LOL to Reduce LOE

Go ahead, have a good laugh with your project team! These tips help increase team trust, collaboration and productivity.

by Mary Bowen Cates

In a Catholic school cafeteria, a nun places a note in front of a pile of apples, "Only take one. God is watching." Further down the line is a pile of cookies. A little boy makes his own note, "Take all you want. God is watching the apples."

(I’ll wait a moment for you to recover from fits of laughter).

Okay seriously, even if you aren’t LOLing, do you find yourself just a teensy, weensy bit happier? Think about the last time you and another person shared a genuine laugh. Wasn’t it awesome? Not only because laughter reduces anxiety and stress levels, but also because it helps establish a genuine connection with another person. It helps build trust.

This brings me to the main point of this blog post: trust in the workplace, and more specifically, trust on a project team. Laughter is a key litmus test for trust, so if you can’t remember the last time you and your project team laughed together, you may want to keep reading.

Project teams are made up of people from various departments within an organization and can sometimes include people external to the organization, such as consultants, contractors, or software vendors. This range of roles and skillsets is critical to deliver a high quality product. However, these separate and distinct groups within a project team can also lead to high levels of distrust (think: us vs. them mentality). 

It’s important to overcome any distrust that may exist on a project. If it goes unchecked, level of effort on a project can skyrocket, leading to increased timelines and decreased productivity. People spend more time CYAing than being collaborative. People don’t share information because they are uncertain of the consequences or just do not feel incentivized to do so. People are nervous to make mistakes, so instead of taking accountability, they play the blame game. It’s a vicious cycle. Nobody is happy, and nobody wins.

So what can your project team do to help combat low levels of trust?

  • Discuss the trust problem candidly with your project manager. It’s a valid project risk, and should be treated as such.
  • Share information with your team, even if it’s negative. Transparency is essential to trust. It removes silos and fosters collaboration. 
  • Admit your faults and mistakes. This endears you to people and makes you more approachable.
  • Find common ground with your teammates – whether you both love the same football team or are from the same city, try to find similarities and talk about them. Who knows, your new bestie may be just one status meeting away!
  • Do not respond (to emails, to questions, etc.) when you are in a reactive, defensive mood. You may end up saying something you regret and decreasing trust, which can be hard to rebuild.
    Give others credit and praise whenever possible.
  • Laugh! Make (appropriate) jokes. Goof off. Go to lunch together. Contrary to what you may believe, lightening up a bit won’t hurt your reputation, it won’t hurt your deliverables, and it certainly won’t hurt the mood.

So the next time you are on the fence about sharing a funny thought with your team – go for it! They will love it. Just trust me. 

Mary Bowen Cates
Mary Bowen Cates
Senior Consultant
Contact Mary Bowen

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