"Digital Trust": How Team Leaders View Trust in Global Virtual Teams
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Global virtual teams may be a new phenomenon to many people, but they are quickly becoming commonplace within companies and organisations (Brahm & Kunze, 2012). With this increase in the use of global virtual teams it is important that educational institutions prepare students for work within global virtual teams by facilitating projects where participation in global virtual teams occurs (Picherit-Duthler, 2012). Trust is a key component of global virtual teams and has been a prominent focus of research (Jaakson, Reino, & McClenaghan, 2019). However, the literature to date has not specifically looked at how global virtual team leadership understands and uses trust in interactions with team members. This study is based on interviews with team leaders who participated in the annual international problem-based learning project Globcom (Gordon, 2017) and sought their perceptions of how trust operates within a global virtual team. The eight student team leaders were asked about their expectations of working in a global virtual team, before being asked about their experience of trust within a global virtual team, and finally they were asked for their reflections on how they would have developed trust in their team. The results showed that in a global virtual team the leaders saw the development of trust as the responsibility of the team leader. Further, the leaders believed that trust is important in the development of the team and is connected the action of an individual team member. The results also stressed that trust within a global virtual team changes over time and is dependent on an individual’s involvement. Therefore, relationships were built with those individuals who were more active because the leader had greater trust in them. Upon reflection, team leaders highlighted the importance of getting to know team members better and earlier. The leaders believed this would have led to improved delegation and greater trust development. These results are significant as they emphasise how team leaders view their team members, and how they link trust to an individual’s actions. These results also draw attention to the importance for team leaders of learning who individual team members are as this leads to early delegation and develops trust within the team. This study is significant for anyone involved in global virtual teams in their organisation. The study underlines key aspects of global virtual teams that are necessary to be aware of, whether one is leading a global virtual team, participating in a global virtual team or managing a global virtual team. It is also significant for pedagogical projects and online learning.