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How to build professional relationships for project managers, using Relationship Awareness Theory

Surveys and my personal experience show that a key to project success is your ability as project leader to build professional relationships. When your project runs into a problem that is not being solved through organizational channels, can you pick up the phone and call the person who can solve the problem? Do you know who to call, and will they take your call?

Recently, I was discussing the value of professional relationships for project managers and the vital role that professional relationships play in project success, when my colleague challenged me with "How do you build professional relationships? What are the steps that a project manager should take to establish and nurture professional relationships?"

Here are the steps to build professional relationships for project managers. You should use the tools and knowledge from training in Relationship Awareness Theory® to help you build these relationships, so that you can optimize the relationship. Building professional relationships is an art and not an exact science.

Let's say that you are newly assigned to a project and are starting with a clean slate in the role. You have worked with some of the project stakeholders in the past, in other roles, and some stakeholders are new to you.

  1. Schedule a "Meet-and-greet" session with each key stakeholder. If you are co-located, then schedule time for coffee. If you are remote, then a schedule a phone conversation. The agenda is to get to know the other person, ask about challenges and opportunities on the project and to listen for clues to identify the stakeholder's Motivational Value System.

  2. Schedule periodic "catch-up" meetings with the stakeholders, to stay in touch. You need to stay in touch to build a relationship.

  3. Be positive, energetic, and professional in your relationships. Nobody wants to receive phone calls from a whiner or someone building an "us-versus-them" attitude on a project.

  4. Use your knowledge of your own Valued Relating Style (VRS) and the VRS of your stakeholders to enhance the relationship, during every interaction. For example, I prefer to provide details and analysis to all my stakeholders, because I am analytical by nature. This causes conflict when I provide lengthy details to a person who wants brief executive summaries and quick action or a nurturing person on the team. Applying your Relationship Awareness Theory expertise enhances your professional relationships.

  5. Don't only talk about problems. Some people are OK with only getting a phone call when there is a problem, however you can strengthen the relationship if you are open to talking about project successes and peripheral topics as well. (Obviously, you want to stay away from topics that could be misinterpreted, like a manager trying to become involved in the personal lives of staff that report to them.) In my experience, you can be open to talking about non-project topics, however, don't assume that everyone wants you to meddle in their personal lives.

  6. Be true to you. Be authentic and sincere. When you are sincere and authentic on your project and in your professional relationships, then your brand and reputation carry over to the next project and the next project. Although you may be unpopular for taking decisions on a project an executive sponsor watching you may decide that you are the right person to lead tough projects in the future. Either way, you will be able sleep at night if you are true to yourself.

There you have it - Six steps to building professional relationships for project success.

Other points to consider. (This is homework for you.)
  1. Review your existing professional relationships. How did you build the productive ones, and how can you influence the unproductive relationships?

  2. Looking around you - who do you admire due to their ability to build professional relationships? How can you apply this to your own relationships?
Please let me know if you have found other tips and tricks that build and nurture professional relationships in your project management career.

Copyright 2018 Wayne Botha Email Wayne Cell: 860.214.4897