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The Tango of Async Trust

On building confidence with a remote team, one step at a time.

I could be wearing a batman suit and racing pigeons from my kitchen and my team would never know it.

Which would be fine I guess, provided that my work is done on time.

Because isn't that what remote work is all about? Working when and how you're at your best—whatever "best" means to you?

Yes, but there's a but. It's because we're humans. More precisely: isolated humans.

As humans, we've been programmed to pick berries, hunt beasts, and sit down with our crew to share our catches. The act of sharing helped us trust each other (and not throw rocks at one another once the cave went dark). Or something like that—not a physicist.

Anyway, in some of today's remote teams we see a lot of berry-picking, not so much sharing with the crew.

The problem? Sharing is still how trust is harvested—and what holds remote teams together.

I'm new 👋🏼 trust me please

When I started working at Slite I had no way of meeting anyone on my team. No coffees, no handshakes, no ways I could "work the room." But I had to get people to trust me so that I could get them behind the work that I wanted to create.

So I tried out a few experiments. Here's how they went.

Go straight to the center

As part of my onboarding, I was sent on a blitz of 1:1 Zoom calls to get to know my colleagues. But Zoom is bleurgh because all it means is "meeting."

Whenever I hopped on a new call, I felt a big heavy ball at the center of my stomach screaming "Discomfort!" so did something to change it up. I said the first thing that popped into my head to break the ice, provided it was positive and about the other person. That set the tone for a personal conversation straight away. The result? We often found ourselves talking about topics that mattered, quicker.

It's a trick I learned form House of Beautiful Business' @timleberecht. I remember the first thing he ever said to me when we first met on a call was "Whoa! What a beard!" I never forgot that.

Those trophies at the back were addressed  right away on a call with Ben.

Know who you're Slacking to

Slack isn't a way to meet new people.

It's like being at a cocktail party and shouting "I'm going to tell my son he's an excellent swimmer today!" Nobody cares. But if people know a little more about you, your son's swimming, and the subtleties of your parent-son relationship, they will be interested. And then they will interact with you.

That's what happened to me on Slack. My first public announcements were like awkward elevator rides. Silent spaces that you leave rather quickly. Until I talked to more people on video calls. Then, like magic, whoever I'd met screen-to-screen began to react to my posts.

What do these people all have in common? We've met on a video call.

Reimagine the page

A blank page can be a beautiful thing. Not the pulp-made sheets of paper—those are still intimidating. I mean online docs where thoughts can really come to life. Because in remote, the report format is dead and done. Instead we deal in gifs, short videos, even handwritten sketches.

So on a recent announcement to the marketing team, I used dialog instead of the usual brief to present my thoughts:

Isn't our mobile app pretty?

So do people trust me?

Good question. I'll tell you when I meet the whole team in the fall (finally!). Actually, I'll get them on video and share what they said.

But I will say this for now: I feel way more comfortable sharing things with my team than when I first started. And I genuinely feel closer to the people that I work with as a result.

What about you?

How did you gain trust in your async environment?

Write to me, tell me here.

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Written by

Marc Cinanni is a creative writer who's fascinated by the emergence of remote as a new way of life. His pieces are punchy, absurd, and often personal. He writes for remote teams, managers, and people interested in feeling better about the way they work. Follow him @marccinanni.

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