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?