Be Honest With Your Project Team

“C’mon, just level with me. Be honest!”

Ever hear those words before and not quite know how to respond?

If you’re in a senior leadership position, there are times being honest isn’t an option.  For example, if there are layoffs, reorg, acquisition, and any other number of circumstances. Any mention, the rumor mill will take off and morale will go down. Not to mention, you may have signed a legal document (NDA) so you’re breaking the law!!

There are other times, especially when it comes to your projects and programs, where honesty is the best policy (I’m sure you’ve heard that phrase before!). These can be uncomfortable conversations. Nobody wants to hear about problems. But as a project leader, you can’t fix problems on your own and need the team to assist. If you do (and I’ve seen some PM’s try to fix all issues themselves), you may just make it worse!

Here are 3 key reasons to be honest and bring issues front & center:

  1. Builds Trust. Trust comes from communication. You’re not afraid to communicate both good news and the bad. Your team trusts you’ll tell them what’s going on. Without honest communication, trust breaks down.
  2. More Brains = Better Outcomes. Projects will always have issues arise. The more smart people you have working on tough problems, the better the results will be. Smart people can’t solve problems they don’t know about!
  3. Bad News, not Good News, Travels Fast and Gets Worse.  Have you ever heard the phrase “Good news travels fast?”  Well, it’s true, but bad news travels a LOT faster. Bad news also does not get better with age.  Sometimes that bad news is known well before it becomes an issue, but employees weren’t comfortable discussing them with leaders.  Build a culture that rewards, not punishes, getting problems out into the open where the team can solve them.  

Honesty is the best policy! We can’t come clean with all information all the time. But when it comes to our projects are program, be honest with your team! Honesty will build trust, result in better outcomes, and reduce the bad-news grape vine.

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