Driving Performance in Global Virtual Teams by Building Trust

Five activities to build trust with your team and drive superior performance

Leading a team to deliver superior performance is always an exciting challenge for a manager. Doing that during a pandemic and with a global virtual team requires a very intentional approach.

Although I am used to managing global virtual teams (geographically distributed and not in my same office), I appreciate that only some managers might be comfortable with that, as having that kind of management background was common before COVID. Even with previous experience, as a manager, it’s helpful to have some guidance or points to follow to maximize the efficiency and effectiveness of a team.

This short article will present what worked for me in the past few years.

Building Trust with Individuals

Building a solid relationship with every team member is one of the most critical aspects of managing a team of high performers. Although, as a manager, the main goal is to drive results through the team, each team member has goals and career aspirations. Building a solid relationship with each team member goes through gaining their trust, and this requires caring about their goals and aspirations before looking after what is best for the manager.

The following three activities, well defined by Horstman (2016), are the most important ones you need to do as a manager.

The first activity used to build trust are the one-on-ones (O3). Effective O3s need to be scheduled with a predictable recurrence—a weekly cadence is the optimal one; if not possible, do them at least fortnightly—they are never skipped or dismissed, and the manager takes notes. The ideal length of an O3 is of 30 minutes, structured in blocks of ten minutes in this order: ten minutes for the employee to talk, ten minutes for the manager to speak, and ten minutes to talk about the future (career, training, etc.). The structure is guidance only, and it’s normal to change and adapt it based on the need of each O3. Especially at the beginning of the relationship, it is essential to spend time to know the team members; do not focus the O3 on work only. Share something about you, and let them share something about them. Find commonalities and use them to strengthen the relationship over time.

The second important activity is providing feedback. You start with positive feedback only for the first few weeks and then introduce critical ones. In any case, always ask for permission before giving feedback. Good feedback tackles the behaviour, not the person [1]. An excellent approach to providing feedback has the following structure:

  • Ask, 
  • State the behaviour, 
  • State the impact of the behaviour, 
  • Encourage effective future behaviour. 

Timing is essential—the sooner, the better—but only provide feedback when angry. Timely feedback is a very effective way to manage performance gently, maintain trust, and show interest in the employee’s professional growth.

The third activity is delegation. Delegation is essential as it allows employees to get stretched, improve on skills they might need to move to the next level, or leverage their strongest skills to gain additional visibility and trust with key stakeholders. It also helps as a scaling mechanism, freeing up time for the manager. Delegation should focus on the “small rocks”, as delegating a brand-new activity you got as a manager, or one of the most challenging tasks you have can easily overwhelm and burn out an employee. When delegating something, follow these steps: 

  • State your desire for help,
  • Tell them why you are asking them, 
  • Ask for specific acceptance, 
  • Describe the task or project in detail, 
  • Address deadline, quality, and reporting standards.

Fostering Team Interactions

Gaining trust is king, but a team is not a team if its members don’t work together well. Here’s what has worked well for me so far.

We run weekly team meetings of one hour each. During the weekly team meetings, we review any “critical” comment or result that we get through an internal tool used to gauge various aspects of the team’s morale (there are various surveying tools out there that can be used for this, if you don’t have one, I strongly recommend investigating such an option). A solution is not pushed to the team, the team is asked to provide details about the issue reported, and they are challenged to propose a solution. This kind of interaction drives ownership and awareness. It helps to encourage the team to be part of the solution without passively accepting a top-down decision or ignoring problems that could deteriorate in the longer term. Connection is not the only “tool” available. Our meetings have a recurring slot to highlight and discuss any challenge or concern.

The last point I will discuss is bound to increase social interactions within the team. Driving social interactions became particularly important during the pandemic due to the restrictions imposed by COVID-19 (travel limitations, no chance to have physical offsite, fully remote work and no day-to-day interactions, even for the few employees based in the same office). A functional team works best when there is trust between its members, and trust grows stronger when some personal information is shared. We foster the improvement of trust in the team through at least three different activities:

  1. Sharing of success stories, not just work-related, in our team meetings.
  2. Virtual offsites that are not just focused on work.
  3. Virtual social get-together sessions where to chat about anything, preferably not work-related.

Examples of Feedback

“Positive” feedback:

When you start and lead projects like the ones you mentioned, you show evidence of some of our key principles and help the whole company significantly impact our customers. Well done!

“Critical” feedback:

When you make jokes about a sensitive topic like the current pandemic of COVID-19, you risk upsetting people and getting strong reactions from them that I then need to manage and settle down with their managers. This kind of joke has the potential to put you in trouble. Can you avoid them in the future?


Horstman, M. (2016) The Effective Manager. John Wiley & Sons.

Diego Zaccariotto
Diego Zaccariotto
Head of Customer Support - Team Leader EMEA | Service Operations Management, Change & Transformation

I’m a Senior Manager and IT professional with 25+ years of experience, a background in system administration, and an MBA.