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Trust based project leadership

  • Posted On: 11th June 2013
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“To be trusted is a greater compliment than being loved.” — George McDonald

As agile organisations adopt a ‘projectised’ approach to mitigate damage from the carnage of global financial markets, more work is being done on a project basis where teams come together to create or develop a product or service and then move on. In such circumstances, it is increasingly important to get teams up to speed rapidly and develop a circle of trust. This involves having team members work from a common frame of reference that includes everything from ensuring individuals understand their roles and responsibilities to understanding how decisions will be made and acted on. At the same time, it must be done in an environment where a sense of trust is developed. While it may sound easy, more projects fail because of a lack of understanding between team members than a lack of talent.

According to the Project Management Institute’s Project Management Book of Knowledge (PMBOK®), communication is often cited as the main challenge in getting people to work together. The person giving directions usually has a clear understanding in his or her mind what they want. The person receiving the information, for a number of reasons, may not understand what is expected of them. The individual receiving the communication for fear of appearing foolish will not ask for clarification. What is at the heart of the matter is an individual’s dignity. During these tougher economic times when everyone is striving to hold on to their jobs, team members feel if they ask questions or say they do not know, it will reflect poorly on them.

These perceptions and lack of trust come about as a result of a number of cultural issues that may develop in stale organisations. Individuals want to be seen as competent and having the ability to do a good job. They do not want that image hurt, particularly during slower economic periods.  Those who do risk asking questions and asking for clarification or help may be seen as weak. Even worse they may be humiliated for showing they do not know. In this type of environment, individuals having questions and needing help will not look to others. They will go along and hope for the best. Survival is the goal when Wall Street bleeds red. These cultures are based on not making a mistake versus those of more progressive organisations that want to do the best job possible.

The global economy is slipping into a recession. Actually, the global economy is in a recession. At such times in organisations where individuals have relationships based on trust and can openly ask questions, collaboration and effectiveness are greatly increased. This sustains productivity and morale by having a greater sense of belonging.

When your team members have confidence that the person they are working with has his or her best interests in mind, they have less fear of negative consequences. They are open to risking more in the relationship and attempting more innovative approaches.

Building trust starts with individuals having a common understanding of what the organisation is trying to accomplish and their role in it. Understanding what motivates others sets the stage for mutually beneficial relationships.

Next time you start a project take the time to:

  • Clarify the goal of the project so everyone knows what it is
  • Specify how success will be measured in terms of deadlines and what the measures of success are
  • Identify everyone’s strengths and define everyone’s role in the project
  • With the group determine how best to communicate information to the team
  • Specify how decisions will be made
  • Develop a circle of trust
It is time to face the challenge of this deep and vicious bear market. While everyone wants to get to work on a project showing what they can do as individuals, it helps to take some time up front to build relationships and set the tone for not only what, but how things will be done in an environment of trust.

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