5 Ways To Build Trust On Your Project Team

Three colleagues sitting on terrace of office building on summer evening having informal meeting
Three colleagues sitting on terrace of office building on summer evening having informal meeting. Thomas Barwick/Stone/Getty Images

Project teams need to trust each other in order to get the work done. After all, you’re spending a considerable amount of time working together and project tasks often have overlapping elements that mean you rely on other people for their contribution.

But how do you build trust quickly in a new team? It’s hard when everyone you work with is spread out across different locations and sometimes even different time zones.

Here are 5 simple ways that you can quickly let people know that they can trust you, and help your colleagues trust each other.

1. Build Your Credibility

Make sure that your behavior and commitments are consistent. Think about what it means to be credible in your office and work towards that.

Having credibility will help you be trusted because people will appreciate your professional judgment. In turn, that contributes towards being trustworthy because they know they can rely on your advice and opinions.

2. Ask For Feedback (And Give It Too)

Ask people if they think you are trustworthy. If you don’t feel confident doing that, then you can ask for feedback more generally on your performance and your working relationships. The results will give you areas where you can either maintain what you are doing as long as it works or do things differently.

You can also offer feedback to your team members, although remember to do this in a way that’s appropriate for your office.

For example, it’s never appropriate to provide constructive criticism in front of other people. Feedback done right can be one of the most successful ways to motivate your team.

As a project manager, it’s your role to keep the team functioning properly so be prepared to call out behavior that would ultimately destroy trust in the team.

Teambuilding is one of the 10 habits of successful project managers so always be on the lookout for ways you can support your team in working together.

3. Treat Everyone Fairly

Being equitable is another easy win when it comes to building trust in the team. What that means in practice is that you don’t pick favorites. Avoid giving all the admin work to one person, or keeping all the choice assignments for someone else. Get the right people in the right project roles. If you call someone out on their attitude or the fact they haven’t delivered their work on time, then comment every time this happens, regardless of who it is.

Your standards and expectations should be the same for everyone on the team and your wider stakeholder group. And your team should see you applying the same decision-making processes and treatment to everyone equally, whether you have worked with them before.

If you do have to make decisions based on special circumstances then it is quite likely that you won’t be in a position to share information about the background to that decision. For example, you may know that someone on the team is suffering from health problems and cannot take on certain tasks. To others, it might look like they are getting favorable treatment by not having to do those tasks.

You’ll have to address this situation sensitively if it arises but don’t let resentment build in the team.

Read next: 5 Ways To Annoy Your Stakeholders

4. Do What You Said You Would

If you said that you would follow through on that project issue then do it. And, almost more importantly, been seen to do it.

Delivering on your promises is a quick and easy way to build trust. It’s quick because we all have a lot of things that other people expect us to do, so you won’t have to wait long before you have an opportunity to show yourself as trustworthy. It’s easy because it should be your job to get things done and to communicate about them.

It builds trust because other people make judgments about you based on past performance. If they know that you have let them down in the past then they will expect that behavior again.

If you routinely fail to do what you said you would then why would they believe you this time?

Sometimes there will be a situation beyond your control where you can’t complete a task on time, however hard you try. In those situations, you can still go back to the colleague who is waiting on you and be honest with them about what happened. Explain that you are not able to complete the work as promised and give them a new date by when you think you’ll be able to have it done.

If you only take one thing away from this article, ‘do what you said you would’ should be it!

5. Deal With Conflict

Failing to deal with conflict is a sure-fire way to undermine trust in the team and their trust in you as a leader. People want to work for someone who will step up and tackle the difficult situations. Your colleagues will be relieved that you aren’t afraid to deal with conflict and that you can help them get their work environment back on an even keel. Very few people (I’ve never met one) want to work in an atmosphere that is rife with conflict and feels unpleasant. Your project team will be looking to you to sort it out before it gets that bad.

If you do nothing, it will get that bad. Conflict left to fester is always worse to handle than conflict dealt with early. Your team will trust you more if they feel they can bring you problems and you’ll handle them, resolving conflict gracefully. The main message here is to not put it off, however awkward or difficult it might be, because dealing with the fallout of a major argument is far, far harder.

There’s some advice here on what project managers can do about bullying because that’s another form of workplace conflict to look out for.

Trust isn’t created overnight (although it can be destroyed that quickly). Be a great example for the people in your project team. Talk to them about what you expect from their in terms of their behavior and when they aren’t meeting those expectations, discuss it with them.

It does take time to build deep, ingrained trust, but the things I have mentioned here will quickly get you started on that route. The more your team work together, the easier they will find it to trust each other and you. Soon you’ll have a team that is confident in each other’s’ abilities and keen to work together.