4 minutes

Project management is largely driven by decisions. Every day project manager needs to take dozens or more decisions, some are small while others are prominent. But every decision they take has a huge impact on their people, resources, project and the environment. A single conflict, if not addressed properly, can create both dilemmas and significant risks. Yet, you have to trust project managers – everything they are doing is in the best interest of your company.

Just like leaders, project managers also build trust with their decisions and need to trust their teams at work. Then again, it is important to consider that people who don’t trust each other can also work together. So what makes “trust” so important?

Why Trust Matters

Trust needs to be treated as a business imperative. Many think it is a squishy thing and often sounds too vague, but so does ‘satisfaction’ and every business out there is focusing on strategies for improving satisfaction, be it for employees or customers. So why not treat ‘trust’ with equal importance. Besides, the truth is that trust is indeed concrete and real. And learning this skill is the need of the hour as it has a tangible impact on your organization and real-world consequences.

From a project manager’s perspective trust at work facilitates better communication. When you trust someone at work, the likelihood of having an easy, open and honest communication are typically better. You engage more often and can freely discuss and even debate new ideas and innovations with the trust that in return you will receive an honest feedback. It also facilitates quicker decision making as there are less hidden agendas within the team. Besides, when you trust a person, chances are you will delegate more responsibility to him/her. The trust factor increases as the relationship develops. The more trust you have in each other, the greater the return will be.

When Trust is Absent

Now, let’s consider what happens when trust is absent between the project managers and team members. First and foremostly, communication takes more time than usual and you need to measure everything carefully before discussing any idea or issue. You are less likely to engage and you delegate less. Decision making also suffers when trust is absent. All these usually results in diminishing returns.

While you can still work together, even if you don’t trust each other, there are less chances of collaborating efficiently. In fact, you are likely to follow up more, which often leads to micromanagement. This eventually results in ineffective project work. In worst cases, team members get busy in protecting their individual interests when there is a lack of trust and often hide relevant information, leading to the project’s failure.

Team members feel unmotivated and fail to communicate ideas openly when they cannot trust their project manager. Simply put, effective collaboration or knowledge sharing becomes an alien concept without trust. It is therefore corrosive to both team building and project delivery.

Trust Enhances Team Morale

Think of your team as an orchestra. You need to believe that the other person is doing their part to ensure optimal synchronization. You know that a wrong tune can ruin everything, yet you trust their commitment. Things are pretty similar for a project team as well. Project managers and team alike need to rely on others to do their part. Instead of hiding information from each other or blaming others for failure, strong teams look out for things adversely affecting their project “together” and help each other, if required. Most importantly, all these are done without constantly confirming or checking their commitment. This is only possible when you successfully combine direct trust, which is based on your team members’ observed behaviors with indirect trust i.e. in their qualification and professionalism.

The qualities that make us trust other people in the team include expertise, confidence and professionalism. A project manager who possesses all these characteristics inevitably has a sound approach to project delivery. He/she typically has the ability to assess the task as well as the risks involved and can effectively define, direct and deliver the project. Once the project manager establishes trust among team members and stakeholders, any kind of prevailing disbelief within the team is suspended, which is very important to the team’s morale, especially when it comes to boost their confidence.

The lack of this trust again erodes the time and energy required to consider the big picture as it leads to suspicion even about small things that should be otherwise acceptable. This, in turn, adversely affect team morale forcing team members to adopt a defensive posture. Commitment and decisions are delayed and often avoided, fearing that they would be questioned later.

The Purpose of Trust in Project Management

Trust in a project management team typically serves two purposes. It allows you to focus on what you need to do without worrying about your security or safety. Trust therefore creates a distraction-free environment, which also has a positive impact on the general emotional and mental well-being of the people. This eventually makes the team more productive.

The second function of a trust is to enable people to rely on others. For a project manager and team member, it means working effectively in a collaborative environment where ideas and knowledge are shared openly.

But having a complete trust between project managers and team often seems a Utopian concept. According to a survey conducted by Canadian Management Centre (CMC) and Ipsos Reid, “61 percent of employees don’t trust senior leaders.” It is also essential to remember that trust is intangible; to different people it means different things. But as said earlier, you can learn the skills of building trust. The following are some of the common behaviors of trusted leaders from around the world. You too can implement them to build and maintain trust.

  • Demonstrate respect
  • Talk straight
  • Differentiate right from wrongs
  • Create transparency within the team
  • Focus on improvement instead of criticizing
  • Clarify expectation
  • Confront reality without being biased
  • Show loyalty
  • Practice accountability at all levels
  • Listen first
  • Show loyalty
  • Keep commitments
  • Extend trust to all team members alike
  • Deliver results


Trust can make people achieve extraordinary things. When astronauts take rockets into space they trust the ability of others; they rely on their training, calculations and engineering. Things aren’t much different for project teams. With trust in each other’s ability and the business goals, team members (even those working in different time zones) can easily achieve previously unheard of levels agility and productivity to deliver what is expected from them, often exceeding the same.

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