Last time we looked at how to use soft skills to our advantage. We continue this theme in this fourth and final installment in this blog’s series on soft skills and project management. We’ll now consider how project managers can increase project influence by building strong, long-lasting and positive relationships.
In today’s world, organizations can only perform with employee cooperation. As project managers, we need to be proactive and establish relationships across all areas of the organization so we can make progress faster on cross functional projects. By understanding what people want and why they want it, we can find ways to move forward together. The best ways to understand others are to ask questions, listen, and observe, as touched on in the previous blog entry. If we can better understand others, we will gain valuable insights on how to work together for a common good.
But relationships can be as fragile as glass, and building them can be a very tricky process indeed – especially at work where our reputations are built or destroyed by the words we use and the actions we take. So how, exactly, can we go about building good, solid relationships?
Respect is the foundation of a good relationship, and we need to begin by researching which key departments will provide a win-win situation. Establish a personal contact and begin building. Be prepared to talk about the benefits you can offer to the contact and the organization, and your request to establish an ongoing relationship.
To a certain extent, relationship success is based on timing, so following this step-by-step process will help you build successful relationships in an intentional and methodical way:
- Build relationships before you need help, and try not to wait until you want something. Successful project managers do this from the beginning to make it easier when they do need something.
- Decide which relationships are important so you will invest adequate time and energy to understand the contacts’ needs, and then deal with obstacles.
- Have a clear understanding of your priorities to keep focused on why you are pursuing a relationship. Understand where your and the contacts’ priorities overlap.
- Meet the contact in a setting where they will feel comfortable. When people are relaxed they are more likely to discuss what is important to them.
- Listen to your contact without judging them. Judging others creates distance and defensiveness.
- Provide recognition to the contact and their department for their accomplishments.
- Know what you can offer the contact to help build your relationship. Be solution focused and prepared to share what has worked for you.
- Personalities count – be ready to negotiate because both sides are in it for something. Ensure you value personal relationships.
- Ask your contact to help you make new contacts, network, better understand the organization’s priorities and to test your ideas. This will help you leverage resources for mutual benefit.
Building relationships will help you and your organization establish better overall understanding and more effective cross-functional projects. Establishing relationships with key departments will increase your awareness and create strategic partnerships. In addition, these contacts will keep you in mind when planning projects and dealing with issues throughout the organization. By reaching beyond the contacts in your department, you will learn how you impact other areas and gain insights into the opportunities facing your organization. Try these steps today to increase your impact, along with other pointers offered in this series.
Ben Snyder is the CEO of Systemation, (www.systemation.com), a business analysis and project management training and consulting company that has been training professionals since 1959. Systemation is a results-driven training and consulting company that maximizes the project-related performance of individuals and organizations. Known for instilling highly practical, immediately usable processes and techniques, Systemation has proven to be an innovative agent of business transformation for many government entities and Fortune 1000 companies, including Verizon, Barclays Bank, JPM Chase, Mattel, State of Oregon, Travelers, Bridgestone, Amgen and Whirlpool.