How Can I Demonstrate Trust in a Virtual World?
We have been living and adapting to very few (or zero) in-person meetings and interviews. Meeting online in a video room can be more productive for people who already are familiar with each other, and have experience working together. However, for people unfamiliar to you, like a new hire, or a candidate, how do you demonstrate that you and your team are trustworthy?
Zoom/MSTeams/Google Meet are all two-dimensional platforms, and people can seem flat when viewed on the screen, it is impossible to feel or experience them as you would if you were in person. What is lost is the very human ability to read people’s subtle cues and body language – you simply cannot sense how people are reacting. It causes us all, as humans, to feel disconnected and emotionally flat. It also requires us to work harder to know who they really are and what you viscerally feel and what they are like when near. You have no idea if this strange new person will energize your team or deplete it. The candidate also has no idea if you are a great leader, or if your team is truly collaborative or combative, or if the subordinates are productive.
Here is what you can do to be certain that you are building trust with the people who are unfamiliar with you and your team.
1. Be impeccable with your word.
My father told me that I was only as good as my word. Today, people are searching for reasons to build connections, and relationships, they want to know you will follow through on what you commit to. If you say you will, you do.
In an interview, this can be conveyed as a story. For example, “our mission is to build a device with great predictive capabilities to “save millions of lives.” You explain exactly how your product does just that, and the journey the team took to get from where you started to where you are today. Step by step, how you overcame challenges, and how you encouraged the team when they needed it, and course-corrected when that was required. Share what you learned and how the team grew together, and how you reached your common goals. Consistency of doing what you say you will do will get you a long way in building trust. Telling a true story compellingly conveys trust.
2. Be Prompt and Be Prepared
Trust is an emotion and a belief that others can rely on you. Demonstrating reliability by being on time is especially important now that you can no longer blame traffic! Being on time shows the other person that you value their time and can be counted on. This also applies to sticking to the time allotted for a meeting – do not go over.
Being prepared – do your homework on the candidate, read the CV, and have questions, anticipate what questions they are going to have about the company, the team, your vision mission, and values. Be curious about them, showing you care about who the person is will impel you closer to someone and build strong bonds. That is what you are trying to accomplish.
3. Listen well
Be sure to convey that you comprehend what the other person is saying. An easy way to do this is to paraphrase or summarize what you heard. This allows the other person to clarify and trust you to be a seeker of true information and not base conclusions on assumptions. You truly want to hear what the person has to say. This significantly reduces bias and builds trust.
You want to listen for genuine behavior for people who are whole and real are who you are looking to add to your team. Your job is to show them how whole and real you are and convey your vision for the future.
Be sure you extend the courtesy of listening to understand and show people you care. Speak and then listen, be sure to make room for the pause, allow the other person to continue to speak, especially if they feel subordinate to you in any way. Be gracious.
4. Be Welcoming
Treat your video conference guests like you would if you invited someone into your office or living room. The more comfortable and relaxed you make them feel, the more likely you are demonstrating your trustworthiness.
Be cognizant of what your viewers are seeing as your background. If you have a false background (or photo for a background), be sure to use a green screen or you will become bits and bytes every time you move. This is very distracting, and you want someone to know that you care about their experience enough to handle the little things.
Practice how you appear on video – be sure your appearance is not just a talking head with eyeballs, but more of head and shoulders like you would if you were sitting in the same room. You want someone to think that you are trustworthy, credible, and capable of leading.
5. Limit Distractions
Be sure you dress your part. If your company dress code is corporate casual, wear that. If you are in an executive-level role and the attire is more formal, wear a jacket and tie.
Remove distractions: Tell your family you have an important call to make and unless it is a dire emergency you are not to be disturbed. The family is also not welcome to walk around behind you waving peace signs either! Put your pets in another room.
Your goal is to demonstrate that you are trustworthy, putting the other person at ease and instill the belief (in the candidate) that you and your current team can be counted on to do what they say they will do. You are conveying that without an in-person connection and benefit of human to human contact that we have relied on to measure trust.
I welcome your insight and experiences – please write your thoughts and send to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.