Building Relationships in Virtual Business

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People need to belong; it’s hardwired into the human brain. When we’re unable to engage others, to find our tribe, we lose more than just conversation, we lose ourselves. Arguably, we lose our reason for contributing and working. Relationships are the reason for, not the byproduct of, engagement at every level including professional.

Famed researcher, professor, and storyteller, Brene Brown Ph.D., describes relationship building as, “[the] purpose and meaning to our lives, and without it there is suffering.” With five #1 bestselling books and millions of followers, Dr. Brown discusses what some consider a universal truism. It would seem as though this work is a highly valued skill, but do people thoughtfully work at building relationships? Specifically, those involving work associates?  Generally speaking, many don’t, can’t, or don’t intentionally plan for it.

Vulnerability aside, relationship building is becoming increasingly complex due to the remote nature of our interactions. We have “friends” on social platforms, often we stay connected to our families through video technology, and many people work in a virtual environment. Arguably, keeping relationships with friends and family “warm” is easier because there is a level of expectation regarding give and take. Most people (though not all) engage with their “tribe” simply because it’s enjoyable – a sense of mutual satisfaction. Work relationships, however, are more complex and require a different type of nurturing in order to produce strong bonds and allow for continued growth.

Virtual assistants and remote workers do not need to be at a disadvantage when it comes to relationship development, leadership or connectedness. Because these professionals are not physically present does not mean they are any less engaged, nor does it mean that relationships are any less important. These team members (and you) benefit when thoughtful communication and effort are leveraged, and personal development can be the result for everyone involved.

In a recent article, Co-Director at the Consortium for Research on Emotional Intelligence in Organizations, Daniel Goleman, Ph.D., discussed servant leadership and humility. In the article he states, “Leaders set the emotional tone for their organizations. And this in turn has consequence for how well organizational goals are met.” This position underscores not only that leaders model optimal relationships, but also that by building relationships that work well for both parties, business goals are more effectively met.

For leaders who work with remote colleagues, relationship building is critical to the health and success of the team. For example, relationships are based on communication, and an important form of communication is praise. Knowing when, how, and how often to praise is a key component to building productive, satisfying work relationships and it is exponentially important to provide this encouragement to those who do not benefit from visual cues and body language. Leaders who plan for regular, positive, and sincere interaction stimulate their remote teams in ways that encourage vulnerability, which in turn builds creativity and eventually trust that the work performed is valued.

Every member of a team, virtual or otherwise, needs to experience a sense of belonging and purpose. Relationship building is a step-by-step process that creates belonging and it instructs people how best to fulfill their purpose. This is a strategy that mirrors itself both up and down the management ladder – leaders and staff inform each other by being open to the needs of the other and working to match these needs.

Relationship building requires emotional intelligence, empathy, and encouragement. These three soft-skills are fundamental components of good communication, of which virtual work requires significant amounts. It goes without saying that the best teams (virtual or otherwise) benefit from clear communication plans, and one of the byproducts of clear communication is the opportunity to collaborate. The takeaway is this; build better teams by giving people what they instinctively need, relationships inspired by thoughtful, frequent, and sincere communication.


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About Lizabeth Wesely-Casella

Lizabeth Wesely-Casella is an internal communications corporate trainer and process improvement specialist. Her work has contributed to national health program restructuring, and she has helped businesses worldwide increase efficiency while improving staff experience. Lizabeth is an entertaining and informative speaker who shares actionable information with her audiences. To book Lizabeth for your event or podcast, visit her Speaking page.

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