Credibility. Respect. Trust. These are all things we want as project managers! And you can’t simply ‘get’ them. They have to be earned.
That takes time, but the good news is that every small step on your way to completing your project counts towards building up that good professional reputation.
So what should you be doing as a matter of course to make sure that you are racking up experience that promotes your professionalism? Here are 5 ways to build your credibility as a project manager and earn respect and trust for the work you do.
1. Follow Professional Best Practice
Use project management best practice standards, many of which you can read about here on this blog. Make sure you are getting your guidance from respected, credible professionals who have certifications in the field and are people you are confident learning from.
Follow an industry standard approach to getting your work done, whether that’s an Agile or a predictive methodology.
If your company has a PMO, make sure to draw on the skills and resources they have to offer so you can be seen to follow corporate guidelines.
2. Act Honestly and Ethically
The professional bodies for project management have guidelines for ethical standards. Even if you aren’t a member, it’s worth reading the guidelines as a benchmark for what is considered ethical behaviour in the industry.
Part of being an ethical project manager is to work in an honest way. If you’re asked if it’s possible to deliver something by a certain date, or how the team is doing with their work, don’t answer with what you think is the ‘expected’ response. Tell them the truth – even if it isn’t what they want to hear. You could end up having a difficult conversation about their expectations, but that is far better than promising something you can’t deliver.
Tip: If you need more time to provide a realistic and honest answer, say so. There’s no harm in letting someone know that you don’t have the information to hand and that you’ll need to get some input from the team before you can give them the whole answer. Just make sure you follow up with them afterwards and answer their question – more on delivering and following up in just a moment!
3. Be Trustworthy
Your project sponsor needs to know that they can trust you. As part of your project, you might find out or be told information that is not common knowledge to the rest of the business. For example, your project could be working on a secret project, or on something that will fundamentally change the lives of employees, perhaps through outsourcing a function or closing down a division. Those are the kinds of things you can’t let slip over a casual conversation at the water cooler.
If it’s confidential, don’t share it. That’s the bottom line.
4. Be Trusting
The flip side of being a trustworthy project manager is that you also extend the courtesy of trust to your team.
Someone who doesn’t trust their team is going to be micromanaging their work, commenting on how tasks are done, and asking people to justify their professional judgement all the time. Don’t be that person.
Your colleagues in the project team will do better work and enjoy their work more if you show that you trust them to make decisions about their tasks and the way they deliver their tasks.
If you genuinely have concerns about how trustworthy a member of your team is, work on that as an individual performance management issue, instead of making double-checking everything part of the way you lead the team.
5. Deliver on Your Promises
If you only take one point away from this article, this is it: delivering on your promises dramatically boosts your credibility like nothing else.
People get to know the individuals who promise something and then don’t follow through. You need to not be in that group! If you’ve said you will do something, make sure that you follow up on what you said.
When work is busy and there is a chance that tasks slip through the net, be sure to write things down. Record what you said you would do in your project management software or To Do list. You can even send yourself an email as a reminder.
If you can’t – genuinely – deliver on what you said you were going to do, at least make sure to go back to the individual who is waiting for you and let them know the situation. Explain that you can’t complete the task, whatever it is, at this point. Tell them the honest reason (even if it is just that you’ve had to prioritize other activities and haven’t gotten around to it). Then give them a new deadline by which you are going to get back to them.
And make sure this time you do.
Credibility, respect and trust don’t actually take that much time to gain. If you are new to an organization, you can start building those things from scratch, from day one on the team. If you haven’t had a great reputation for delivery in the past, today is the day to start turning that around! Follow these steps in all that you do and you’ll soon start to change people’s perceptions of you and the team.
Elizabeth Harrin is the creator of A Girl’s Guide to Project Management, which she started in 2006. She has won a number of awards for her internationally popular blog: "A Girl's Guide To Project Management." She also authors two additional blogs, regularly featuring interviews she conducts with industry experts: "Talking Work," and "The Money Files," on Gantthead.