“The best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them” – Ernest Hemingway
A lot of Project Managers and Sponsors underestimate the value that trust has in a project and within an organisation. In quite a few cultures it’s expected that there is respect for the position and this will lead the way for trust to develop and is demanded from the outset. I’d offer an alternative view on this. I’d challenge you to think of trust that needs to be earned and is not a given right as a Project Manager.
What can trust do for you?
Being able to trust who you are working with and have them trust you will bring a lot of rewards not only to the running of your project but your enjoyment of your work overall. If you’re in an environment where you can trust no one and feel constantly under attack, you will not perform at your best or you’ll make mistakes where it was not needed.
Better Team Engagement
When I do a roundtable during my weekly update meetings, it’s important for me to see how the team are doing and that they are positively engaged with the project and me as their Project Manager. If a team isn’t engaged and doesn’t want to work on your project, you may find that the results that they are delivering are not top notch.
Quicker response times in the event of a crisis/issue
I have been saved many times by my project team who have gone above and beyond when I needed them. From working over weekends to working late to make sure that the project remained on-track when a major incident occurred was really appreciated by me.
A successful project
I think trust can be really underestimated when it comes to the success of a project. A successful project will come as a by-product of a team that has trust with each other and to the Project organisation.
How can I build trust in my team?
Let’s use the scenario that you’re new to the organisation and your team have never met you and have no relationship with you at all. What can you do?
Provide yourself with the accountability of getting things done and then deliver them. This does not have to be world changing! It could be something like committing to getting a better monitor/communication in the project and then delivering this. In my kickoff meeting, I asked the team what would be some things that I could do to help them initially and it allowed me to show that I kept true to my word and showed them that I could be trusted. Notice, that I didn’t demand this trust at all.
Giving trust in the first place
This might seem completely obvious but unfortunately, it’s not. To ask for trust, you need to give it to your team. Trust them to deliver their tasks and empower them to deliver it. Showing that you have faith in them will start building this valuable relationship.
There are some cultures where this item will not be as successful. Empowering your team to do their jobs is one clear, easy winner that could really help you in the long run. To reiterate this; I had a conversation similar to the one below with a new team member:
EmThePM: OK, So I need to know your recommendation for how we’re going to proceed with this technical issue. What’s the best way to proceed?
Team Member: Well, I think X is the best way forward, in my opinion as it gives us greater leeway further down the line if we need to make any changes
EmThePM: Super, You’re the expert on this subject, so I’ll trust in your recommendation and knowledge. [Then following up and ensuring that the Team Member was credited for this recommendation in any meetings/documentation].
Being open to failure
It’s hard for anyone to fail but if your team know that it’s OK to fail as long as they tell you, work with you on resolving it (if needed) and look at the opportunities that might exist, things don’t have to be negative. I will often reiterate that I want to be told when things are going wrong, as much as when they are going right.
Being trustworthy and being an example of what trust looks like to you will enable and encourage your team to strive for better and strive for a more trusting environment overall. If you’re not open to being trusted or demand it with no evidence to back it up or are negative to those who try to give it to you, you’ll find that your project runs with more problems and greater difficulties.