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Professional Trust - The Cornerstone of Working Relationships

When approaching the next project, dealing with who is going to be a part of the project team and how everyone will interact and communicate can be more important than the actual project itself. I personally feel this way because of one word, TRUST. Without trust or building trust as you go along, your project will either struggle or fail if you don’t build trust with your team. To me, TRUST can come in many forms and as a project manager I want to build what I refer to as Professional Trust as a key fundamental to a successful project.

Taking a small step back, TRUST can be very personal. What is meant by that statement? Well, I look at it this way; in most cases within the workplace, you are thrust into a group that usually has been assembled by someone besides yourself. This is a new and different dynamic, especially if this is your first job. Think about it. The first immersion into trust you experienced was when you were a newborn and you trusted your parents to take care of you. This is blind trust. If you were fortunate enough, you proceeded to build what I refer to as Family Trust. Then somewhere along the lines of early development, you start your education and you develop what I refer to as Friendship Trust.

Friendship Trust would be that collective of people that are always there outside of family, normally relationships built as you grow up sharing common stories and early childhood and even teenage bonding. There are a few more types of TRUST I could share, but since we are here to discuss projects, let’s get to Professional Trust.

Once into the professional realm, you start working with different personalities and personal backgrounds. We begin to experience Diversity. People at this point can be introverted or extroverted, visual or audio learners. You name it, we are all different in some way form or fashion. If you are anything like me in mindset, I believe most everyone is there to work for the company by choice and those co-workers have good intentions (at least most of them). As a Project Manager, one of my overall goals is to build a team; a team that can trust one another. Since this is in the work environment, I refer to this type of bonding as Professional Trust. I am also not naïve and don’t ask my fellow employees or their other managers (project team members) for trust. Likewise, I don’t expect my immediate leadership team to ensure that employees trust their managers or senior leaders — or assume your leaders will trust each other. You don’t build trust that way.

Now, I may have your attention…building trust. I get asked this a lot. How do you build trust? Well, in my opinion it starts with you. That’s right. Trust, like respect, is earned and as the PM, it is all about believing that people have good intentions and allowing them to do their job. Tread with some caution. Giving too much leeway (too much autonomy) or too little (micromanaging), trust may never be obtained, or at best, it will be very nimble. Trust is not a right; it is something you illustrate and illustrate and illustrate.

Building TRUST…First, always expect and deliver the truth. Be honest and sincere. If there is a problem or issue, acknowledge what is happening or happened and if the problem is the result of your own behaviors, reactions, tendencies, weaknesses, habits or decisions, accept responsibility. Be Accountable as the Project Manager! If you are building trust with a team, always show up on time, prepared, knowledgeable, and visibly ready to work. Admit when you don’t know the answer and communicate that you will either find the answer or will need help in finding that answer. Follow through with the commitments you make. Be human and show you are human. We make mistakes; accept them and illustrate this is another avenue to opportunity and building trust. Actively listen. Let others speak and expect them to speak. Repeat what they have said to ensure you listened and heard right. Your team needs to hold YOU accountable. Greet people and thank people. There is more we could list and talk about to ensure we gain Professional Trust. Just doing the one’s listed will either start you on the path to building and creating a professional level of trust.

Everyone on your team has a part and a role to play. Look at it as an orchestra or band that needs to work together to be in complete harmony. It is essential to believe that your teammates are doing their part to ensure ideal harmonization. You know that a wrong note or tune can ruin everything, yet you trust their commitment. Strong teams look out for things adversely affecting their project “together” and help each other, instead of hiding information from each other or blaming others for failure. This is only possible when you have displayed trust to your team that you start to build the professional trust needed to work effectively as a team and deliver awesome results.

Ah…let’s not forget about the bottom line though…results. As a PM, I care about how those results are obtained. Everyone will want to contribute. The lack of this trust can erode the time and energy required to consider the big picture as it leads to suspicion even about small things that should be otherwise acceptable. Once you have established trust then the little things that could detour a project or team can be suspended. If the desired results are delivered and the team has responded in a manner that deserves recognition make sure as the PM that happens. The PM may not always be the one to deliver rewards, but it is the PM’s job to make sure feedback is provided to people like the Project Sponsor who can make rewards a reality. Just another way of building trust with those teammates because you never know who will be assigned to your next project. It sounds simple and it can be if you show empathy and compassion to team and build Professional Trust. Who knows…this could truly carryover to some of the best relationships you can build and return amazing rewards. Just like those childhood friends or college buddies, you can really have something special at work if you build trust.

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