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Topics: Leadership, Stakeholder Management
How much effort do you invest in building personal relationships?
I was reminded of the value of personal relationships as a means to get things accomplished a moment ago, when I asked a Developer with whom I used to work closely to spare a few minutes to explain something to me. He was only too happy to do so. When I left, I considered the magnitude of the favor he did for me. He is very busy and in demand, and I have no formal authority over him. I’m sure the main reason he made time for me was the personal relationship we had developed over the years.

Out of curiosity, do you make time to build and nurture personal relationships throughout your organization? How do you go about doing so? I have always let them develop naturally, but I’ve never intentionally focused on building them, particularly with people with whom I don’t closely work. I believe I need to change this, however, since I have seen many times how having a friend in the right place can make the difference between whether or not I can accomplish something.
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I agree 150% Building relationships is key and I have found People love to help other people, when something is in crisis mode is usually the bond builder. I have found those relationships are the ones that show up and respond as quickly as they can.
I invest a lot of effort into building person relationships within any organization. I view this as making capital deposits into an account. At some point I'm going to need to make a withdrawal. Better to start with an account that has something in it than to create a deficit.

As one example, I had some IT infrastructure folks who went above and beyond their basic job to help us out. I made a point to express my appreciation not only to them... but to their boss as well. Having your boss forward an email of appreciation for something you did goes a long way toward helping that person in the future.
I work hard at developing and nurturing personal relationships within my organization as well as with vendors external to my organization. This helps me to grow as a valued employee internally. I'm known as a "can do" kind of person and if I cannot provide an answer, I usually know someone who can. If I need to go outside of my organization for a solution or assistance, my contacts may not be able to provide assistance, but they almost always can point me in the right direction.
Eric -

This is critical to being a successful PM regardless of whether it's a project-oriented, matrix or functional organization. If the first time you hear from me is when I need something from you, why should you drop what you are working on to help me out.

It's especially important for the PM to do this with functional managers before the heavy lifting begins on a project so that when resource challenges occur, the PM has already built up some social capital with those key stakeholders.

Eric, great reminder to all of us that servant leaders build relationships. It is through these connections that we get things done. Project management is about communication, and the larger network of relationships you have the more power you have to get help and ideas to help you succeed, and communicate back out to help other succeed. Those who are good at helping others tend to find when they need help there is an abundance of it.

Some already great responses in this thread.

I build relationships on an informal layer, mostly. I talk to people, get to know their DHA (dreams, hopes, aspirations). We cover their experience and family. I invest genuine interest in these discussions (the end-goal is not just to have a bridge -- but to actually get to know the person).

Worst case scenario? We share in fascinating stories and insights. One of the most memorable quotes, for example, that I keep with me is, "95% of what anyone says is pure bullspit. But every person has 5% to say that you can learn from".

A cup of coffee is a fantastic method to get to know someone at this layer.
I let relationships happen naturally or I look for opportunities where you get a feeling that a relationship could develop. You need to just have your radar sensing potential relationships. You need to click with that person.
When dealing with team members, I try to include personal information in the conversation. In my experience learning about hobbies, family, accomplishments, and birthdays helped to make a deeper connection with team members. I think for building good relationships we need to be truly interested in the people you deal with, both from a business and personal perspective.
One of my job titles was Business Relationship Manager. I was responsible for large project portfolio and I needed to have great relationships on side of IT speacialists as well users, business owners and top management. Developing and maintaining relationships was part of my job. You can learn how to do it and I believe any project manager should do it. There are many benefits that directly influence quality of your job, starting with better understanding of stakeholders expectations, user resistance to changes and many others. It helps you manage risks better. All because people are more happy to share with you their views and there is a trust between you and them.
To be most effective in my role as a project manager, I take time to build relationships with those I am working with.
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