Building Trust in Any Team

Rothman Consulting Group, Inc.
Vol 9, #5: Building Trust in Any Team
Feb 10, 2012                                                                                      ISSN: 2164-1196




Building Trust in Distributed Teams

On agile projects, the daily standup is one of the ways the team members build trust. The team members complete work every day, and make micro-commitments to each other every day. Making and keeping these commitments builds trust. And, when you're not all together, it's just a little more difficult to create that trusting environment; you have to consciously work at it when you're not all on one location. It's even worse if you have the testers in one place and the developers in another, and the product owner in yet another location.


I worked with a team like that. They decided to change their three standup questions so they could build trust even more easily:
  • What did you complete and with whom yesterday?
  • What are you working on and with whom today?
  • What are your impediments?
These questions focus the team on two complimentary pieces of building trust: that people on the team have to work together and that they aim to complete work.


I suggest that people extend trust to build trust. Start with the assumption that the person you’re communicating with wants to do the best by you and the project, rather than presuming the worst.


You cannot tell from reading email what a person is thinking. You can easily misinterpret email. Here are some examples that have happened to me, in just the last month.
  1. My whacko sense of humor was mistaken for nastiness. Hey, if I'm going to be nasty, you will know. If I'm going to be sarcastic, you'll know that too. I was trying for humor. Guess I wasn't funny. Sigh.
  2. I was on a plane, returning from Europe, so I was slow to answer a particular email in time for a colleague. He thought I didn't care anymore. No, I care. A lot!
  3. I thought I had the time to initiate a collaboration with a colleague. But, I got the flu. Then he got the flu. We both want to start this collaboration, and we both need to be healthy at the same time.

I like my colleagues, and consciously work to extend them the benefit of the doubt. Working effectively in a geographically distributed team is a challenge. Whether you have worked together before or not, you still have to build trust and maintain it.

Remember, everyone does the best job they know how to do. Some of us have senses of humor that hinder us more than they might help. Some of us have our “tact filters” turned off at times. Sometimes we’re tired and don’t take the time to think before we respond. On a distributed team it’s important to give the other person the benefit of the doubt in our communications; to be careful about what we say and how we say it to each other.

Extending trust, and finishing a deliverable that helps a team member might go a long way towards building trust on your distributed team.

Webinar: Work More Effectively in Geographically Distributed Teams

Shane Hastie and I are delivering a public webinar about the challenge of geographically distributed teams on February 15, at noon Eastern. If you can't make the webinar, please sign up so you can hear the replay.


If you don't need the webinar, because you know how great we are (humor!) and you would you like to work more effectively in your geographically distributed team, please join us at our two-day workshop this April 17-18 in Pleasanton, CA.


Together, we'll experience how you plan and deliver working product in a geographically distributed team. If you know either of us, you know it will be not just jam-packed with learning, but also fun. We keep a kanban board of your issues so we address them during the workshop. Our workbook is over 70 pages at this point, so you'll leave with a good set of notes to remind you of the important points we cover in the session. And, every participant receives a copy of Johanna's Manage It! Your Guide to Modern, Pragmatic Project Management, with a chapter on multi-site teams. 


Remember, early-bird registration lasts until Feb. 15, so sign up now. Bring a team and receive an even more generous discount.


Welcome or Welcome Back to the Pragmatic Manager


I am still clearing bounces on this list, and reconnecting with many of you on LinkedIn. If you have missed issues, see back issues of the Pragmatic Manager here.


If I'm not connected with you yet on LinkedIn, please do connect with me. I want to connect with you, my subscribers.

I keep my blogs current with my writings:

Managing Product Development

Hiring Technical People

and my newest blog (with it's own new mailing list) Create an Adaptable Life.


© 2012 Johanna Rothman

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