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Tips for Building Trust

Trust is an invaluable asset for leaders. Trust doesn’t come with your position of leadership however, it must be earned. Earning trust is like building a savings account, there are things you can do, or behaviors you can exhibit, that will make a deposit to the account and acts or behavior that will make withdrawals. Like our savings account in the bank, the trust account has a purpose. Leaders need to draw on that trust account when they want their teams, or a member of the team, to perform a task exceptionally well or do something their job description doesn’t call for. An example of this is when we set "stretch” goals for people. Achieving those goals enables the leader to achieve a strategic goal and that’s what the account is there for. Here are 5 rules to follow that will help you build your account so you’ll have some currency to use when you set those stretch goals.

  1. Be a good communicator. This is essential if you want to be perceived as an honest leader. This doesn’t mean that you share all your knowledge with the team, or impart information that would violate confidentiality rules of your organization. It does mean that you do pass on the information that they feel is important to them, and tell them when an organizational rule prevents you from communicating and tell them why. Much of the information we have to communicate comes with a disclaimer because we’re not 100% certain of the information. We are tempted to keep this information to ourselves until we can be 100% certain of its accuracy and sometimes organizational policy will force us to do this and sometimes we do it to protect our referential authority (we don’t want to fear monger or disappoint). Don’t back away from delivering news that we’re not 100% sure of whether it’s good news or bad news. Deliver the news along with the source and your assessment of its accuracy. Deliver your information on time. Some information has a best before date and you need to be cognizant of this when determining the timing of your communication. Choose a place that is with your communication. Information that pertains to one person and is sensitive in nature should be delivered one on one. The exception to this rule is when the news can be celebrated by the entire team, for example when a team member has won an award.
  2. Manage your trust account. Building trust is done for a purpose; you build your trust and then use it to lead your team. Always be aware of how much is in that account and don’t let it become overdrawn. We add to our trust account when we are perceived to be truthful, honest, and good communicators. We withdraw from the account when we are perceived otherwise, or when we draw on the account to get our teams to perform above and beyond their roles.
  3. Honor your debts. Good leaders don’t achieve their success single-handed. They are helped along the way by team members who make exceptional contributions or coaches and mentors. Don’t forget these people once the initial relationship is over. Remember the people you owe part of your success to and actively seek to pay them back. The team member who helped you on a previous project may, or may not, seek you out for help. Provide that help if they do and seek out opportunities to help them when they don’t. Coaches and mentors are a different story. These will be people that understand that the best way you can repay that debt is to coach and mentor the next crop of leaders. That’s not to say you shouldn’t help them if they should need your help, but that won’t be your primary way of honoring your debt.
  4. Be an effective leader. Leadership and building trust are closely related. Building trust is one of things that every good leader does and the relationship works the other way as well. Leading your team to success will build your trust account. Don’t be afraid to spend your trust capital to achieve success. Some of the great leaders of our time have been extravagant spenders of their teams trust in order to achieve remarkable results. Think of General Patton; his military successes in Italy and later in France during WWII were achieved because he made extraordinary demands on his troops and they delivered. Asking for sacrifices and then delivering results will actually build your account, not deplete it. Asking for sacrifices and then failing to deliver results is a sure fire way of depleting your account.
  5. Reward the Innocent, Punish the Guilty. This rule refers to an old saying about how many projects conclude: "Reward the guilty and punish the innocent”. This may be an exaggeration but like most myths, it has some basis in fact. The fact is that too often we do reward those whose performance doesn’t merit it because it’s politically expedient to do so, or we reward them for taking part. Don’t fall into that trap. Correcting poor performance, including removing the poor performer, is never easy but must be done. The good performers on your team know who the poor performer is and not dealing with the performance issue will cause resentment among those whose trust you need to build. Dealing with the performance issue will add to your trust account. Dealing with the performance issue won’t always be a negative experience. Corrective actions like tool upgrades or training may be a positive experience if the cause of the poor performance is lack of proper tools or training.
The tips and tricks described in this article implement some of the best practices promoted by the PMI (Project Management Institute). These are taught in most PMP®courses and other PMP® exam preparation training products. If you haven't been certified as a PMP® (Project Management Professional) by the PMI and would like to learn more about certification, visit the three O Project Solutions website at: http://threeo.ca/pmpcertifications29.php. three O Project Solutions also offers a downloadable software based training tool that has prepared project managers around the world to pass their certification exams. For more information about this product, AceIt, visit the three O website at: http://threeo.ca/aceit-features-c1288.php