Trust: The Secret Ingredient to Project Success

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By Marian Haus, PMP

Trust is defined as a “firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability or strength of someone or something.”

Isn’t that what we all want in our professional and private lives?

Imagine a project with little or no trust between the project manager, team members and stakeholders. In such an environment, communication is opaque and piecemeal, and what’s communicated to you depends on your position in the organization. Silos are built to protect individuals, positions and knowledge. As for assignments, they’re meticulously planned and controlled, and work is delegated and rigorously followed up on.

I could go on and on.

Without trust, companies won’t survive for long in today’s world of VUCA (volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity). Without trust, for example, how can you as a project manager quickly respond to constantly changing customer expectations and environmental conditions?

The absence of trust is at the basis of the pyramid of The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by business consultant and speaker Patrick Lencioni. According to this model, conflicts cannot be solved creatively without trust. The lack of trust erodes people’s commitment, engagement and accountability—and therefore makes it difficult to attain goals and results.

I believe the evolution of project management over the past two decades is due in large part to the way trust is now valued in projects and in business. It’s an enabler for individual and organizational success. People are more empowered than ever to work independently (i.e., with no micromanagement) and to collaborate in trustworthy environments.

Companies that understand this have trust as a core value of their corporate culture and part of their corporate DNA. Leaders, project managers and employees of these organizations are not struggling to gain the trust of their peers. They are benefitting from and supporting the implementation of cultural changes based on trust, openness and fair collaboration.

How can project managers lead by example and work to create a trustworthy project environment? Here are some tips:

  • Take time for giving and building trust, instead of expecting it unconditionally.
  • Treat yourself and others with respect. People will notice this—and follow suit.
  • Communicate clearly and openly, without a hidden agenda.
  • Be direct, fair and predictable.
  • Stay in front of your team and protect them when facing adversities. This will show them they can rely on you.
  • Delegate not only work and responsibility, but also accountability. This increases engagement and trust.
  • Stay behind your team and back it when mistakes occur. Tolerate and admit mistakes. This strengthens trust and promotes learning and innovation.
  • Empower your team with the right tools to increase collaboration and share knowledge. This will break silos and improve the work climate.
  • If possible, get the team collocated (i.e., located in the same physical space). This will increase direct interactions between individuals and keep people from hiding behind processes or tools. Ultimately this will increase the team’s efficiency.

By behaving in a trustworthy manner and leading by example, you’ll gain your team’s confidence. People will rely and count on you in any circumstance.

How do you drive trust in your projects and organization?


Posted by Marian Haus on: December 24, 2018 03:47 AM | Permalink

Comments (24)

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Good article to increase cohesive and power and success of project!!!

Excellent one.
Thanks for sharing !!

Thank you for sharing. The problem is: to trust in others you must trust in yourself first.

Mariam, nice set of tips
Trust comes from inside

Mariam, Good insights. Thanks for sharing

Thanks for insights. Good one

Thanks for the tips!

@Marian Great insights. Thanks for sharing.

Good Articles . Trust is very important to get success in anywhere. To have trust in others first you need to trust on yourself.This is the key point to build good team.
Thanks for sharing.

Great points, Marian. Great contribution to the community.

Excellent article Marian. Thank you for sharing.

Very interesting article with very good insights! :)

Since trust is the basis of great relationships, and project success is dependent on stakeholder relationships, I would say trust is at the top of any PM's tool kit.

If I may suggest . . .
Most of us grew up being told to give others trust until they let you down.
We cannot afford to run projects that way.

Based on work by others, I present trust as:
T = f (I, R, C)
where I, Integrity, R, Reliability, and C, Competence.

For each of these 3 variables (I, R, C), I suggest values of 1, 2, and 3, where 3 is the unquestionable highest level, 2, an acceptable level with backup, and 1, beginner, as applied to specific individuals on specific projects being considered for specific roles.

The working model to partially discern the level for our colleagues would find the work of Hersey-Blanchard Situational Leadership Theory  quite useful.

In order to move away from “Feel Good” trust to trust you can rely on, that transforms individual experts into an expert project team, we have to do more than

Trust-Building Glossary
Integrity . . .means that when someone asks you as question, and you quickly realize you do not know, you quickly say “That’s an interesting question. I don’t know. I will look into it and get back to you within 36 hours.”

Reliability . . . You had agreed to deliver a cost estimate to another department head by next Thursday at 11 a.m. You realize that you are more than likely not going to be able to do it as promised by the preceding Monday at 11 a.m.
That same Monday you go to the department head. You ask what you can do to still add value by, perhaps, reconfiguring the task.

Competence. . . . We tend to . . . silently . . .offer the benefit of the doubt to far too many technical and upper managerial engineers with “Blanket” competence assumptions based on tenure. For each function/discipline, develop a competence scale, say 1, 2, 3, such that for each project staffing is made that assures the right thing is done right the first time. For example, a “3” is a stand-alone expert in a specific skill. A “2” is reliable with oversight by a “3.” A “1” is entry-level skill that requires routine oversight by either a “2” or “3.”

This competency approach supports the firm’s ability to provide training and development that moves “1” up to “2,” and “2” to “3.”

Of course, I may be wrong!

Thank you for the great insight Marian!

In closing, Marian asked "How do you drive trust in your projects and organization?"

15 responses basically replied with acknowledgements that Marian provided great insights, tips, and reinforced the significance of trust in the management of projects.

And, if I may be so bold, I repeat Marian's closing challenge to all of us:

"How do you drive trust in your projects and organization?"

To answer the question, I drive trust in my projects by being trustworthy myself. I strive to keep my word, both personally and professionally. I try to listen actively, and to being open to differing viewpoints. When I make mistakes or wrong choices, I own up to it and try to make it right. An organization cannot be trustworthy unless and until the individuals who make up the organization are trustworthy.

Thanks for sharing the insights to building trust.
I think accountability - which entails increase in engagement and trust - is a constant challenge.

As a manager I give space to my team members. Let them decide and give them opportunities to try out things their way.They may be wrong in some cases, but so can you.
Help them in those cases and trust will start building.

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