Why you need to care about project and company culture
The culture defined by your company can have a huge impact on how projects and the company as a whole perform. However, although projects might inherit aspects of the company culture they can have their own “micro-cultures” and it is up to you as a team to agree upon and define it. Defining a culture will help teams perform better as they have a clear understanding of what is expected in the way they work with one another and with clients. When you work in a team or organisation that has a great culture, you feel empowered, invested and part of a family. At my current workplace, despite having a largely remote team, the culture we have built together allows us to be really effective in our jobs because we support one another, respect one another, understand what is expected from one another and we trust one another.
Trust the orchestra
Trust is the backbone of every relationship we have. We spend our lives cultivating trust with others and rebuilding trust where it may have been broken in the past. Have you ever thought about how, with the wave of a stick, a conductor can get the orchestra to follow his lead and listen without a single word? The answer is that the conductor has built up trust with the Orchestra, he waves his hands around and trusts that his team will understand what he is trying to convey and execute on that message. The conductor cannot realistically manage each individual instrument, he needs to trust that each member will do what they need to do. In the same way a leader and manager needs to trust their team to fulfil their project role and execute on the expectations laid out at the start of the project. If the manager starts to intervene in every little detail, the team will feel that they do not have the manager’s trust. If a team member knows that they are trusted, they will feel empowered and reach their full potential.
I pride myself on delivering quality to clients in my deliverable but sometimes, I or someone on my team will make a mistake that will compromise the quality. The mistake itself is not an issue, we are human – it happens! The real issue can arise in how the mistake is handled. I have seen people try and hide mistakes from clients, blame individuals publicly and even make the same mistake over and over again. These issues can be nipped in the bud by fostering a culture of learning, trust and honesty in the organisation and in your teams.
- Hiding mistakes – hiding mistakes is a gamble. You are betting with the clients trust, the business they are giving you and your company’s reputation. The best thing to do is be open and honest. Let the client know that although you have made this mistake, you will rectify it, how you will rectify it and how you will prevent it happening in the future.
- Blaming individuals publicly – if you single people out and their mistakes you can create a blame culture. People will start shifting blame to individuals rather than to themselves as a team. In order for teams to work well together they need to understand that they succeed as a team and they fail as a team – so that when they fail they work together to correct the mistake and ensure it doesn’t happen in the future – together. An easy way to try to mitigate this negative blame culture is to always use the word “we”. e.g. “We did a great job together delivering X”, “We made a mistake doing Y this way. How can we avoid this in the future?”. If you find individuals are causing problems in the team, talk to them privately and don’t compromise the team culture.
- Making the same mistake twice – build a feedback loop into your projects and organisation. Ensure you are identifying what went wrong and what went well and constantly learning and growing in the right direction. I believe this is especially important at the programme level. If you know project X went over budget by Y because of Z, you can learn from that and take it into account for other projects in the future. Check this article out to get
Check this article out to get some tips on managing failure in your project: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/how-succeed-project-manager-failure-hassanin-yousif/
Recognise excellence publicly
Have you heard the quote “praise in public chastise in private”? This quote has been proven to be a fundamental rule for building trust in companies and teams. When I recognise a job well done as soon as it happens, publicly, the individual knows that I am serious and want everyone to know that they have done a good job. This not only builds trust with the individual praised but it also inspires others to try harder as well.
Society puts leaders and managers on a pedestal but we are humans and do not have all the answers. The best leaders and managers know their strengths and weaknesses and know when to ask for help. In fact, being vulnerable with your teams and asking for their advice and help has been shown to nurture and build trust.
This is a super simple one, manage by walking around. To do this all you need to do is get up from your desk at random intervals, wander through the office and check in with your team and the status of ongoing work. This is such a simple and effective tool in building relationships with your team and building up their trust in you as a manager and leader. People will see that you actually care by taking the time to talk to them on an individual level, which will allow you to understand any aches and pains they may have that they aren’t comfortable sharing in a group. I tend to work remotely a lot which makes this difficult to execute, but I use a virtual version. I just check in with different members of my team at random periods for a 5 minute conversation. It’s so simple but it is definitely one of the most effective tools to have under your belt.
Building trust in your teams and organisation should be a priority for any leader or manager. A trust rich culture can build more effective teams and encourage personal growth. According to author of “Trust Factor: The Science of Creating High-Performance Companies”, Paul J. Zak, the following benefits occurred when teams and companies employed trust based cultures employees:
- Enjoyed their jobs 60% more
- Were 70% more aligned with their companies’ purpose
- Felt 66% closer to their colleagues
- Had 11% more empathy for their workmates,
- Experienced 40% less burnout from their work
Do you have any tips for building trust in your teams or organisation? What has worked well? Are you facing any challenges building a trust rich culture?