If there would be one indefinite investment I would be asked to make in my professional life it would be human relationships.
In projects, even if short-lived, relationships matter the most. Project’s success rarely, if ever, depends on one person only. Relationships can make or break a project. As project managers, we have a double task of building our relationship with the team and creating/nurturing the environment in the team. And you should not forget about the relationship with yourself.
Relationships with team members start with developing rapport. I learned over years that developing rapport needs action on a number of levels:
A. “Knowing your self”, your triggers, your fears, your inner voice…
B. Taking time to learn about team members. What they like, what they dislike.
C. Opening yourself to others. The degree of openness depends on your introvert or extravert type of personality. Do not expect however the same from others. They will open when they are ready to trust.
D. Creating opportunities for team members to get to know each other. At a cooking class with colleagues, a team member exclaimed “you are surprisingly funny” addressing a colleague. Their work relationship flourished since then. This, in turn, brought large dividents to the project.
In a project team I managed, egos were big and complaints against each other – rampant. After a Christmas party, where each had to bring a gift to the team representing the country they were from, complaints ceased and the project could benefit from the unity of action through the diversity of background.
E. Making communication thoughtful and purposeful. In other words, think before talking and talk for a reason. Water cooler chats are fine, as long as no gossiping is involved.
F. Doing no harm to hamonious relationships between team members. Even if divide et impera worked in the short term, in long term it did not save even an empire.
G. Being consistent and practicing what you preach.
H. Giving credit where credit is due: in direct communication with the team member and also in discussions about what they do part of the project.
If you are wondering where to start, I found the profil4colors tool useful.
Another useful “getting to know each other” exercise is “Tell me about your favourite spot“: each team member is asked to describe their favourite place in as many details as possible. It tells many thanks about how creative people are, if they value the process or the result, how important are other people in their story etc.