Dictionary.com defines trust as “reliance on the integrity, strength, ability, surety, etc., of a person or thing” or “confident expectation of something”.
Thompson (2004) explains that trusting a person means that he or she will respect all commitments even though he or she is aware that no one is going to monitor or observe their behavior. By maintaining integrity, a person can ensure that he or she will be able to win the trust of others.
Karlsen et al (2008) explain that trust amongst team members makes them more cooperative. Also, trust encourages team members to share relevant information when required and allows them to be influenced by decisions and actions of others.
Trust cannot be developed within a day and usually it will take some time to develop. The reasons for not trusting could be various ranging from past bad experience, cultural differences, prejudice, office politics, and many other factors that influence the judgment. This means that the project team put together may not trust each other well enough and it is the duty of the project manager to build and sustain trust amongst team members to ensure that the project runs smoothly and ends up successfully.
Trust is essential not only amongst internal project team members but also external people that include the management, clients, vendors, etc. If the management and the client don’t trust that the project manager can handle the project well, then there are bound to be issues on the project. Hence, the project manager needs to build and sustain trust with the management, clients and all other stakeholders involved in the project.
One of the keys to building trust is open communication. This means project objectives need to be discussed openly and clearly. Also, any bad news needs to be communicated clearly. So if the project is behind schedule, all stakeholders need to know about it.
If more resources are required, the stakeholders need to be made aware of that. If there is little or no participation by stakeholders, then the project sponsor needs to be communicated. Clear and open communication keeping all stakeholders informed and involved appropriately helps people understand that bad news are not being hidden from them and that they can expect honest reports from the project manager.
Another important aspect to build trust is to define clear roles and responsibilities of all team members and communicate it to all stakeholders. This ensures that everyone knows what their activities and tasks would be and what their boundaries are. Clearly defined roles and responsibilities also mean that there will be less conflict amongst team members and that there will be no territorial bickering.
A project manager can also help build trust by encouraging fun and laughter in the team. If done appropriately and especially when under pressure, it would help bring the team together and build trust.
While it takes a long time to build trust, it can take hardly a second to break it. Therefore, it is essential that effort is put in by all concerned to sustain that trust. This means ensuring that confidential information is not disclosed even accidentally. All team members are involved in communications related to the project rather than informing just one or two people.
Micromanaging people should be avoided and each team member should be given liberty to complete his tasks within his boundaries. This would help sustain trust over a longer period of time. (Larson et al, 2006)
Karlsen, J. T., Gr?e, K. & Massaoud, M. J. (2008). Building trust in project-stakeholder relationships. Baltic Journal of Management, 3, 7-22.
Larson, E. & Larson, R. (2006) How to Gather Business Requirements & Build Trust. Retrieved November 13, 2009, from http://cio.ittoolbox.com/documents/how-to-gather-business-requirements-build-trust-13203
Thompson, L. L. (2004). Making the Team: A Guide for Managers. NJ: Prentice Hall.