Building Trust. – I think most people would agree that trust is a pivotal component in building any relationship. Specific to project management, building trust is a critical interpersonal skill that can aid in effectively resolving conflict, allows you to better facilitate getting your stakeholders to overcome their resistance to change, and can lead to significant support of your project.
Trust with stakeholders
Building trust with your stakeholders (i.e. clients, customers, executive sponsor) is essential to establishing positive relationships in order to keep your stakeholders engaged. Trust is also important because you need some of your stakeholders to be your supporters throughout the project. It is a gratifying feeling when I hear later that a stakeholder stuck their neck out for the goals of the project even when I was not in the room.
Trust with project team members
Everyone knows the acronym for team, right? Together Everyone Accomplishes More. That is so true, but in order for that to happen, there needs to be trust. There is a tendency in most of us to hold on to everything and not relinquish control. Letting go requires trust. And trust is a two-way street. To gain trust, we need confidence in the abilities of those we are working with us. As project managers we need to trust our team members to do their jobs; in turn we need to establish trust for our team members to come to us about anything on the project—good or bad.
Trust when it comes to bad news
Did you know that sharing bad news is just as critical to building trust with your stakeholders and teams? I think most of us can agree that there is the inclination to want to keep bad news to ourselves. Maybe wait it out. Why overblow things, right? Perhaps it will be a moot point in time. However, what I’ve learned through trial and error is that providing bad news is just as important when it comes to building trust. When I share with my sponsor, for example, that there is an issue, they have an opportunity to react. By not sharing the information in a timely manner, I take away their option to make a decision. I’m not proud of the fact, but early in my career I have deprived my stakeholders the opportunity to make a decision on a project. And I lost their trust. Never again. That was a rookie mistake.
Tips for building trust with your stakeholders and teams
Trust takes time to gain and is invaluable because once it’s lost it is extremely difficult to regain. Below are some practical tips (but not exhaustive list) that have been helpful for me in building trust with my stakeholders and my teams. I also compared this list to the findings of some additional resources that are footnoted at the end of this article:
Be authentic: If you are your true self, your stakeholders will recognize it and respect it.
Own up to your mistakes: Honesty and transparency are among the cornerstones of building trust.
Be curious: When you realize that it is more important to learn about the stakeholder and their needs than your own agenda, you can start to build trust.
Be interested in them and their needs, and you will see the resistance to change diminish.
Build rapport: When collaborating with stakeholders and project teams, it is important to understand who you are working with so that you can break down any barriers you might encounter.
Foster open and clear communication: The biggest trust breakdown occurs in teams when there is lack of clear communication. Keeping communication open lays all of the cards on the table so that everyone in the team is fully aware of what is going on at all times. This keeps trust high, even when you don’t agree on something.
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Resources:“Building trust inside your team.” Mind Tools. https://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/building-trust-team.htm
James, Geoffrey. “How to build customer trust: 9 rules.” Inc. http://www.inc.com/geoffrey-james/how-to-build-customer-trust-9-rules.html
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