You’ve heard the old adage, you only get one chance to make a first impression.

That is certainly the case when it comes to working with project teams.

If your project relationships get off on the wrong foot, it can be disastrous. You need to be intentional about building these relationships from the get-go. Even if the project is with a client you have worked with previously, you’ll likely be adding new stakeholders to the register, so stay aware.

Relationships are a key part of all aspects of our lives. At Solarity, “Relationships” are so important that we have included it as one of our Core Values. You have to be able to trust the people you work with.

Here are seven tips to help you start (and keep) the good vibes going in your project

Give them your time

All relationships require time to keep them healthy, professional ones are no exception. It may be tempting to want to jump right in and get to work, but I urge you to slow your roll just a bit. You’ll likely be working with these people on this project for several months to a year or longer, so make sure you are nurturing your relationships as well as the project itself. That doesn’t mean you need to prelude every meeting with an hour discussion about his golf game. But do recognize the personal side of every relationship.

Find common ground

As you are doing the work, be intentional about getting to know the people you are working with, learning about their family, their hobbies, their sports teams. Just as there is more to you than your work, there is more to them as well. Look for common ground that can be a foundation to build on.

Practice active listening

Go in open-minded. Really listen to what your project team, stakeholders and sponsors are saying. Make sure you understand what they are actually saying and not what you think they are saying. That means asking questions to clarify. Being the receiver before you become the giver. People like to be heard. Don’t you?

Build trust

Trust is a huge part of project management, so it needs to be taken very seriously. Practice trustworthy behavior all the time, because if you do something to lose trust it is very difficult to recapture it again. Even if your intentions are all bright and shiny, you can still lose trust by making one of the following trust-destroying mistakes: exaggeration, understatement, or over-optimism. Be clear and frank in all of your communication. You are not writing a Hollywood screenplay. You are running a successful project.

Communicate their way

Some people like to pick up the phone. Some prefer email or text. With others, face to face is the way to go. Be cognizant of these preferences and try to work within the confines of the person’s comfort zone. Just as they have preferences, so do you, so try to be aware of your little idiosyncrasies as well. Err on the side of conservatism when it comes to written communication because misunderstandings are more likely in these scenarios. Even if your client likes to go nuts with the emojis, you probably shouldn’t, just in case. He or she may not use capitalization in email, but you should. Staying clear and professional in your communication can ward off misunderstandings, another trust killer.

Deal with issues in a timely manner

If you ignore something it will go away. This works with things like bad haircuts and stray dogs, but it does not apply to project management. The sooner you deal with a difficult situation the better. Make sure you understand the details and severity of the issue, take a deep breath, and go deliver the bad news in as concise and frank a manner as possible. Again. Truth, not drama.

Do good work

This is the easiest way to keep your client feeling good about you. Do great work! Do it for your client. Do it for your company. Do it for yourself. Even the best relationships will be short-lived if the work is shoddy. If you always do good work, it makes the work more enjoyable for you, and people will look forward to working with you in the future. When they come back to you for the next project, you will know you got it right.

About the Author

Brian McBrayerBrian McBrayer, PMP®, is a Project Manager with Solarity, helping our clients achieve their strategic goals by assessing their current situation, defining their desired future state, and then acting upon an approved plan to help them reach their desired outcomes.

Before joining Solarity, Brian was a Project Manager with Tenmast Software, based in Lexington, KY. He is a member of both the global & local chapters of the Project Management Institute (PMI)®. His experience includes project management, sales management & organizational leadership in the software, public safety, & food industries. 

Brian has a degree in Marketing from Morehead State University. He is happily married and has two grown sons.

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