How Leaders Can Build Trust In A Team with Kevin Whelan - Meeting Leadership Podcast Episode Image

If you want to be an effective leader then you have to learn how to build trust in a team.

In MLP episode #010 you’re going to learn how to do this from Instructor and Productivity Expert, Kevin Whelan (see bio below). 

Not only will you be inspired by Kevin’s stories but you’ll also learn how to:

  • Acknowledge that projects often fail because of people problems (not technical problems)
  • The importance of defining roles and responsibilities
  • How to get out of the way and let people do their jobs and more

Enjoy this highly valuable episode!

Kevin Whelan

Kevin Whelan - Meeting Leadership Podcast - Effective Meetings

Kevin Whelan is passionate about inspiring leadership and reducing inefficiencies in the workplace and this is how he transforms every client he works with.

In his current role as a facilitator at NAIT  – the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology – he guides students through learning how to become efficient and effective people centred project managers.  

 He backs up his teaching excellence with over 25 years of industry experience in manufacturing, operations and project management roles in the petroleum and automotive industries.

 Kevin also gives back to the community by serving as the Vice President of ASET – The Association of Science And Engineering Technology Professionals of Alberta.

You can get in touch with Kevin on LinkedIn at

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Show Highlights

(:00) Show Opening

(:27) Skip intro Podcast content starts here!

(1:14) Kevin Whelan Introduction  

(1:38) Why Projects Fail Kevin tells us that projects don’t usually fail for technical reasons, but more often due to a lack of people skills

(2:28) Building Trust in a Team You need the ability to influence 

(3:10) Know Your Role How to be clear about who does what

(4:02) Roles and Responsibilities Sheet Have everybody read out their role so that everyone understands

(5:04) Stay in your Lane Get out of the way and let people do their job

(5:51) Summary of Two Main Points Improve people skills and build trust early 

(6:41) Conclusion

(7:09) Meeting Leadership Academy –

(7:31) Podcast Outro 

Click Here To Read The Show Transcript


00:00 – Show Opening

Are you a professional who wants to become a more effective leader? Then get ready for daily tips from the coach with the experience and inspiration to help you succeed in any leadership situation. You’re listening to the Meeting Leadership Podcast with Gordon Sheppard.

00:27 – Start Here – Podcast content starts here!

Gordon Sheppard Speaking

Welcome to another episode of the Meeting Leadership Podcast. My name is Gordon Shepherd and I just want to say, thanks for spending some of your time here with me to pick up a tip or two that you’ll take and put into action right away to improve your leadership ability. Today’s topic, it is absolutely critical, because today we’re going to be talking about how leaders can build trust in a team. And it’s not me talking today, we’ve actually got a great interview guest on, his name is Kevin Whelan. He’s a teacher, a leadership and productivity expert, a dad and a volunteer with a tremendous amount of experience. In this interview you’re going to learn some important lessons when it comes to forming up a team and getting trust established in the right way. I don’t want to keep you waiting, so here’s the interview with Kevin Whelan. Kevin, welcome to the show.

01:14 – Kevin Whelan Introduction

Kevin Whelan: Well, thanks, Gord. I appreciate it.

Gordon Sheppard: It’s really great to have you here. Just before we get into this really important topic today, I just want you to take a moment to introduce yourself, so people can learn a little bit about you. Go ahead.

Kevin Whelan: Sure. My name’s Kevin Whelan. I’m an instructor at the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology, otherwise known as NAIT. Primarily, we teach leadership and project management and productivity improvement courses.

1:38 – Why Projects Fail – Kevin tells us that projects don’t usually fail for technical reasons, but more often due to a lack of people skills

Gordon Sheppard:    Well, so you’re an ideal guest for the podcast. I know today we’re going to be tackling how leaders can build trust in a team. This is the kind of thing that you’re bringing into your students every day in small ways. What’s the first point you want to bring across when we deal with helping leaders build trust in a team?

Kevin Whelan:       One of the first things we have to understand, in project management, well, not even always just in project management, but in project management, quite often projects are not failing due to a lack of technical skills in our team. Projects fail due to the lack of people skills or what’s known as the soft skills. It’s the communication or lack of communication or lack of understanding, somebody feels that they’ve been mistreated, somebody feels that someone else took credit for their work. Those sorts of things are the reasons that that our projects generally fail.

2:28 – Building Trust in a Team – You need the ability to influence 

Gordon Sheppard:    Kevin, trust is critical for folks that are in these situations. How do you help some of your students to learn from your experience and actually to get in really quickly, build trust, and what are the tools that you help them put to use right away?

Kevin Whelan:       Well, first of all, especially as a project manager, you’re going to be borrowing staff. Quite often we don’t have any direct reports, but if we have to borrow staff from other parts in the organization, we not only have to have the soft skills and people skills to bring those people on board, we also have to have that ability to influence and goad relationships with the people in the other departments, especially the people who are going to loan us their resources for any specific time.

3:10 – Know Your Role – How to be clear about who does what

Gordon Sheppard:    Do you do this with bribes? Do you give them money, what do you do?

Kevin Whelan:       One of the biggest issues is that people don’t necessarily always have a full understanding of what their role on the job is. They may have another job that they do on a regular basis, that is a little different from what they’re doing on the project. When the project starts, everybody’s very excited. It’s the first stage along the way and what we call the Tuckman model where teams, it’s the forming, storming, norming, performing. Well, during the forming stage, people are trying to understand what their roles and responsibilities are. If that’s not clear, one of the remaining ways is they can lead into that storming stage where there’s a lot of infighting that begins. One of the first things we can do as a project manager, as a leader, is to make sure that every one of our team members has a very clear understanding of their role and responsibilities.

4:02 – Roles and Responsibilities Sheet – Have everybody read out their role so that everyone understands

Gordon Sheppard:    I think you can’t sort of be clear enough at this stage, can you? In terms of quite literally in a meeting setting, sitting down with each person and say, “This is what you do, this is what you do,” is that where you’re headed with this?

Kevin Whelan:       Yeah, absolutely. What I’ll do is I would, ideally, with my core team, I would meet with each one of them and go over the rules and responsibilities sheet and just read it through with them and make sure that they understand what it is that they’re supposed to be doing on the project. Then one of the first team meetings that we have where I introduce everybody, what I would do is have everybody stand up, talk about who they are, a little bit about their background, and then read out their rules and responsibilities sheet. What that does is that it helps not just clarify what their job is on the project, but it helps the other team members who may have had a different understanding of what they were supposed to do. It gives them that opportunity in a safe setting to say, “You know what? I thought that’s what I was supposed to be doing.” And you go, “No, no, hang on, let’s clear this up right now.” It helps get rid of some of that muddiness at the beginning.

5:04 – Stay in your Lane – Get out of the way and let people do their job 

Gordon Sheppard:    I’m so glad you’ve brought this up and in this really clear way. I can tell you I was on a consulting engagement with some senior leaders recently and one of things that I do in these engagements in terms of helping them to develop communication, is I have a pre meeting phone call with them. One of the clear comments was, “I’m in my lane, you don’t need to judge me for what I’m doing. You just have to be, respect that I, been hired to do my job. Just let me do my job. You do yours.” In the meantime, when they cross over like that, they waste a lot of time. Is this something that you’re seeing as well?

Kevin Whelan:       Oh absolutely. If these things are not clearly delineated at the beginning of the project, it is one of the biggest areas that is rife for potential conflict. As project managers, we need to be able to deal with conflict.

5:51 – Summary of Two Main Points – Improve people skills and build trust early 

Gordon Sheppard:    I couldn’t agree more. Again, these episodes are so short. You’ve made a couple of great points that I think people can take away, and quite literally, apply to their leadership journey today. I just want to take a second to recap. Just tell me, go over your two main points in a short form. Go ahead.

Kevin Whelan:       Well, the two main points being that, of course, first of all, projects don’t fail due to a lack of technical skills. They generally fail due to a lack of people skills. The second part is, we have to establish trust and we have to build it early. If we don’t start establishing trust and building a safe work environment where people feel that they can openly express themselves, that is going to be a breeding ground for conflict moving on.

Gordon Sheppard:    This is a massive couple lessons today. I know the audience is going to benefit from it right away. Kevin, thank you so much for being on the show.

Kevin Whelan:       Yeah, no problem, Gordon. Thank you.

6:41 – Conclusion

Gordon Sheppard:    I hope you enjoyed that interview with Kevin Whelan as much as I did. When I get around leadership and productivity experts like him, I really get inspired and I know that he’s going out there every day and taking his students and their leadership abilities to the next level. If you’d like to get in touch with Kevin, just check out the show notes for this episode by visiting That’s

7:09 – Meeting Leadership Academy –

Gordon Sheppard:    I also want to let you know that this episode of the Meeting Leadership Podcast is brought to you by The Meeting Leadership Academy. There’s great leadership training options live and online and you can get them all at As always, I want to say thanks so much for joining me today and we’ll see you tomorrow on the Meeting Leadership Podcast.

07:31 – Podcast Outro

Thanks for listening to the Meeting Leadership Podcast. Be sure to subscribe for more strategies to help you become an outstanding leader, and don’t forget to rate and review, so we can bring you fresh content every day. We’ll see you tomorrow, right here on the Meeting Leadership Podcast.

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Gordon Sheppard

Gord is on a mission to change the world, one meeting at a time. Over his 25+ years in business Gord has run or participated in more than 2000 meetings! Not only is Gord the CEO of Business Expert Solutions Inc. (owner/operator of Meeting Leadership Inc), but he is also a Facilitator, Trainer, Business Consultant, Author, Speaker and Podcaster who helps leaders learn how to have great meetings, so they can build outstanding organizations and serve their clients at the highest possible level.

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