A lot of the time, Project managers don’t have the project team working directly for them. That means that we have to find alternative ways to involve the team, motivate them, and lead them towards the end of the project.
They have to trust that we are taking them somewhere good, and that we know what we’re doing. We have to trust that they will put forward their best efforts, deliver what they say they will and not inflate their estimates when asked.
But what exactly is trust? In his recent book, The Language of Leaders, Kevin Murray explains that there are three dimensions of trust – three different types of trust that you will use or demonstrate in different situations.
I Trust Your Judgement
Trust of judgement is what project managers hope project teams have. It’s about recognizing someone’s experience in a situation. When project team members look to the project manager for help with the process of resolving issues or fixing resource conflicts, it’s because they trust the project manager’s judgement. Equally, project managers hope their team members have particular insight into the work required to do their tasks.
This is often demonstrated by the process of asking and answering questions. Is the team member giving their honest and considered opinion about the project? If they are, you are more able to trust their judgement. However, someone can give you their honest and considered opinion and still be wrong. In this case, you can also look at their track record: when I’ve asked this person about something before, how often were they right about the project?
In short, the judgement dimension demonstrates that there is trust on both sides that the other person really does know what they are doing. If this trust is broken, people become frustrated, disappointed or angry. That’s not a good situation for the project team to be in.
I Trust Your Motives
Trusting someone’s motives is very different from trusting whether they have good judgement. A project manager should create an environment where all the team members believe that the project manager will look out for their best interests. Team members will soon spot the project manager who takes on a difficult project for personal glory, or who uses a project to advance their own career to the detriment of others.
This dimension also covers companies, so projects involving end user customers can take this into account for communication and risk planning. Do consumers trust the company to act with integrity and put customer service above profits?
If this trust is broken it can be hard to win it back. It’s a much more emotional break than trust of judgement: project team members can feel betrayed, and that is very difficult to overcome.
I Trust You Will Deliver
Finally, there is trust based on experience. Will you deliver? This is particularly important for project managers, as having a reputation for being able to complete or turnaround projects is a distinct advantage for career building. Ten Six has a lot of repeat business for this reason: our clients trust us to get the job done.
This can also be based on perception, or recommendation from someone else. For example, you may have no personal experience of shopping at a particular store, but if your friend tells you that they have a great returns policy, you expect them to exchange your goods without a fuss if you need to take something back.
Of all the dimensions of trust, this is the easiest to build up and the hardest to lose. If you build up a great record of delivery with your project team, you will find that people forgive a mistake here and there. Just as you’d forgive your favorite restaurant for bad service one evening, people will cut you some slack if you have a track record of always doing what you say you will.
Trust helps projects get done. You can have the slickest PMO, the best enterprise project management software and the most experienced project manager, but if there is no trust in the team, the project will struggle. The project team will be demotivated and the project may even get cancelled.
“If you are trusted, you can bring products to market faster, more cheaply than your competitors,” writes Murray. “You can bring about change and deliver public services more effective and with greater cooperation and even collaboration.”
Trust makes our lives as project professionals easier. Trust me, I know it does!