Merge's Blog

If you’re a long-distance leader, you have to learn to trust

Back in Strategy #6, I talked about the importance of shifting your focus from effort to outcomes if you want to be an exceptional long-distance leader.  Today, in Strategy #16 in our series on leading hybrid and virtual teams, I want to share another idea that falls out of that one.  It is to trust your people.

Trust your people

Now I know that this sounds like one of those motherhood blanket statements.  And it is, but that doesn’t take away from its importance.  The reality is that if you are a long-distance leader, then you have no way of monitoring what your people are doing in their day-to-day work.  Which is why it was imperative to switch your focus from process to results.  And then trust your people – trust them to get things done.  Now depending on who you are, what your experiences have been, and the culture of your workplace, this may be harder for some of you than others.  So I want you to think about changing your own internal narrative.

Starting from complete trust instead of zero trust

There are many people who believe that trust is earned – that if you want me to trust you, then you need to demonstrate to me that you are trustworthy.  I’d like you to consider a different perspective.  Instead of “you have to earn my trust”, switch your foundational belief to “you have my trust until you do something to lose it.”  This may sound like just a syntax difference, but the implications are huge.  You have to earn my trust starts from the basis of zero trust.  But you have my trust until you do something to lose it starts from a basis of complete trust.

This seemingly small difference actually translates into a completely different approach as a long-distance leader.  Your staff will sense and feel this difference, and they will live up to your expectation of them, in this case the expectation that you have complete trust in them.

I am aware that some of you listening may not believe that this small shift in thinking will lead to significant results.  But it will.  Not in every single case, you might have one or two exceptions where you may have to “lose trust” in someone who did not live up to your expectations, but for the vast majority, your team members will come through.  Try it, and see for yourself.

Looking for previous strategies in this series on leading a remote team?  Here are some of the mores recent instalments.

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