Project Management

You Are Hurting Your Career (and Project) If You're Not Doing This

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You Are Hurting Your Career (and Project) If You're Not Doing This


accountability, bias, career, conflict, constraints, culture, decision-making, Estimating, excellence, feedback, influence, Leadership, learning, Lessons Learned, meeting management, negotiation, networking, personal performance, priority management, project management, project planning, project sponsorship, stakeholder management, Team Building, time management


The dirty little secret of business is that everything comes down to relationships.

If you’ve been in the workplace long enough, you’ve seen the power of relationships—in your own career and those of your co-workers. Chances are you got a job because of a relationship. Or were trusted to lead a project. Or got promoted.

Career Trajectory

I had a coaching client who went from Manager to Director to C-level in less than 5 years. He was competent, for sure. But he also had strong relationships at the C-level and I have no doubt it was those relationships (not amazing coaching) that blazed the trail for his fast-tracked rise in the organization.

It works the other way as well. Perhaps you or someone you know lost a job (or opportunity) because of a strained relationship. In Jeffrey Pfeffer’s book Power: Why Some People Have It and Others Don't, he’s clear: “The lesson from cases of people both keeping and losing their jobs is that as long as you keep your boss or bosses happy, performance really does not matter that much and, by contrast, if you upset them, performance won’t save you.”

Whether we agree things should be this way or not misses the point. Spend enough time in the workplace and you’ll see Pfeffer’s findings ring true. Your relationship with your boss matters—more than most people realize.

More Than Just With Your Boss

But it’s more than just your boss. Strong relationships with co-workers create greater trust which means work gets done faster. That’s the whole premise of Stephen M.R. Covey’s book The Speed of Trust. Good relationships with your team members help with engagement, retention, and just about every other measure that matters.

In the world of projects, the strength of relationships with stakeholders makes all the difference. They’re more likely to show up for meetings, advocate for your project, and speak honestly about their concerns…. if they like you, trust you, and respect you. And if they don’t? Your odds of successfully delivering are significantly diminished.

But you know all of this already. Maybe the Pfeffer point is new and somewhat depressing, but you’ve known for years that relationships matter, right?

Why Don't We Do What We Know Is True?

After working with hundreds of executive coaching clients and speaking on the topic to audiences around the world, the biggest pushback isn’t that people disagree with the point. The reality is they don’t feel they have time to develop relationships.

Great idea—don’t have time to do it.

If you take nothing else away from this discussion, it’s this: you can’t afford to not do it.

In subsequent posts, I’ll share more ideas to help you build relationships without demanding too much time. For now, share your thoughts in the comments section. How have relationships helped you in your career? With your projects? Let’s keep the conversation going. After all, that’s a great way to build relationships!


Posted on: April 11, 2018 01:50 PM | Permalink

Comments (10)

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Kiron Bondale
Community Champion
Mentor| World Class Productivity Inc. Welland, Ontario, Canada
Competency gets you the job and relationships help you keep it and thrive in it!

Sante Delle-Vergini Senior Project Manager| Infosys Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Looking froward to the stream of posts coming up. Thanks Andy.

Suha Alaah Warde PMP, Chemical Engineer| State company of oil projects El Cajon, Ca, USA
Sure, the relationships are important, but its one of many other powerful factors, your experience, your team building, your authority in organization.

Andy Kaufman Host| People and Projects Podcast Lake Zurich, Il, USA
@Suha, I completely agree with you. I'm suggesting that some may try to rely on their experience and authority without realizing that strengthening relationships across the organization can make an extraordinary difference. And Pfeffer's research on the relationship with the boss is important for those who think that their experience and authority alone is enough to allow them to thrive in their organization.

I would be interested in your experience, Suha. What do you do to build and strengthen relationships with your stakeholders?

Rami Kaibni
Community Champion
Senior Projects Manager | Field & Marten Associates New Westminster, British Columbia, Canada
Good Stuff Andy, thanks for Sharing. Cheers !

Anish Abraham Privacy Program Manager| University of Washington Auburn, Wa, USA
Andy, thanks for sharing your experience about the "power of relationships". I totally agree with that.

Andy Kaufman Host| People and Projects Podcast Lake Zurich, Il, USA
Thanks, @Rami and @Anish. It's one of those things that project managers often know, but we're so busy that it's easy to put off. I'd love to hear any strategies that you personally employ to build relationships.

Nico Schuster Managig Director / CEO| Tecpal Ltd. Hong Kong Frankfurt, Hesse, Germany
Interesting topic! Looking forward to seeing more posts...

Kathy Castle Author at| Freelance Tx, USA

Damian Perera Monitoring & Evaluation Specialist| Chrysalis Mellawagedara, Western Province, Sri Lanka
As for my experience, relationships have made many of the tasks easy. When we do not build good relationships with stakeholders, it can even lead to delays and miscommunication.

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