Building Trust in High Performing Distributed Teams

Trust is everything. It takes time to build and can be gone in an instant. It can also be the foundation on which to build even stronger connections if tested.  Without it relationships don’t exist, customers and employees quietly disappear or worse are openly critical. Without it organizational cultures can move from thriving to toxic.


Any simple Google search related to important values for organizations will find trust or a form of trust near the top of most lists. Companies must be trusted by both their employees and their customers in order to truly thrive.


Centuries of creativity and most certainly 2020 has reminded us we are capable of rethinking our approach to how connecting and working can be done. However, the importance of trust has never wavered.


If trust is critical how do you build it for your high performing distributed teams?


It starts with you

As the leader of the team the members first have to trust you.


Consider the following questions:

  • How do you know if all the individuals trust you?
  • When someone comes new to your team are you having conversations about what relying on you looks like?
  • Do they understand what they can expect from you in how you communicate, are accountable and responsible?
  • Will team members provide you with honest feedback in 1:1’s or a 360 or an employee engagement survey?
  • How are you modelling the trust you have in your team?



Do you provide and recognize opportunities for your team to demonstrate their trust of each other and for you to demonstrate your trust of them? Likely there are at least several opportunities a week. Working virtually means we are not sharing these opportunities in person but it does not mean they aren’t happening. These examples are a few of the myriad you likely see each week:

  • Being a great and curious listener
  • Investing time and resources in team member development
  • Extending an offer to help when a colleague is overwhelmed
  • Building on an idea to make it an even better idea and acknowledging team work
  • Asking a team member to facilitate a meeting you can’t attend as planned
  • Sitting in on a client call to share their expertise
  • Really review a draft, not just scan
  • Asking for feedback, truly listening and applying that feedback
  • Brainstorming with a team member when you are stuck on how to move forward
  • Helping a team member shift perspective to see alternatives


Talk about Trust

Do you talk about trust as a team and what it means to your current team members? When new members join your team do you have that conversation again? Are there team members who “really don’t work well together?” What is causing the lack of trust?


As a leader you can set expectations, give feedback and provide opportunity for them to establish or rebuild trust. You can’t “make” someone trust anyone. Trust comes through each interaction that reinforces your confidence to rely on an individual. How high is the confidence level across your team members that they can rely on each other?  Are they recognizing it? Are you recognizing it?


Whether you are or aren’t trust is everything.

About the Author:

Heidi joined Coaching Right Now in 2016 as an Account Executive. Heidi brings over 25 years of experience leading learning and shared services teams in large financial and manufacturing organizations. She is also a certified executive and leadership Coach (CPCC, ACC).