Trust and Virtual Teams

I recently read a fascinating article on Virtual Success: The Keys to Leading from a Distance.  (Yes, you do need to give your contact info, but I trust the authors not to sell or misuse your email address.) Darleen DeRosa and her colleagues at Onpoint Consulting  have recently completed a study of 48 virtual teams in 16 organizations around the globe.

What they were looking for is what distinguishes highly effective virtual teams and team leaders from those that are marginally effective or completely ineffective. In the study, they’ve identified the unique challenges of the manager who has team members spread out around the globe, and the six behaviors that differentiate the highly effective virtual team managers.

Not surprisingly, communication was overwhelming cited as the key competency for the effective managers.
Building relationships, building trust, being personally accountable and having a results orientation were also cited.

Six Behaviors and Twenty-four Performance Enhancers

The study identified six behaviors and 24 specific actions of the most effective leaders; I want to concentrate on one of each.

Among the six competencies, or behaviors, one key is fostering an atmosphere of collaboration among team members.

The most effective leaders of virtual teams … establish a culture of accountability in which roles and expectations are clear and there is zero tolerance for blaming others or finger pointing. [T]eam members can raise problems and admit mistakes without fear of retribution. … Effective leaders of virtual teams build an environment of trust within the team, which further enhances collaboration.

And my own favorite enhancer, under Support, Engagement and Recognition is this one:

Focus on moving from task-based trust to interpersonal trust by communicating openly and honestly, leading by example, employing consistent team interactions, and being accessible and responsible.

I love the notion of moving from task trust (“I trust that Mark will get his piece done on schedule”) to interpersonal trust (“I trust that Mark will raise a flag if he sees any difficulty, and will keep me fully in the loop. And if I ask for his help on this problem that has me stumped, I know I’ll get help, discretion and no attitude.”)

All of this adds up, it seems to me, to creating a safe atmosphere akin to what we call Intimacy and Transparency. And that adds up to true collaboration.