded them to be “very sensitive to the pressures our customers must be feeling”. Schultz then explained that the company’s growth plans would not be impacted by the financial markets. He wrote of positive management, strength of brand, and the reason for the company’s continued success – its employees. He signed off by saying, “I believe in you and have never been prouder to be your partner”.
Many leaders are not convinced that it is possible to build real trust in globally remote organizations. Yet when the right strategies are employed, global companies like Microsoft and Starbucks are examples of how globally remote teams can succeed. Without trust, success would not be achieved.
Perhaps the major driver of trust in globally remote teams is the pro-active nature of their leaders. It is impossible to hire a remote team and expect them to gel without virtual interaction. A good starting point to engender trust is the motivational email. To make it effective, you must ensure that it ‘speaks’ to all employees – and the starting point to achieve this is high-level emotional intelligence.
Contact Forward Focus today to discover how an Emotional Intelligence course will develop and embed effective personal skills in the workplace, for leaders, managers and employees. These skills will aid the collaborative process, as barriers to communication and working together are broken down across globally remote organizations.
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