Trust in the Workplace

Respect is one of those words and concepts that carries with it big ideas and expectations

Part 3:

Equally critical to creating and maintaining trust among project teams has to do with having respect for each other. That includes respect for the client organization…what they’re trying to accomplish, the steps that they must go through in their process and their challenges, and respect for what each team member brings with them to a project.

Respect is one of those words and concepts that carries with it big ideas and expectations. It happens that in my role as project manager, sometimes I’m the only one who may have worked with everyone on the team, and often the team members may not even know each other. And yes, in those cases there can be skepticism about the value of team members, what they can contribute and initial impressions of personality, knowledge and/or skill may need to be overcome. In building trust in these situations there are some things I’ve found that work well.

  • It’s important to allow each team member to share with me, and when appropriate, with the other team members, the experiences and ideas they have that they think are relevant to the project at hand. That doesn’t mean that at times discussions aren’t stopped because they are headed in the wrong direction, but even that can be done in a respectful manner that acknowledges the person offering the suggestions.
  • It’s important to be mindful of personal preferences and to accommodate those whenever possible. It may seem small, but being considerate of meeting times and locations, of restaurant choices/dietary restrictions of team members, and of family or other personal obligations can go a long way in building trust.
  • It’s important to understand the capabilities of people and to respect that they may need additional help in new areas OR that they may be a great team resource and can provide assistance in a particular area of expertise.

Creating and Maintaining Trust Among Project Teams

Part 2:

project-blog2It won’t come as a surprise that clear communication is vital to building relationships with project team members. But what does that mean? It encompasses a myriad of things when bringing people together to work on a project.

  • It’s not assuming that the members of the project team want to be communicated with in the same way that you like to receive or deliver information.  It’s important to find out each team member’s communication preferences, especially in this world of various communication devices and methods, and to be flexible enough, when possible, to accommodate those differences. And to trust that the information will flow when, and as, needed.
  • It’s anticipating client and internal team member needs and asking great questions with sincerity and without ulterior motives, then proactively engaging in dialogue that leads to meeting those needs or searching for alternative solutions that can be agreed upon.
  • It’s also about identifying and interpreting non-verbal cues. Doing a literature review will net varying statistics regarding percentages of non-verbal vs. verbal communication, but for the purposes of this discussion, that’s really not important. What’s important is that we know that non-verbal communication is a very significant part of communication, and we need to pay attention to and acknowledge what we observe…and act accordingly. It makes an impression when we notice the little things about others and helps to build the relationship.
  • Building trust through communication means deciding to communicate even when the message isn’t pleasant. I find that sometimes team members want to shield sharing a message that may be unpleasant or that there may be hesitancy to deal with something that is messy. In my experience, THIS NEVER WORKS! I have found that in the long run, hitting situations head on and dealing with them leads to trusting relationships — a lot better than pretending that a problem doesn’t exist. What a great way to build trust by acknowledging with the team that yes, what’s facing us is difficult/not what we expected/will take us some time and effort to figure out, but that we have the tools to do it and we’ll do it together.

Communication is important to building trust because it’s how we stay in the reality of the situation we’re working in – it’s how we gather information about how we’re doing and what we need to start, stop, or continue — as we work together throughout the project. It’s the way we course correct as, and when needed, and it’s one way each team member knows that they matter.

Creating and Maintaining Trust Among Project Teams

Part 1:

In our business, like most others, working effectively with project teams is critical to our success. Today’s constantly changing marketplace is forcing teams to evolve while demanding higher levels of productivity and efficiency.

The modern workforce is much more diverse now than it has been in years past, not just with ethnic or gender diversity, but with diverse work styles, diverse personal priorities, generational diversity, etc.

All of this is changing the nature of the project team and workplace dynamics. Today, we must frequently consider things like:

  • Resources external to a physical location as team members
  • Flexible schedules
  • Global time zones
  • Heavy work loads
  • Different work styles
  • A plethora of communication methods and technologies

Because there is so much being said about trust in the workplace, I thought I would weigh in on the importance of creating trust among these diverse project teams. It has been my pleasure to work with some very talented professionals throughout my career, and sometimes I wonder how and why I’ve been so lucky to have derived so much satisfaction from what I’ve chosen to do. I do understand that a good part of that is due to the people I have worked with, what we have been able to create, and the relationships that we have created while working together.

So when you think about it, how does it all work? How can these people with distinct characteristics/needs/backgrounds/values/technical know-how trust each other enough to work together to create success… however that is defined for a project?

Over the next several weeks, I plan to share a few specific ideas and experiences with you. See you next week…

The Necessity of Setting Expectations and Communicating Them to Team Members

Part 4:

I can’t write about trust and team development and managing teams without talking about the necessity of setting expectations and communicating them. Yes, it involves both… setting them and letting each team member know what those expectations are. Everyone needs to know what they are expected to do for each project.

Project team members often have many different talents and can serve in different roles depending on the project. It cannot be taken for granted that team members know what it is they should be doing and how they will be evaluated on their performance. It can seem disingenuous and trust may be violated if expectations aren’t communicated but consequences for performance follow…whatever that may be… deadlines not met, deliverables submitted that aren’t as expected, meetings/calls not attended because required participation wasn’t known. It is difficult to have a conversation about these things if expectations were never set. It is difficult, if not impossible, to foster trust when a person feels sabotaged or not adequately informed. Trust is established when team members know what to do and follow up can be counted on.

As I’ve been writing, and reviewing what I’ve written, it has become apparent to me that you can’t talk about trust without mentioning the valuable skill of listening. We all want to be heard and know that what we say is valued by others. Good listening skills:

  • Are a part of good communication skills.
  • Allow us to learn about others and to respect their experiences and points of view — whether the same or different than ours, and whether 100% relevant to the task at hand or not.
  • Help each team member to ascertain their responsibilities and expectations for the project and clarify anything that’s not clear about those BEFORE it becomes an issue impacting the success of the project.

It is in the project leader’s best interest to create an environment where listening is part of the team culture and expected.

Successful project teams don’t have to rely on team members that necessarily like each other, have the same interests or beliefs, or even share the same physical location. But as I have endeavored to outline in this series of blogs, there are some common elements that contribute to the trust that exists on a project team and the results that they are able to accomplish together.

Did you miss Blueline’s Building & Restoring Trust Webinar? Click here to view the recorded webinar.

Little Black Globs of Mistrust

With its headquarters located in Tampa, Florida, the people of Blueline Simulations have been casting their gaze to the water. Here, it is mostly rocky and not sandy, but the water is blue and warm. A drive across town is marked by sightings of pelicans, and sometimes even a few dolphins. You see a lot of fishing boats here in Tampa; the families who make their living from the sea are not some far-away abstraction. They’re right there on the side of the freeway with their lines in the water.

I haven’t seen any oil. At least, not yet.

I remember the early, bitter-sweet sense of relief that we all felt when the news reported that most of Florida coast would be spared from the rush of oil that was escaping into the gulf. That relief is gone, and today it is replaced with a dread that is creeping as surely as thick, black ooze.

Today in the morning paper, I saw a full-page ad from BP. The headline and copy in the ad struck a reassuring tone. The message was that the company would make things right, and would take full responsibility.

My wife looked over my shoulder. “How much do you think they paid for that ad?” she asked. I knew what she was going to say next, because the thought had crossed my mind, too: “Wouldn’t that money be better spent cleaning up the mess?”

As an organizational guy, I often find myself imagining how these kinds of public relations disasters look from within the organization. I am confident that the BP organization takes no joy in harming the environment, or the public’s trust. I wonder about the meetings that take place internally, the growing internal anxiety, as time and again, the organization’s well-intentioned public statements and actions are received in the worst possible ways: “Don’t they see how hard we’re trying?!”

When we talk about trust here at Blueline Simulations, we cast it in terms of behaviors. There are things you can do to build trust and to restore trust. There are also certain behaviors that will destroy it in a heartbeat. One of our partners in learning, Stephen M. R. Covey, has identified 13 behaviors of high-trust organizations, and they read like a really, really bad report card for BP.

Covey’s behaviors include talk straight, confront reality, and right wrongs.

Think about the statements you’ve heard company representatives make in the news and also the ways those statements have been mercilessly picked apart by pundits. Now play a little “Monday morning quarterback” and imagine how you would recast each of those press events. Think about the statement that Tony Hayward, CEO of BP, made: “The Gulf of Mexico is a very big ocean. The amount of volume of oil and dispersant we are putting into it is tiny in relation to the total water volume.”

If you were Tony’s “trust consultant,” what would you advise? In this case, what does it look like to talk straight, confront reality, right wrongs?

I know that the Tylenol scare of 1982 is one of the more overplayed business case studies, but doggone if those guys didn’t get it right. After seven people in the U.S. died from ingesting Tylenol, Johnson & Johnson alerted the nation to stop using Tylenol until they could determine the extent of the tampering. They recalled 31 million bottles, retailing at over $100 million. They offered to exchange capsules already sold for tablets which cost them millions more. They established relations with law enforcement officers on every level to help search for the person who laced the medication and to help prevent further tampering. When they reintroduced the product, it had new triple-seal, tamper resistant packaging. As a result of their actions, they turned what could have been a disaster into a victory in credibility and public trust.

J&J practiced accountability, confronted reality, talked straight. Yes, it was painful and yes it was expensive. (And remember that the crisis wasn’t even J&J’s fault.) To this day, that company enjoys a level of trust and credibility that others envy.

Again, imagine yourself as the trust consultant to BP. As you think about Tylenol’s response, what might Covey’s trust behavior of “practice accountability” look like? Winston Churchill said that it is fruitless to claim “we are doing our best.” You have got to succeed in doing what is necessary.

The opportunity exists today for BP — and for any company — to exercise behaviors that build trust at all levels of the organization. It requires resources and a fair amount of courage. But the rewards are great.

Today, trust and transparency are as important to corporate reputation as the quality of products and services. Attend Blueline’s Building & Restoring Trust Webinar. Click here to learn more.