Enterprise project teams simply can’t function without a high level of trust. From senior stakeholders to the least experienced team members, everyone needs to feel confident that they can rely on their teammates to keep the best interests of the project (and each other) in mind.
Without active efforts by the project manager, it’s easy for trust to break down during difficult periods. Team members often start to worry about how a potential project failure might affect their own careers, and employees in this situation may start looking for ways to protect their own interests, even if it means placing the project at greater risk.
Fortunately, if the project manager has built a strong foundation of trust, the team should be able to hold together and overcome even the most challenging obstacles along the way. Here’s a look at four essential components of developing trust within a project team.
Leadership by Example
Project team members generally interact more often with each other than with the project manager, but the project manager still sets the tone for interactions across the entire team. From the kickoff meeting to the final wrap-up, a project manager should try to exemplify the qualities he or she wants to see from the team: honesty, dedication and a willingness to go the extra mile. If team members are unfamiliar with each other or are embarking on a particularly challenging project, consider including a few trust or team building exercises in your initial meetings to help everyone feel more at ease.
As is the case with almost everything else in project management, trust depends on clear, consistent communication. As a project manager, make sure that team members have multiple ways of contacting each other, and that everyone understands each other’s roles and responsibilities. Keep in mind that it’s important to find a balance between communication and productivity, so try not to schedule more meetings than are necessary to keep the team engaged.
Collaboration is, of course, related to communication, but it deserves to be treated as an entirely separate consideration. Encourage team members not only to share information about what they’re working on, but to ask for help and input on new or difficult tasks. Online collaboration tools like Clarizen make it easy for employees to reach out to each other in a quick and efficient manner, no matter where they are located.
As a project manager, one of your first responsibilities is to break a project into its component tasks and assign each task to a team member. It can be tempting to hand most of the work to your highest-performing employees, but this strategy often backfires, leaving some team members overworked and others bored and disengaged. Try to distribute project assignments as equitably as possible, and remind team members to collaborate with each other when they need a bit of extra help.