-Highest Levels of Trust
For a team to work together effectively, its members need to
-Atmosphere of Trust
trust one another.
-Steps to building a
-Strategies to Optimize
-New Model of Team
-Virtual Team Dynamics
Past studies of traditional teams have shown that trust evolves in three stages:
Deterrence-based trust: Team members do what they say they
will do simply because they fear they’ll be punished if they don’t.
Knowledge-based trust: As members become more and more
familiar with one another, they come to know their teammates well
enough to predict their behavior with confidence.
Identification-based trust: Trust is built on empathy and
shared values; members are able to put themselves in their teammates
Although research has found evidence of all three types of trust in virtual teams,
this three-stage development pattern is not evident. Rather, in a virtual
environment, trust in virtual teams and team members tends to be established - or
not - right at the outset; first interactions of team members are crucial. Initial
electronic messages appear to set the tone for how members will relate
throughout an entire project.
Team Building 1
Highest Levels of Trust
Virtual teams with the highest levels of trust tend to share three traits:
§ They began their interactions with a series of social messages
(introducing themselves and providing some personal
background) before focusing on the work at hand. This series of
interactions is sometimes called “electronic courtship” and
appears to be particularly important in establishing knowledge-
§ Clear roles are defined for each team member. Assigning each
member a particular task enabled all of them to identify with one
another, forging a foundation for identification-based trust.
§ Team members consistently displayed eagerness, enthusiasm,
and an intense proactive action orientation in all of their
messages. It was found that one pessimist has the potential to
undermine the entire team.
In addition, high trust teams:
§ display a task vs. procedural orientation; communication is task-
oriented but still empathic
§ rotate leaders; alternate members “rise to the occasion”
§ discuss and clarify team goals
§ engage in time management and project management activities
§ give substantial feedback oriented toward improving the content
of another’s work
§ engage in frequent interaction, notifying members of their
whereabouts and absences
Team Building 2
must be built
Studies have shown that all cultures report that there are three
factors in building “instant” trust.
1. Perform competently
§ reputation for performance and results
§ follow through
§ obtaining necessary resources
2. Act with integrity (alignment of actions and stated values)
§ alignment of actions and stated values
§ standing behind the team and all its members
§ maintaining consistent and balanced communication
3. Display concern for the well-being of others
§ transitioning people on and off the team so that their
careers are affected positively
§ the leader and other team members helping one another
§ to find next assignments
While all cultures consistently report these three attributes, keep in mind the
various cultures display, interpret, and/or prioritize these attributes differently.
Team Building 3
Additional strategies to create an atmosphere of trust
It was already stated that trust in virtual teams is built differently and more
swiftly than in traditional teams. With that in mind, the following are additional
ways to build an atmosphere of trust in a virtual team.
§ Build the self-esteem of team members by showing respect for their
§ Help team members focus on the problem rather than blaming each
§ Serve as a role model by demonstrating constructive behavior
Trust is only
(maintain constructive relationships, take initiative to make things
built through a
better, lead by example).
§ Familiarize self and team with why trust is important.
§ Take the time, up front, to allow your team members to get to know
reported a shift
you and each other. (Take time to be a team.)
§ If possible, meet face-to-face early in the development of your team.
a greater focus
Miscommunication and conflicting expectations often arise from the
lack of face-to-face contact time among team members. Face-to-face
meetings will allow team members to develop relationships and trust
much more quickly.
§ Set up weekly ½ hour 1:1 sessions with yourself and your team
that the most
members. This will allow them to get to know you (and you them).
Help team members understand the mission of the team and allow
other than face-
them to voice their concerns in an open manner.
to-face, is by
§ DWYSYWD. Do what you say you will do. One of the quickest
and most effective ways to build trust is to follow through on your
commitments. Team members are more likely to trust one another if
they feel team members are competent.
§ Stand behind your team and your team members. Do not make
disparaging remarks about the team’s performance in public. If you
receive negative information about a team member, be sure to
investigate it thoroughly before acting upon it.
§ Try to give each team member the opportunity to contribute. Don’t
rely more heavily on those team members who happen to be in your
§ It is imperative in a virtual environment that organizations establish a
clear policy regarding communications privacy and then strictly
adhere to it.
Team Building 4
Virtual team members have shown increased capability and motivation to do the
work when there is a high amount of “social capital” built. Social capital results
from a series of pleasant interactions between team members.
Three things necessary to develop an ample supply of social capital:
§ Trust: Seemingly irrelevant, unrelated-to-work conversations
among employees make working relationships more effective and act
as a “trust accelerator”.
§ Reciprocity: Giving will eventually result in receiving.
§ Dense Social Networks: Team members are well connected,
healthy, and economically stable.
Building a Virtual Team
Steps to building a virtual team:
§ Identify team sponsors, stakeholders, and champions.
§ Develop a team charter (purpose, mission, and goals); create a team
identity; create an atmosphere of trust.
§ Select and assess members based upon the skill/competency list (see
the HR tab); hold a team orientation session.
§ Create an infrastructure based upon the virtual team type
(technology, processes, work flow, status mechanisms,
documentation, corporate memory).
§ Make the work experience rewarding and enjoyable for team
members on a personal level.
Team Building 5
Strategies to Optimize Team Performance
1. Make the whole visible to everyone.
§ Create a team collage;
§ distribute a map showing where everyone is located;
§ create a graphic with the name of each member sitting around a
2. Provide a “line of sight” (connectedness to the organization).
§ Create a “journal” style minutes with photos;
§ acknowledge missing members during meetings;
§ provide electronic chat rooms or “hang outs” so that water cooler
discussions aren’t lost;
§ give “widgets” with team mission or slogan (e.g. mousepad, mug,
3. Catalyze rich (“over dinner”) conversations.
§ Hold conference calls where no administrative topics are allowed;
§ rotate responsibility among team members to facilitate discussion on
§ invite experts to engage with the team.
4. Amplify energy.
§ Find ways to spotlight individuals or parts of the team where
something interesting is happening;
§ develop a team norm of sending “hot news” bulletins to the team
(and a norm to respond);
§ create ways to celebrate accomplishments with the whole team.
5. Create tracks and footprints in physical space (create artifacts).
§ Create a sign or team inbox visible to everyone;
§ circulate team output with team specific headings and formatting;
§ design a logo.
Team Building 6
Virtual Teams: A New Model of Team Development
Most of us are familiar with Tuckman’s model of team development which incorporates
the stages of forming, storming, norming, performing, and adjourning. Virtual teams
require a new model that accounts for the complexities of their work environments. The
following model, adapted from J. McGrath, addresses both task performance and social
dynamics arguing that both work together to create the team experience.
Task Dynamics Social Dynamics
q Select goals
q Ensure team
q Generate preliminary
q Generate ideas
q Define initial
q Select technical
Position status / role
q Address status of
problems to be resolved
q Solve problems with
q Clarify and
correct, known answers
refine roles and
q Solve ambiguous
q Resolve conflicts about
Power / resource
q Address power
different points of view
q Resolve conflicts
q Address how
q Perform tasks
q Ensure equal
q Address organizational
barriers to performance
q Ensure effective
Team Building 7
Virtual Team Dynamics
Three factors that affect virtual team dynamics:
1. Time (especially in parallel, project, and action teams): Most teams
undergo major transitions about halfway through their life cycle no matter
how much time they’re allotted for their task or how many times they’ve
met. Just prior to the transition to the execution stage, teams typically
experience conflict, role confusion, changing alliances, and debate about
technical approaches or solutions to problems. Then, during the transition,
old approaches and viewpoints are cast aside and new ones take their places;
the team rapidly progresses to the execution stage. Four events that signal
the transition to execution:
§ Abandonment of much of the team’s early work, including plans and
§ a feeling of urgency to finish on time;
§ renewed contact between the team and its organizational
environment, most often the sponsor or a member of senior
§ specific new agreements on the ultimate direction the team should
2. Environmental Influences: This includes three variables:
§ How embedded or rooted the team is in the organization as
demonstrated by the team’s activities being supported by the
organization’s structure, processes, communication channels,
management, and reward structure.
§ The more complex the team’s task, the greater the chance of conflict
and disagreement about roles, approaches to problems, and definition
of outcomes. Repeatable and simple tasks equate to less time spent in
activities such as conflict resolution, role definition, and authority
relationships in the group.
§ Electronic communication and collaboration technology can affect
both task and social dynamics positively and negatively.
3. Team composition: This includes three variables:
§ Cultural differences: cultural dimensions that appear to have the
greatest potential to affect virtual team dynamics are individualism-
collectivism (independent vs. participatory orientation), power
distance (team members from different levels in the organization),
and uncertainty avoidance (high vs. low structure/definition).
§ Differences in functional background: cross-functional teams
experience more disagreement regarding team process, priority, etc.
§ Team size.
Turn to the OD
Team Building 8