Trust is important in all relationships; professional and team relationships are no different. Trust is the underpinning of honest, open communication and transparency. Project managers are the primary communicator across the team, vendors, stakeholders, and leadership, making communication that can be trusted critical to project and program success.
The Importance of Trust in Project Management
Without trust, the team will not share proper status or ability to accomplish tasks, and it will be difficult to obtain the right information to ascertain where risk lies. Moreover, stakeholders will not be able to depend on the word of the project managers, which can affect project managers’ influence in guiding a project.
When the PMO (project management office) assigns a project or program to a project manager, and the project manager starts to engage, trust is not inherent with the team. Rather, it is earned over time with consistent trust-building actions.
Six Strategies for Establishing Trust
Trust doesn’t happen in a day, but using these best practices each day in each interaction with all parties will lead to a team culture based on open, honest, and transparent communication. Trust is a softer side of project management, but it is a critical one.
Establish relationships with your team
Relationships are built on communication beyond status updates. To establish trust with your team, implement the following:
- Stakeholder 1:1 Meetings: Schedule a monthly 15-minute touchpoint with your top three stakeholders to determine if their needs are met, if they have any concerns, or if they have any organizational insight that may be missed in larger group settings.
- Social Events: Make time outside of project-related meetings to engage about things outside of project status. Schedule ad hoc team lunches or virtual social events for team building with provided lunches. Team building activities that allow the team to get to know each other better can foster connections that deepen relationships. This is also a great way to establish trust and build relationships across various members of the team. Offering lunch is also a great way to increase attendance.
- Personal Conversations: Reach out to team members if you learn that they or a relative is ill. Authentic compassion builds trust. Congratulate them when a child graduates from school. Create an online chat thread about upcoming plans for the weekend. Use opportunities to get to know your team and allow them to get to know you. Connect!
Be transparent — Stakeholders need to trust your honesty
Bad news is not hard to share, but not sharing or omitting truths creates feelings of mistrust. Project managers are the bridge between the business sponsor and stakeholder. Paint an honest picture always, and you will become a trusted source of information. Sharing honest information is the only way to get the support the project truly needs.
Simply do what you promise, and do what is right, even if you didn’t promise or no one knows. Integrity is doing what is right, because it is right, regardless of whether anyone sees it. Mean what you say. Be honest. Stand with your team even in difficult times. Be a person that can be counted on. Project managers who can be counted on are trusted.
Gain supplemental subject knowledge
Competence breeds trust. Project managers are often very competent about project management tools and language, but going beyond project management can be helpful as well. Try to obtain some moderate level of knowledge about the work you are implementing.
There are countless opportunities: Join LinkedIn groups on the topic, or subscribe to a newsletter. Additionally, stay abreast on the latest project management topics and tools. The more competent you are on project management topics and subject-related matters, the more you will add to the discussion and be of greater benefit for your team.
Anticipate project needs
The more you understand the needs of the team and the sponsor/stakeholders, the better prepared you will be at anticipating their needs. The team and its stakeholders can be considered internal clients. The greatest thing that one can do to build trust with their client is to hear what they are saying in order to anticipate and meet their needs.
Gather information about sponsors to know what they like or what their pain points are. Also, determine who are the dissenters and champions for your project, and address their needs. Try to acquire information on what is in the work for them personally and speak to them from those perspectives.
Be diverse and inclusive
Be mindful to ensure diversity, equity, and inclusivity on your project team. This could range from simple inclusion like mindfulness about different holidays, being sensitive to using inclusive language, and the use of gender-appropriate pronouns. However, it may also include going deeper as an ally for members of your team.
Specifically, being an ally for a team member that may not get many opportunities to take on challenging roles and ensuring team members are getting the appropriate credit within the team, with the stakeholders, and with the organization.