This paper was first published in the site. Its revision was presented for publication December 9 2018.
Published here February 2019

Introduction | 1. Building Trust Within Your Team 
2. Engaging Your Stakeholders to Get Them What They Really Need
3. Making Project Risk Management an Organic Exercise
4. Understanding the Environment | 5. Applying LEAN Principles | Understanding the Basics

1. Building Trust Within Your Team

Figure 1
Figure 1

Trust is an important aspect of every team. It is frequently talked and written about, but rarely seen in action when it comes to running a project. The importance of trust in the project management process has even been recognized by a variety of different Project Management organizations.

The International Project Management Association has recently included sections covering trust in their ICB4 certification[1] that is the global standard for individual competencies in project, programme and portfolio management. Similarly, Scrum's Three Pillars of Empiricism[2] have long been based on the idea that trust is one of the three most important factors to uphold the empirical project control. The same trend of building trust is present in LEAN and other traditional project management methodologies. If this has been such a pressing topic for so long, what are the main blockers preventing PMs from establishing real trust within their teams?

One of the most recurring answers to this question is "blame culture." A key in achieving trust culture is migrating away from this culture and instead shifting every mistake to a learning opportunity. In order to make this a reality, PMs should facilitate the right environment of transparency and comfort within their teams, since most people perform much better in the environment where team members are able to express themselves and make mistakes.

A Top PM teaches their team these principles by example by living alongside them, encouraging to share their mistakes, and turning them into examples for learning. Top PMs realize that showing humility and vulnerability is a sign of strength. Especially when it comes to admitting to your own mistakes, it's often true that people tend to become defensive or shift blame. Explaining that you made a mistake, and why, can make you feel vulnerable. However, if you openly admit and analyze these mistakes, this habit will help others to avoid it in the future. That will help everyone to build trust and open up about their slip-ups.

For example if you overpromise a key stakeholder to finish a milestone earlier than is possible, essentially because of your lack of technical depth in that subject, it would be ok to admit your mistake to your team. Letting them know you misestimated things rather than blaming them for not delivering the technology as fast as you wanted would create a more positive atmosphere. This can inspire others to open up and build stronger connections with you and their teammates.

Understand your team members: their capabilities, fears, frustrations, what they like or don't like, and how they interact with other people. When team members feel that they are valued, they will deliver value more easily. Find ways to motivate your team with the task at hand instead of forcefully pushing them towards your objectives. To do so, clearly outline what success looks like for the project and project team roles and responsibilities, but then let them be experts in their fields.

Expect your team members to tell you what needs to be done. Listen to them, decentralize decision making to empower your team, but be prepared for making hard decisions when necessary. After all, your team is there for you to engage with. Too many PMs make mistakes of diving straight into writing tasks and taking too much of that responsibility to themselves. This sometimes happens due to the lack of trust and understanding within those teams. When you have your team's trust make sure they get involved in scoping out work, writing users stories and in general giving you advice on the matters they feel are important.

Top PMs realize that their team is their best asset, and will take each opportunity to build strong relationships with them. Be negotiator and facilitator, but before everything, be one with the team. They need to feel as though you are working with them and not for someone above. This is a precursor to some of the more technical tips in this article, as, without this trust, your project will likely run into a series of problems.

Key Takeaway: "It's ok to show that everyone makes mistakes. Share your mistakes when you make them, show your team you are on their side, and make trust within your team a priority."

Introduction  Introduction

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