Establishing trust and respect can build tremendous support for goals, and likewise losing trust and respect puts us back at the beginning in a relationship or even further behind and the process has to start again. I am sure we have all experienced it, I know I have. Trust is a slow process to build and can be quickly eroded by a single bad deed or poor choice, as shown in the graph below.
While this is common sense stuff, what I liked about the workshop is the Howard Jackson Model for systematically building trust and respect. It is a repeatable series of steps that build on from each other in sequence to establish better collaboration.
In this model we start at the bottom of the pyramid with Straight Talk, and move through the steps of Listening for Understanding, Making Commitments, being Reliable, creating Trust, and then finally earning Respect.
Straight Talk - Open and direct communication is the first building block for trust and respect.
Listening for Understanding – Focus your attention on understanding the meaning behind what people are saying. There is a big difference between waiting for your turn to speak and really listening. Hear, Understand, Interpret, and then Respond.
Making Commitments – Be clear about what you will do. Agree on the What, By When, By Whom, and How steps. Communicate your intentions and stick to them.
Reliability – Do what you say you will do without fail. If circumstances have changed and it no longer makes sense to do what you said you would do, communicate back and explain why, and discuss and agree on the new steps. Follow through over-and-over, be reliable, unfailing, dependable.
Trust – Trust results from the firm belief that another person can be relied upon. Trust is the result of straight talk, making sure you understand and are understood, and keeping confidences as well as commitments.
Respect – Although there are many levels of respect, the respect that follows trust leads to deep esteem for another person. We value their thoughts and input, and we know we can count on them because they have proven themselves out to us.
Why so much focus on soft skills for an Agile PM Blog?
When I started this blog in 2006 I wanted to explain the new techniques used on agile projects in an easy to understand format, with real life examples. Now I find myself writing more on soft skills than agile techniques.
This is because people are the engine that drives a high performance project. Without a good team that embodies trust and respect, the best process and tools in the world will not help you. I am as geeky about process as the next agilist, I love experimenting with Kanban and Lean and know that they offer better ways of executing projects. However, bigger improvements can be had from the people side of things.
Another passion of mine is mountain biking. I lust after lightweight exotic bikes like the Super Fly 100 and S-Works Epic, imagining how much faster I could go, the hills I could finally climb. I am sure they would help, but the advantages are small, a good rider will dwarf the performance gains of the machinery and it comes down to the person powering the bike not the bike its self. It is like this with people and process too. Yes we can tweak and improve the process and I encourage you to, but the biggest gains come from within the team. From trust and respect comes great commitment and creativity which cannot be made up for with tools and processes. We undoubtedly need a combination of soft skills, tools, and process, but when considering where to focus effort I believe the biggest payback is on the people side."From trust and respect comes great commitment and creativity which cannot be made up for with tools and processes."