We have all learned about creating and making partnerships and best practices when you are in person. But what happens when an entire workforce goes remote? What are the best practices for building a virtual-only type relationship?
I think the current environment makes it easier for people to connect (check out my latest blog on it here – https://mscategorymanagement.com/networking/). Everyone is stuck at home looking for something to do, and so they tend to be more open to connecting and meeting someone new. But that doesn’t mean every situation will be this easy.
I recently had my boss join (6 weeks ago), and she started fully remotely (we even interviewed her completely remotely). To say the situation was a new and unique one for most of us, was an understatement. I can’t even imagine being hired and starting a new job without ever meeting the team I would be managing in person.
Therefore, we all knew difficulties ahead of us, but we had to figure it out. It is possible to create a virtual-only partnership with a new employee, business partner, or potential clientele. You just have to put a different filter on it.
Now, I personally like to think about building procurement-supplier relationships as dating or marriage. This means you could consider building the new relationship in this current environment as an “online” and “long-distance” relationship. And with that, you can then take successful elements learned from both situations and apply them to your new employee or business partner.
But if you haven’t ever had an online, long-distance relationship, then let me help you out. I’ve been a part of both, so I can definitely give you advice on what NOT to do. But let’s focus on the positive.
On-line and long-distance relationships can be extremely stressful. So, you have to understand what your partner needs to ensure they feel safe and secure in their new role.
Here are my top 8 suggestions for building a virtual relationship:
- More meetings, phone calls, or emails than normal—establishing good communication and rapport is key.
- Be accessible. I’m looking at you millennials and Gen Z. Pick up the phone!
- Ensure you are actively participating or engaged when you are on a zoom meeting or phone call. If you’re distracted, you’ll lose credibility.
- Be yourself. I know it’s easier to fake it when you have short amounts of time face-to-face, but you’ll only be shooting yourself in the foot once you do meet.
- Take time to chit chat. Schedule the meetings longer if needed, but it helps to build trust.
- Try to have a little fun. I know these are business relationships, but if you can show the human side to your partners, it will pay back in spades.
- Make sure to shower, have good lighting, and turn on the camera (appearances do matter!)
- Find some remote teambuilding exercises (check these out)—who says you can’t bond over a broadband connection, booze, and trivia?
Any relationship, whether it’s personal or business, is built on a foundation of trust and transparency. It’s these things, despite the distance and location, that are still critical for
a successful connection.
I have learned that over-communication in these times can never hurt. With my new boss, it was her setting up weekly one-on-one meetings vs. the normal bi-weekly meeting. Attending the group happy hour on Fridays to get to know everyone more personally also helped. She even set-up an hour skip-level meeting just to get to know some of her team.
From my perspective, these things have helped her become successful in joining our group. But if you don’t want to take my advice, then check out these articles:
Harvard Business Review – Making Virtual Teams Work: Ten Basic Principles