Project Management Institute

In Safe Hands: Reaching Project Goals Is Much Easier When Everyone's in Sync


“To build trust, the project manager needs to lead by example and act selflessly, becoming the glue between teammates. It's hard to build trust because a team member may not put the good of the team before his or her needs. The good news is that each team member is capable of that selflessness to a lesser or greater degree, and the project manager can encourage it.

However, trust will not be built by forcing employees on a team to do things against their will. On a project I once led, two team members broke trust between each other. It took a lot of encouragement and understanding to mend the relationship, and it had to happen organically.”

—Alexandre Debernard, PMP, senior electronics engineer and project manager, Legrand, Grenoble, France

Set Standards

“My team is pretty small—there are only three of us on a regular basis. Our newest project was to write a business plan for a brand new facet of the organization.

We started the planning meeting by creating ‘group norms,’ basic rules that we would follow throughout the project. We shared in brainstorming and completed the task in about 10 minutes. Some of the norms included: Listen while others were speaking, be lovingly honest, be open-minded with brainstorming and uphold the company's culture.

For the rest of the project, we referred back to these norms and offered guidance to each other if we were falling short. It may seem like common sense to have a set of norms, but unless they are written down and specifically addressed, they can be easily forgotten.

The two hardest norms to follow were being lovingly honest and being open-minded with brainstorming. There were times when I had to remind everyone what we agreed upon. But tension never built up between colleagues, and we were able to complete our objectives for the meeting and leave excited to complete our assigned tasks.”

—Rebecca Cavender, outdoor programs manager, Girl Scout Council of the Southern Appalachians, Knoxville, Tennessee, USA

Forge Deep Connections

“Letting a co-worker know your relationship is about more than just work builds trust. You can ask your teammates about their family and friends and if they have hobbies. Learn about these things and ask frequently: ‘How's it going?'

I used to work with a guy who was a beginner in programming enterprise software applications. The old manager didn't give him the opportunity to develop his abilities, so I began to teach him some things. We started to chat about baseball, music and other things. Eventually he invited me to family gatherings, and our friendship and work relationship grew.

One day, we had an urgent project, and I asked him for support. He was happy to do the job because he finally had the opportunity he wanted and he was working with a friend.

In the end, trust comes from affirming someone's humanity. Not everything is about getting the job done. Creating a comfortable environment makes it easier to get work done.”

—Edgard Velásquez, senior technology specialist, Banco de Venezuela, Caracas, Venezuela

Listen Actively

“One way to build trust among team members is to listen. People want to be heard. I have learned to pay attention to their words and actively engage them in pulling ideas out. Whether or not we end up using the ideas, people know they've been heard. I want team members to know they are important and that their contributions are important, too.

To that end, I frequently reiterate a point a team member may have just made or ask them a probing question relating to what they just said. When I do that, they know I'm listening and often engage more deeply. Funny enough, I use the same technique with my sons. It fuels the discussion. My little guy just gets cuter and cuter when I ask questions about what he's saying. It's gold!”

—Erik Spielvogel, PMP, project management office project manager, Graymont, Salt Lake City, Utah, USA

Count Me In

Organizations that want to build a high-performing team can start by creating a strong sense of inclusion. Making everyone feel integral to the team goes a long way toward fostering helpfulness and innovation. According to a survey by Catalyst, feeling included contributes to innovation and a sense of citizenship around the world. But the percentage of employees who say that inclusion contributes to these things varies by country.

Team citizenship: Going beyond the call of duty to help co-workers


Innovation: Introducing fresh ideas


Source: Catalyst, Inclusive Leadership: The View From Six Countries

How do you foster trust among teammates?

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