How to Enhance Relationships for Successful Projects


project management tips for relationship building and success

When a project is defined, the work of forming the right team begins. This makes enhancing relationships one of the most important tasks to achieve a successful project.

How does a project manager manage relationships?

Project teams are usually created to deliver a unique benefit to an organisation. Often, the project is for something outside of day-to-day activities and consists of a generally diverse group of people tasked with achieving the desired result. Projects require a project manager or leader to manage not only the project but the stakeholders, timelines and resources involved.

A project manager may hear:

  • ‘Just tell me what to do.’
  • ‘What is the task list?’
  • ‘Why can’t X manage that?’
  • ‘Can you give me a checklist?’

To answer these questions effectively, a project manager must provide context and work to create cohesive team relationships. When you consider that one in five projects is unsuccessful purely because of ineffective communication, it’s more important than ever that project managers clearly communicate goals, responsibilities, performance, expectations and feedback.

It would also be remiss not to mention the importance of listening as well as communicating. Active listening is the biggest factor in effective communication. Body language, eye contact and asking relevant questions demonstrate to someone that you are actively listening, genuinely interested and engaged. Model active listening to your team and encourage team members to use these skills with each other.

How to communicate the vision and end goal of a project

  • Project managers share the big picture and make it consistent with their message.
  • They invite the team’s feedback on what they see is needed.
  • Project managers ask the right questions:
    • How does this task fit into the overall goals of the team?
    • What are the most important components of doing this work successfully?
    • Who needs to be involved?
    • What does success look like?
    • What is an achievable timeframe and what resources are needed to do it?

How often should project managers and stakeholders meet?

On the surface, meetings can appear to distract from the real work of the project, especially when a project has a tight schedule. However, cohesive teams meet digitally and face-to-face to ensure the right meeting cadence. Yes, meeting too regularly will distract from the work that needs to be done. However, not meeting often enough can result in roadblocks, a loss of momentum and missed opportunities to communicate early and alter course. So how do you find the right meeting cadence for your project team?

This will depend on a few factors, namely:

  • Where your team sits on a scale of independence to interdependence
  • How predictable or uncertain the work is
  • How many people and moving parts are involved
  • Where and how often your team communicate outside of meetings

Higher levels of interdependence, work uncertainty and people involved will usually translate to more frequent meetings. Conversely, higher levels of team independence and work predictability will likely require fewer meetings. Opportunities to communicate clearly and effectively outside of a meeting format may also translate to a need for fewer meetings. You can always adjust the regularity of meetings as you go if you find them too frequent or infrequent.

Within a meeting itself, keep these tips in mind:

  • Keep check-in meetings short and to the point (under 15 minutes)
  • Create an agenda for longer meetings (over 15 minutes) and designate someone to take meeting minutes and keep everyone on track
  • Encourage team members to report problems and ask questions as they arise so that corrections are immediately implemented
  • If an answer is unknown, assign it to a responsible person with a timeframe for them to locate the information and report back

Remember that fequent communication creates flow and momentum as changes can be made faster.


How to track stress factors and team performance during a project

Everyone needs feedback on their progress, so it’s in the interest of the project that you are aware of each team member’s performance. The most effective way to monitor performance is through individual coaching sessions.

Your time spent coaching will be most effective if you use questioning to identify:

  • Problems with performance
  • Issues with staying on time and within budget
  • Relationship or conflict issues
  • Corrections with clear outcomes

Questions are an effective and democratic form of management. Coaching provides a powerful opportunity to acknowledge what is working and where improvements are needed. Keep questions specific to the individual, task and situation.

Another benefit of the coaching process is judging whether or not you are applying the right amount of pressure. John Kotter describes this as the “Productive Range of Distress”. Enough stress will get team members motivated into action.

The bigger challenge is to identify who is burdened by too much stress. It’s difficult to assess this because some people will have an obvious or panicked stress response. Others may withdraw and direct their stress inward. As there is no single pattern, you should look for deviations from a team member’s normal behaviour. You can use regular coaching sessions or one-on-one meetings to judge stress responses and monitor behaviour. By monitoring behaviour regularly, the signs of distress can be quickly corrected.

How to make a project fun and enjoyable

Adding an element of fun is found to increase productivity. In the words of Fish! Philosophy, “We take our work seriously without taking ourselves seriously.”

Add fun by finding creative ways to celebrate reaching each milestone. Praising progress is always more effective than waiting to praise the final result. A positive atmosphere results in everyone involved feeling inspired about the work and motivated to continue.

How to enhance project team relationships

Project managers must spend time with the project team, be fully engaged, be prepared to listen, understand team member’s feelings, manage performance and motivation and make the project fun. Having an effective strategy to enhance relationships within the project team will aid in driving a successful project.

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