Partnership in Team Projects 

Partnership in Team Projects 

“Over time, I have come to this simple definition of leadership: Leadership is getting results in a way that inspires trust.” Stephen M. R. Covey 

I love the beginnings of a project.  The bigger the better.  Nothing like that new project smell (think; ream of new paper).  

Group of business people in office working on project

The start of any project is often a flurry of activity.  Resource requests, scheduling discovery sessions, prepping for kickoff, locking in the project sponsor, you know the story.  

Amid the zoom calls and emails, there’s a little bit of concern, angst, and excitement.  The reason is the undeniable fact, you are going to work, in proximity, for a while, with new people.  This is cause for excitement and alarm.  

People are the reason projects are wildly successful or the opposite (I call those, crash landings).  

So, from the outset, it is dealing, collaborating, negotiating, and working with new people that consumes our emotional engagement with the project.  

This is all perfectly normal.   

Then the project starts, an icebreaker awkwardly stumbles across the finish line, and you're off to the races.  Decorum, shirt collars, and smiles all get a little harder or easier each day.   

What impacts this?  Whether or not we trust our project team. 

This brings us to our opening quote.  

“Leadership is getting results in a way that inspires trust.”  

business people group with young adults and senior on meeting at modern bright office interior.

Each person on a project is leading some element.  Either the quality of their own work, other resources' time, having hard conversations, building out a testing plan etc. It is each person's responsibility to lead their part of the project in a way that "inspires" trust.  

This quote is not just about formal leadership.  

  • It's about Subject Matter Experts speaking with integrity.  
  • It's about providing clear and articulate requirements to the development team.  
  • It's about gently reminding each other of prior commitments.  
  • It's about tackling issues directly, as a team, with urgency.  

Covey's quote is a statement about clarity, expectations, and delivery.  

If commitments are met.  If words matter.  If follow through is a standard.  

Then the team will have no choice but to build trust.  These are the direct actions that build trust in a team.  

No one starts a project thinking that trust is the critical keystone to making it all work.   

But doesn’t that make sense?  The very definition of a project is “a temporary endeavor undertaken to create a unique project service or result.” (thank you PMI).   

I read two things in that definition.  

  1. Most of the team has never worked together. 
  2. This work, in this particular scenario, with these teams, has never been done before.   

That means performance is necessary and people will need to be effective to achieve the results.    

Trust is the key.   

There are already so many things that can go wrong.  Why let the people part get sideways?  People do the project work.  Nothing happens without people.  

As a project team, instilling trust through our actions, words, and results will not only build trust, but it will contribute to a successful delivery of your project goals.  

Business group with hands together - teamwork concepts

If you’ve read this far, then you must be looking for some tactical ideas so, let’s pick up our story from the beginning.   

The project has started and people are starting to act like…...people (that joke never gets old).  What can be done immediately, today, to begin building trust?   

  1. Start treating your tasks, issue log items, and key deliverables with respect as a team.   
  2. Set the ground rules as a project team as to how everyone will treat work efforts. 
  3. Create a system of accountability and transparency.  
  4. Allow the team standards to mature and scale with the effectiveness of the team.   

I’ll repeat those steps with an example 

  • Treat tasks with respect   
    • Identify who will be taking notes on action items, where they will be documented, and how everyone can access or update if needed. 
    • Each task should have an owner, a deadline, and next steps.   
  • Ground rules 
    • Express to the team it is everyone’s job to ensure the note taker has the correct notes.  This places accountability on everyone for the quality of the notes. 
    • Remind everyone to call out any dependencies related to the assigned tasks.   
  • Accountability and Transparency 
    • Establish the precedent that the owner of each task will be providing updates weekly until completed. 
    • Remind the team, if there are ever clarifying questions, it is each teammate's obligation to ask the question.   
  • Mature and scale 
    • After a few weeks in rhythm, it may not be necessary to be as formal if the lines of communication are open and effective. 
    • Alternatively, if the mechanisms in place are not working, then it’s time to ask the obvious questions about the ground rules.  Is this working?  What about the process is broken?  How can we do this better as a team?  

Yes, this is all manual.  It cannot be automated.  But these conversations and systems of accountability are the groundwork needed to foster trust. 

Be the leader your project needs.  Get results “in a way that inspires trust.”