PM Articles > Musings on Things that Matter > Trust - it makes everything so much better (Including project decision-making)

Trust - it makes everything so much better (Including project decision-making)

By Cinda Voegtli

This morning I'm reminded again just how much trust between two people or two organizations MATTERS. To the outcome we're trying to reach together, and to the pleasantness of journey to get those results.

Trust is defined in the dictionary as "a firm belief in the reliability, truth, integrity, ability, or strength of someone or something...."   My focus here is on the reliability and integrity aspects - specifically "my firm belief that they will consistently show integrity in our dealings and reliably consider our side of the equation, not just theirs."

I have personal and business relationships that are work well, despite significant bumps and challenges, because of such trust.  I have other relationships that are not, shall we say, quite as pleasant, especially when things get tough.

I recognize the underpinning of trust when I have to negotiate something - and have NO stomach-churning, gut-clenching stuff go on during prep for said negotiating. (I know some people LOVE to negotiate and have no such reactions even for tough ones. I am not one of those people by nature :-))

Conversely, if I DO find myself worked up about having to solve a problem with another person or organization, or having to fight for what I need in a particular situation -- then I need to realize that there is a basic trust problem at the core.  I don't firmly believe that the other party is taking my concerns into account and will deal with me with integrity.  My guard is up because I'm worried about getting what I need or what the company needs and not being taken advantage of.  I really do not enjoy having to work in that mindset.

I'm reminded of this today because of getting through a difficult situation with a party with whom I HAVE built up mutual trust over time.  Resolving the issue was pretty easy - even though we of course still needed to put forward what we each needed in the situation; and had an initial conflict of understanding over $$.  But instead of feeling difficult and negative, the conversation was even a bit invigorating. I find it liberating to recognize that because of trust, we could talk frankly; we could put our needs on the table; we could figure out a fair solution, a beneficial-to-both solution.  So this trust involves transparency - the ability to communicate frankly.

Now I need to take this opportunity to step back and ask -- who am I dealing with now where that trust is NOT in place?  What can I do to build it, as a foundation to making tough decisions together?

Which brings me to project-specific applications of trust.  We speak of so many project issues as battles.  Like getting (even "fighting for") the resources we need from a functional group. Like getting the Sponsor to listen and understand the impact of their change-insertions. Like getting people to commit to a schedule.  It's like we think doing the right things, making the right decisions for the project, is usually going to require coercion!

What if instead we look at these issues through the trust lens.  Is there an underlying lack of trust - for the other's perspectives, priorities, concerns? What if instead of treating such issues as "how do I get person  to do something", we treat it first as "how do I build enough trust with person X that they'll really listen and understand and work with me and act, when I ask for something or recommend something?"

That is unfortunately not a fast solution.  But that's the reality of solving our toughest project problems. They take time; they require us to influence one or more people. Trust is a foundation of this influence.  Influence is not a "point event"; trust is not built in a day; neither are achieved in one conversation...   We have to think ahead and BUILD both.

I am therefore, fresh off this morning's trust-based triumph, to make a list of lurking trust deficits and think about my own plan for building such trust in other relationships.





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