How to re establish trust the right way

Do you have any idea how to re-establish trust the right way?  Trust is something that you feel in a way that it’s hard to describe.  You know it exists, or you don’t.

You trust one person in your team and not trust a number of others.  This impacts on your ability, as the Project Manager, to get things done, and it costs your project both time and money.

Why do you need trust amongst team members?

In his book ‘The Speed of Trust‘ Stephen M. R. Covey talks about “the economics of trust”.  He says ” Here’s a simple formula that will enable you to take trust from an intangible and quantifiable variable to an indispensable factor that is both tangible and quantifiable.  The formula is based on this critical insight:  Trust always affects two outcomes – speed and cost.  When trust goes down, speed will go also go down and costs will go up.  When trust goes up, speed will also go up and costs will go down.  It’s that simple, that real, that predictable.”

I’ve been in that situation of there being low trust amongst team members.  I’ve had them fighting amongst each other, at war actually, because one team didn’t trust the other team to do what was needed for them.  I had countless emails from them, the stream leads were fighting amongst themselves in meetings – nothing was progressing.  It was costing my project valuable time and slowed down the delivery.  This low trust situation was having a measurable impact on my project.

How to re-establish trust

1. Listen first

It is important when trust has broken down that you listen first.  The other person, or parties need to feel heard and understood by you and the best way to do this is to listen.  For me this meant getting the two teams in the same room and asking them to tell me what was happening for them.  I ask others in the room to listen and not interrupt as the stream lead and other team members were speaking.  This allowed both parties involved to be heard, to hear the others issues and concerns.  It changed the tension in the room for very highly strung to calmness.

2. Play back your understanding

It is important in these situations to play back what you hear, so that you ensure that you are really hearing the other person, and showing them that this is the case.  For me this was being the mediator in between the untrusting parties and summarising the key points or issues that I heard from each of the teams as they spoke.  I did this in summary at the end of the discussion and noted these things on a whiteboard for reference.

These two things alone changed the relationships between the teams.  I heard the stream leads comment that they hadn’t realised “blah” was an issue for the other team.  There was a sense of mutuality in the outcome and issues at this point in time.

From there we were able to discuss and come up with a plan of action that saw the two teams working together to deliver what was needed, supporting each other in obtaining the desired outcome for the project.

It is important to consider if you are and can be trusted.  The only way that the teams would agree to meet with me is that they trusted that I was not sabotaging them or taking sides.  If they hadn’t trusted me this outcome would not have occurred.  If you feel that your teams don’t trust you, then it is important that you start in being a more trustworthy person first.  As Stephen says ” Trust begins with each of us personally, continues into our relationships, expands into our organizations, extends into our marketplace relationships and encompasses our global society at large.”  Note, that he says it all starts with us and our own personal trust.

You may be interested in the workshops and information available via Franklin Covey on Trust.  I recently attended the Relationship Trust webinar and found the information invaluable.



Written by Karen Munro