Operational Excellence

How to Regain Your Creative Team's Trust

by Brad Egeland, November 24, 2014

The project manager is the leader and key contact point for the project. No question. But leaders aren't always just born. And even if they all were, they still must maintain that leadership role through the way they conduct themselves, treat those whom they are leading and treat those whom they are interacting with and leading engagements for.  

What does it take to be a team leader? Integrity, honesty, fast decision making, connections, well earned respect...these are just a few that come to mind.  

So let's say you have somehow messed up and lost some, much or all of your creative project team's trust and respect. Right now let's not concern ourselves so much with how. I've seen this happen and often times it's the PM siding with the client or executive management in a key project decision that everyone on the team knows should not have happened. Think "caving." What do you do to start to get that trust and respect back? You don't have long before it can really present problems on your project.

Here's the three step approach I recommend:

1. Acknowledge the issue. Don't bury your head in the sand. Acknowledge the issue. If it was a mistake on your part, then own it to your team.  And if you caved on an important issue to management or the client because it was truly necessary for the project, then explain that.  But don't avoid the issue - it will only get worse.

2. Keep communication tight and regular.  Keep your internal team communication close knit and as regular as possible. They need to see you as the go to leader no matter what and they need to see that this incident has not caused you to waver in the least.

3. Show empathy. Your team needs to see that you understand how you conflicted with their best judgment. They count and their opinions and recommendations count. They must understand that they are being heard. Don't move forward until you can see that they have reached that understanding. Otherwise you will likely have an unproductive or fractured team and that does not bode well for the success of the project.


That's my three step approach to acknowledging, dealing with and moving forward past a lost trust issue with your team. Hopefully these actions will lead to success for the remainder of the engagement. I've seen it in action and I know that it works.

What works for you when you lose some following of your leadership from your creative team members for whatever reason? Please share your thoughts and strategies.  



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