The Project Management Application of Trust
“I tell you things I don’t tell anyone else, and I’m not even sure why,” said the QA Director.
“I hear that a lot,” said the Project Manager. “I appreciate your confidence.”
Has this happened to you? Do people come to you and say what’s on their mind? Do they let you know the real issues they are facing without trying to cover it with a lot of smoke? If so, take it as a compliment. It’s a rare and great position to be in to elicit this kind of respect, credibility, and confidence. This enviable position can be summed up in one word…trust.
Why Trust is Vital in Project Management
Trust is an absolutely vital part of project management. The project management application of trust is something that takes conscious effort to nurture and grow with your professional relationships. Why is it so important? Below are a few reasons:
- People Do Business with People they Trust: This is anage-old truism. You are not going to do business with somebody that you don’t like or trust. The reverse is true as well. You will do business with someone you like and trust.This principle applies whether it’s an internal colleague at your company, or a potential client. People must have confidence that you will deliver on your commitments.Recently, I experienced the power of trust in a relationship. I needed to outsource some IT work for our company. It wasn’t a complicated job, but I wanted it to be done right. I knew exactly who to hire—someone I had known for a number of years. I liked their style, knew what they had done for others, and had complete trust in what they would do for me.
There was only one catch: Their company policy required up front payment; undoubtedly a result of having been burned multiple times in the past.
It goes against every fiber of my being to pay for work up front, but in this case it didn’t seem to matter. I knew the reason for the policy and that they would do the work. It was this high level of trust that enabled them to get my business…and do an outstanding job, by the way.
That’s the type of project management application of trust you need to apply in your relationships. A high level of trust will allow you to move seemingly unmovable mountains.
- Trust Bridges the Gap Between Now and Later: How many times have you asked someone to trust you? It may be an individual concerned about their future with the company. Or, it may be an entire team uncertain of the future of the project they have been assigned. You may have a vision of the future that they do not.Bridging that gap is another area where the project management application of trust can come into play. You need people to have enough confidence and trust in you that they can bridge the gap between current and future circumstances.Your goal as a project manager is to have your team follow you wherever you go. They may not totally understand the direction you are taking, and may even question it. But, they will ultimately follow even if they are not quite sure where you are going.
Because you have never steered them wrong before. More importantly, they know you have their best interest at heart. You would never ask someone to put themselves in harm’s way and your team knows this about you.
- Gives You a Sense of Pride: Having this project management application of trust across your team also gives you a sense of pride. It’s a good feeling to look in the mirror and know that you make the right, albeit tough, decisions that are for the greater good of everyone.Actions speak louder than words and your team will pick up on your ability to make trustworthy decisions no matter how big or how small they may be. Trust breeds loyalty within the team and engenders respect for you.
Being trusted is one of the most valuable attributes you can have as a project manager, so do not take it for granted.
The Opposite of Trust is Disaster
The opposites of trust are disbelief, distrust, and mistrust – any of which ultimately results in disaster for both the project you are working on and your career in project management. Here are some symptoms of a low trust environment:
- Everyone Watches Their Back: If people don’t trust you as a project manager they are going to be on guard. They’ll watch their back and make sure you’re not coming at them in some unexpected way.They may have been thrown under the bus by you in the past and vowed to never let it happen again. It doesn’t matter what type of project management application you have in place, there is nothing you can do that will allow them to trust you.
- It’s Hard to Get Anything Done: People are so busy watching their back it’s hard for them to get anything done. They consume valuable time trying to figure out what angle you are going to come from next, or how you’ll pull the rug out from underneath them.The only way you’ll get something done is by constantly pushing or threatening.
- Your Reputation Precedes, and Hurts You: People in an organization talk. If you have a low level of trust amongst your team, they will spread the word, and even if you are assigned to another project and team, you will encounter the same problems.When good people have been burned too many times they’ll treat you professionally, but give you no more than you specifically request.
How to Gain Trust
If you are struggling with the project management application of trust with your team, try the following:
- Do What You Say You Will Do: There’s a little thing called honoring a promise that means a lot to people. You should consider your words to be promises. If you say you’re going to do something, make sure you do it…no matter how big or small. This breeds trust in people.
- Never Betray a Confidence: When someone comes to you and opens up or shares a confidence, never betray their trust. They don’t want to hear their business spread all over the break room or at the company party. They’ll quickly trace the gossip trail back to you and it will set you back light years in the trust department.
- Build Relationships where You Trust in Others: This falls into the category of what goes around, comes around. You need to have a commensurate level of trust in others that you want them to have in you. This means sharing things you’ve probably not told anyone else before. Open up with others, trust they can keep your confidence, and wait for them to return that same level of trust.
The project management application of trust is vital in order for your projects to succeed. Never take this trust for granted. Guard and protect the trust that people have put in you and you will have a prosperous and peaceful career in project management.
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