Project Management

Walking the Talk

John Sullivan

John Sullivan is a working project manager who writes and speaks on project and career issues.

During my first job, my manager sat our team down and told us that we would need to work overtime to meet our deadline, and that meant working through lunch that day. We left the pep talk and returned to our desks while our manager and his assistant walked out for lunch.

Inconsistent behavior--acting differently from what is being communicated--is one of the quickest ways for a leader to lose trust. In a 1997 survey by Manchester Consulting, most of the executives polled said it took an average of seven months for employees to build their trust in a leader, but less than half that time for them to lose it.

"Trust is built by a succession of behaviors, not just words," says John Mariotti, a management consultant with Shape Shifters and a former manufacturing CEO. "The old cliche 'walk the talk' is a good one. Behaviors speak much more loudly than words--and these are what build trust."

The prerequisite for trust is honesty, but honest intentions may not be enough when you don't know what is expected of you. The challenge is to find out what your bosses really want. Building trust requires a manager to first have a thorough understanding of senior management's expectations as well as the company's objectives and mission. Mariotti says you can start building trust with your team "by leveling with them and telling them as much as you are sure of and by asking them to work with …

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"I would never die for my beliefs, cause I might be wrong."

- Bertrand Russell