Earning Trust in Project Management

Posted by in Project Management

Project management is people management. I know this might disappoint many people in the project management trade, but it’s true. Understanding people is essential to a successful project. Too often managers rely solely on their planning tools to get the job done. BaseCamp, OmniFocus, and Microsoft Project are all fine tools, but they will never understand what motivates your team, why Chris is a better choice for the R&D task than Tom. To ignore the human element is to set yourself up for failure. A project manager must also be an amateur psychologist and in order to do that he must first build trust with the team. Trust is defined as the reliance on the integrity of a person.

Winning that trust is one of the most important things a project manager can ever do with his team. A team member must have trust that their PM will keep their best interest in mind and not be careless with their time. This does not mean that they never give a teammate bad news. Quite the opposite, part of being a PM is often delivering bad news, such as a moved deadline that’s going to result in overtime or a change in scope that causes extra work. The funny thing is, most people don?t mind working extra hours if they know it’s not wasteful. If they trust their manager, they will know that the change must really be necessary.

Photo by Ryan McD

Photo by Ryan McD

Also, a PM must be able to inspire confidence in a project’s stakeholders. Any project manager is at their most effective when the client feels secure in the project leadership. In order to provide this trust, a project manager must convey and ability, but not arrogance. One of the best ways to gain the confidence of a client is to show a genuine interest in their business. Each client is different and the needs of a large insurance firm are different from that of a small retailer. It’s human nature to categorize and organize, but over-simplifying a client or project can often backfire. A good project manager adapts process and tools to meet the needs of the project. For example one client might prefer to use Basecamp for communications and documentation while another, less tech savvy client, might not understand the practical reasons for such a program. The best tool for the job is the one that your client will use.

Trust can mean the difference between a project’s success and failure. If a team does not trust its leadership, it can affect morale, quality of work, and general productivity. If a client does not trust the PM then they will be overly critical and less responsive to the project’s needs. These are obstacles that can easily be removed with a little patience and active listening on the part of the project manager. That and a commitment to earning trust everyday.