ECONOMIC & SOCIAL RESEARCH COUNCIL

Managing Research Projects

Managing Research Projects

The Importance of Trust and Respect

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Issues of trust affect all areas of managing a research project. Whilst many aspects of managing project teams can be enhanced, the building of trust is central to a successful project, and loss of trust can seriously undermine a project.

What is Trust?

Identifying exactly what ‘trust’ is can be somewhat problematic. Two definitions are given below:

an expectation about the positive actions of other people, without being able to influence or monitor the outcome, ie a confidence based on evidence and not feeling” (O’Brien 1995 :50)
an expression of confidence between the parties in an exchange of some kind – confidence that they will not be harmed or put at risk by the actions of the other party” (Jones and George 1998:531)

Building Trust and Respect

If trust and respect are so key to any interaction between people, including managing projects, how can it be generated, maintained and even increased?

Always treat your people exactly as you want them to treat those important to you.” (Covey 2004 )
Working collaboratively, in an open, supportive and co-operative manner raises levels of trust in teams (O’Brien 1995).

However, trust will only grow in the right environment and research team leaders need to actively foster it by:

  • encouraging and modelling positive emotions
  • expressing, sharing, exploring and valuing different ideas and approaches
  • delegating appropriate tasks in an appropriate manner
  • establishing reporting relationships and requirements that promote positive attitudes
  • establishing open and transparent communication
  • seeking out and responding positively to feedback
  • giving constructive feedback
  • giving praise (where it is deserved) and remembering to thank team members for their contribution.
Building trust is costly in terms of time, effort and considerable resources” (Jones and George 1998)

This will become increasing complex as the diverse nature of project, and its members, increases, for example, where project teams comprise members from different institutions, sectors, countries and cultures. Whilst there may be a consensus about the importance of creating trust to support effective working relationships, there may be a difference in understanding what this means and the methods used to create it.

The key areas of focus to help the Research Team Leader to build trust and respect are:

Communication (especially meetings): This should be frequent, open, honest and `two-way’.

Team Building: This should be inclusive (i.e. to take account of gender/cultural differences etc.) and should aim to help research team members to feel more comfortable with each other in order that they can communicate more openly and honestly and find ways of working more effectively together.

Leadership: The leadership style should be clear, consistent, enabling and supportive of other team members.

Project Management: This should be well organised and all team members should be clear about their role and tasks in the project.

Team development