Technology and the global mindset are prompting more and more companies to increase their reach into new cities, markets and countries. Whether because of an expansion strategy, merger/acquisition opportunity, or some other innovative marketing concept, long-distance relationships are becoming the norm.
Being dropped into a leadership role where the team is scattered across different time zones can be difficult enough; when you add geographic disparities and culture, it can be quite overwhelming. The key to success is focusing less on results and more on relationships.
- Do your homework. Whether it’s a colleague in a different country or a team spread across a continent, technology (e.g. LinkedIn) offers a number of options to gain more insight into their background, competencies and interests. This is a quick and easy way to get a head start on relationship-building, no matter where the other person is located.
- Expand context. Even though business is the launch pad for your relationship, it’s not enough. Exploring and expanding areas that you both have in common and finding areas of complementary interest will always accelerate the relationship process. This is even more important because of the lack of a face-to-face interaction.
- Balance communication frequency. Early on in a relationship, more communication is better. Once the relationship stabilizes, it can be sustained with less frequent contact. Take charge of the communication process by making sure that every interaction includes a next-contact component. It’s your primary measure of relationship growth.
- Humanize communication. Long-distance communication is often technology-based, which can be curt, cold and over-structured. Learn to craft messages that reflect emotional content. Take the time to incorporate a personal perspective. Review your email or text message to ensure the other person feels a personal connection.
- Emphasize communication quality. When it comes to a long-distance relationship, the quality of your conversation will determine the trust level. Wherever possible, try to expand electronic communication by adding other options (e.g. phone, Skype) that allows you replicate the live interaction experience. Doing so will exponentially drive communication quality and have a positive impact on trust.
- Over-deliver. In a business-focused long-distance relationship, delivering on your commitments and obligations is the main way to earn trust. The lack of human contact needs to be counter-balanced with a strong sense of professional competency. Professional trust is the precursor to personal trust in a long-distance relationship.
- Contribute. Long-distance relationships require more time, investment and energy. Itâ€™s easy and convenient to simply focus on getting the job done and moving on. But this unique environment can open doors to new experiences and opportunities. Why not embrace this brave new world and seek to contribute the lives of those you connect with?