Would you trust Ferris Bueller to work on your project? Probably not. But how could he earn your trust? When joining a new project, there are a couple of actions you can take in order to build up that trust. Here are some tips.
1. Commit and Disagree
We’ve probably all heard the saying “Disagree and Commit.” It means that even if you don’t agree with a decision, you should be able to put that aside and commit to following through. In order to build trust, we should flip that principle on its head.
Commit and Disagree is about building rapport before contradicting your associate. One way to know you’ve achieved this is when your counterpart says “That’s right.” Once you’ve found common ground, they’ll see that you have the same goals and outcomes in mind. Commit to solving the problem together and then they’ll feel comfortable when you disagree with some of the details.
2. Be extra transparent
Sometimes when joining a project, it can be scary for the engineers who think I’ll change everything. Change is scary! I recently learned a bullet-proof method to make onboarding less stressful. The first thing I do is start a new Kanban board in Notion.
On the board, I start documenting things I want to investigate, but I make sure to keep things open-ended. For instance, instead of a card like “Implement 2-week sprints”, instead I might say “Investigate sprint format”. This is important because although I might have ideas about some structures the team should use, it really is a group decision. To make agile work, it needs to be bottom-up. Before I take any actions, I make sure to validate my list with the entire team. Perhaps I’ve forgotten something or they think the priorities should be different.
3. Add some context via 1-1s
When I join a new project, I have a 1-1 with each team member involved. It takes about 15 minutes to sync up and explain our backgrounds and philosophies of work. You can begin to connect and explain some of the nuances of your personality. Perhaps you are a very direct person working with an unfamiliar culture. By meeting face to face over Zoom, you can dispel some initial assumptions and start the relationship off on the right foot. Make sure to actively listen to your new colleague.
Remember, although your company has built trust with the client, you still need to do the same. By taking the three actions above, you can ensure that you’ll be trusted by the individual people that you’ll be working with. Maybe if Mr. Rooney had taken this advice he’d have a better relationship with Ferris and they would trust each other. But maybe not… it is Ferris after all.