Building Trust on Your SharePoint Team

Successful SharePoint implementations rely on trust. Here's how you get it.

Quick! Define trust. No, seriously, pause and try to define it. I’ll bet you knew exactly how to define it until I asked you. If you did answer, perhaps you answered with “knowing that another person will come through for you.” That’s not trust. Rather, it’s trustworthiness of another person. Successful SharePoint implementations rely on trust in two key ways: first, your team, or coalition, needs to trust one another to be effective. Second, your users have to trust your commitment to SharePoint.

If you don’t have trust in your coalition, you’ll achieve little or nothing as backstabbing and infighting consume everyone’s energy. If you don’t have trust in your users, you’ll have a platform with no one using it. Let’s take a look at how to build the trust you need.

What is Trust?

We define trust as reliance on the integrity, strength, ability, or surety of another person. Note that this depends on the person doing the trusting and doesn’t rely upon the other person being trustworthy. The short course on trust is that there are three types:

  • Basic: the kind of trust we’re born with. We trust our parents, unless betrayed.
  • Blind: this kind of trust ignores facts to the contrary and isn’t necessarily healthy.
  • Authentic: this kind of trust recognizes that you trust people in certain environments, within certain limits, to do certain things. You might trust a babysitter to watch your child for a short time and your accountant to do your taxes, but it’s unlikely you trust your accountant to watch your children or your babysitter to do your taxes.

Trust is demonstrated in three ways:

  • Contractual: We trust that people will complete their commitments.
  • Communication: We trust that people will communicate openly with us, including disclosing their mistakes.
  • Competency: We trust that people are generally competent enough to do their jobs.

Trust Your Coalition

Forming a coalition requires that you balance numerous needs. You need to develop a team that has positional and authentic power in the organization to get things done. You need to trust yourself and one another to be able to work together. Here are some tips for developing and maintaining that trust in your coalition.

1.  Avoid commitment cancer. The death knell of many not-for-profit groups and committees in organizations is commitment cancer. That’s where a team makes commitments to one another and fails to meet them routinely.

Every group will miss a commitment occasionally, but when that becomes the normal state of affairs you have a problem. You can take steps to eliminate it by expelling the people who can’t keep their commitments, no matter how powerful they are, and by making the commitments smaller and more easily achievable. It might mean lifting off the gas and slowing the drive forward for a little bit, but without it, you’ll end up getting nothing accomplished.

2.  Communicate openly. We’re taught from a young age the wrong thing: We’re taught that we shouldn’t tell people we’re going to miss a commitment, we’ve made a mistake, or we’re just unsure. The problem is that this is the opposite of what’s required to build trust. If you make a mistake or miss an opportunity, openly admit it. It feels scary and wrong, but it’s the way that you build trust and respect with your team. The more open the team is about the mistakes being made, the more people there are to help fix the mistake.

3.  Get help. No person knows everything about every topic. Nor can you be perfect in everything, so if you’re expected to do something, get the help you need to do it right. Help might come in the form of a call to a friend, a book, a website, or a consultant. Make sure you get the help you need so that you will be able to be competent for your team.

You might have noticed that the suggestions above are all designed to increase your trustworthiness. The way to build trust is to make it less risky to trust—that way your team gets used to trusting each other.

Trust Your Users

Building trust with your coalition should be easy. You see and interact with these folks directly. Building trust with users is more difficult because you’re less likely to build personal relationships with people you don’t meet. The trick here is that trust is reciprocal; that is, if people trust you, you trust them. So here are a few things that you can do:

1. Don’t unnecessarily restrict your users. A certain amount of governance is required, and I heartily recommend it. However, if you focus on turning off features such as My Sites, blogs, and wikis because of fear of what people might post, you do not trust your users and they won’t trust you. Communicate expectations about what is and isn’t appropriate and leave it to the users to behave professionally.

2. Examine ease of use. Leadership expert John Maxwell says, “People don’t care what you know, until they know you care.” This is true in SharePoint. If you don’t invest in information architecture, navigation, user experience, and other ways to make your solution easier to use, users won’t know that you care, and won’t try to use SharePoint.

3. Take on training. Training budgets are often the first thing to get cut, the last thing to be worked on, and given the least thought. However, it’s training that gets the user what they need so they can be successful. No solutions are “so intuitive users don’t have to be trained.” If you don’t believe me, try to figure out the latest features in Apple’s iOS without a book or a friend explaining it. Make training a priority, both in terms of reference materials and instructor-led offerings (including coaching) on how to create solutions with SharePoint.

Building trust in your organization might not be easy but the results are definitely worth it.

Robert Bogue is a Microsoft MVP for SharePoint, an internationally renowned speaker, and author of 22 books including the SharePoint Shepherd’s Guide for End Users. You can find out more about Robert’s work to encourage business value out of SharePoint at SharePoint Shepherd or more about his technical solutions at Thor Projects

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