Trust is a key leadership skill. Without trust, you will find many blockers in your projects and find that teams will not optimally perform for you within the execution phase of your project. Gaining trust from your senior stakeholders ensures that your project has the appropriate level of support from the business and provides you with a level of authorisation to smooth out any political issues.
A few years ago, I accepted an assignment with a large UK supermarket chain. The project was already in-flight and the project team was already established, however the project manager had departed. When I arrived, the thoughts from the main stakeholders were that this project was doomed and would to continue to fail. I needed to gain trust from the stakeholders to continue with the project and from the team to improve their morale and organise them to complete the project.
I found that two of the development team were leading the others, so these were the people with whom I needed to obtain a mutual trust. I set about by asking questions and listening to their opinions, asking questions that made them feel empowered guided them into making decisions that I could follow through. This gave the sense of empowerment and by delivering results, gained the trust of management, as they could start to see the results. I had already made the decision on the direction of the development team, however, I made it feel as if it had come from the team, which gave them self-belief, pride and a sense that they mattered, which in turn encouraged them to deliver.
The project was delivered three months late, however, when I arrived, the project plan was revised and was delivered 3 weeks earlier than planned. Without obtaining the trust of the team, we would not have been able to deliver. The new project plan set smaller deliverables and therefore I was quickly able to gain the trust of the project sponsor and senior stakeholders.
As a consultant, I need to gain trust quickly. The initial few days of a new assignment are key to the future running of my projects and trust has to quickly be obtained from all team leaders and senior stakeholders. Relationships need to be built up and a mutual trust has to be earned.
I have an honest and ethical approach to my project teams, gaining trust through asking questions, not being afraid to ask questions for any situation to ascertain clarity. I obtain mutual trust through delivering everything I say and by providing a buffer from organisation "noise" that would impact the delivery of tasks by my teams. This simple process of good two-way communication, protection, and delivery ensures all stakeholders, from the developers, to the customer, up to the senior stakeholders, including the project sponsor. Obtaining a mutual trust, is a key to success in Project Leadership.