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Relationship Management – PM Tips

A key skill within project management is effective relationship management; I know some exceptional communicators and also know some who think they are exceptional communicators – unfortunately it is difficult to break through a hardened ego shell so this article is aimed at those who remain open minded to improving or honing their skill. Behaviours play a big part of relationship management and building – gaining respect doesn’t purely come from a shining track record of stellar delivery, it comes from a few factors:

 

  1. Respecting others – show interest in individuals and understand what their drivers are, listen to them and hold on to the information.
  2. Be genuine – we are all human, admit your mistakes and set your limits.
  3. Support others awareness of you, share interests and values.
  4. Demonstrate integrity – practice what you preach, roll your sleeves up and work with others.

handshake

Connect with others by listening, create a positive environment where you demonstrate a personal investment in the relationship, apply appropriate boundaries and gain a clear sense of what individuals are saying, build rapport and encourage others to listen in return.

When in a scenario you should look to apply the following:

 

  • Acknowledge what is being said, register what is happening.
  • Identify their intentions – what is it they hope to achieve.
  • Review – consider the conversation and either respond there or give a time when you will be able to provide a response.

 

Always ensure conversations have a healthy balance of input and response, listen, offer support or solutions, listen, confirm understanding, listen, reflect and summarise. Make observations; provide feedback and/or opinions, challenge views, offer relevant examples/stories and advice. Don’t talk over others – let them have their say, but keep in control of the discussion.

4 Team Building Ideas For Your Business

If you are the owner of a business or a manager within a department, do you know your staff well? If the answer is no like many peoples answer then maybe it is time to carry out a team building activity. There are great days out that you can take part in across the country that will get you involved with the team and also help them to interact with one another. I am going to take a look at some of the best activities for team building in North East England:

Blind driving
If you know that your team would be up for an action packed activity then you should try out blind driving. If you really want people to have more trust in each other, there is nothing better than making them drive blind and only be able to drive safely by listening to somebody else. You could select the pairs of people who do not really speak to each other to encourage them to work together to make it round the course safely.

White water rafting
If you are still looking for something thrill seeking and involving water, then white water rafting is a brilliant choice. Not only is it an activity that will fuel adrenaline rushes but is a great way of getting people to work together. Making sure that you all pull together and do your bit to navigate around the course will ensure a really fun trip and colleague bonding.

rafting

Chocolate making
If you know that your team would not enjoy the thought of doing something thrill seeking, why not take them for a chocolate making session, surely nobody would turn this down? If new team members have joined it will be a great ice breaker and a way for everyone to improve communication skills in a calm and fun atmosphere. With the smell of chocolate in the air everyone should feel at ease and comfortably ask each other for help.

Maze
If you want to do something a bit active but due to the time of year you have planned it don’t really want to go outside, why not try an indoor maze? You could set up different teams and locate them in different parts of the maze; they then have to try and find each other in the centre and then get back out! Leaving different clues will help everyone to pull together and help find the exit.

These are four very different ideas but all have the same goal of getting everybody involved in something enjoyable yet challenging that will improve communication. Mixing up usual social groups and separating them and using small numbers if possible is a great way to make shy people feel more comfortable and for extraverted types to adapt to being in a different situation. Having a mix of personalities in tasks works well as each person will bring something different.

Project Management Communications

Project management encompasses a large range of skills; leadership, planning, scheduling, communicating, decision making and being a visionary. Being able to identify these vital skills and fully develop your understanding of these abilities will ensure that you not only survive, but you excel within the field of project management.

Organisational skills

The role of a project manager takes on many forms, and due to this; organisation and planning skills are listed highly as required abilities. Of course there are very few professions that do not require extensive planning, but project management demands a highly skilled approach as a skilful execution equates to outstanding results.

Project management requires the preparation of project documentation, requirement information, memos, project reports, personnel reports, vendor quotes, contracts and the supervision of the entire processes involved. An essential part of daily working includes organising meetings, developing teams and also, in some cases, organising media relations such as press releases and conferences.

Methodologies such as the PRINCE 2 (an acronym for projects in controlled environments, version 2) enables project managers to organise and control the six major variable factors of any project, these factors are cited as:

  • Cost
  • Timescale
  • Quality
  • Scope
  • Risk
  • Benefits

Much of the benefit of the PRINCE 2 methodology is its transferable and highly scalable nature. PRINCE 2 can be utilised across any project, including highly specialised and industry specific models (engineering models or developmental lifecycles).

Comms

People management skills

Strong project managers should display excellent people management skills. The human dimension bears little relation to the technical ability of an individual, but closely relates to leadership, conflict resolution and ultimately communication. Author and expert within the area of project management Steven Flannes, actually cites that, 80% of project management success comes from people skills and 20% from technical expertise.

Why are people skills so vital?

  • The cyclical and stage nature of projects
  • Increase in complexity of client remits
  • Continual outsourcing of finite and cost effective resources
  • Increased movement toward client driven project management structure
  • Challenges of leading in matrix management structures
  • Increase of virtual team coordinated efforts

Communication skills

Often, problems that project managers are faced with are completely unrelated to their technical competence, but interestingly it is the lack of interpersonal communication skills that pose the largest threat. The latter of course is an essential facet, but is vitally a core skill of a project manager.

It is argued that project managers who demonstrate a high degree of technical expertise are actually hindered within their ability to negotiate. Often great project managers take a more generalist point of view. Generalists, typically, elicit a higher degree or resourcefulness and tend to lean toward being more open to suggestions and ideas. This in turn increases the momentum of a project due to the fact that compromises have a higher degree of continuity.

Adversely to this notion, experts within a particular field tend to display a narrower mind-set that may or not be conducive to the end result.

Financial skills

An exhaustive breakdown of project activities and associated costs enable the project manager to identify trends quickly and plan pro-actively. Although, no project manager is expected to be an accountant but a thorough understanding of the “estimated cost process” clearly would be listed as integral. Cost planning is not only vital for your reputation, but also for maintaining strong and healthy relationships with clients.

Estimated costs should take into consideration for the entire lifecycle of the project. A detailed cost breakdown of resources (labour and materials) along with any regulatory implications should be undertaken. The cost analysis process should also insure against other extraneous factors. An estimated cost analysis must include all factors fixed and variable; this will essentially ensure that the entire project runs efficiently, effectively and to budget.

James King is a construction industry expert who has 20 years’ experience in the field of core cutting project management. He writes for Corecut, the UK’s leading diamond drilling and controlled demolition company.

Imagine there’s no email – communications planning

Back in the day before technology such as email, social networking and forums had been thoroughly adopted we were resigned to actually speaking to each other – either face to face or via telephone. I wonder if we compared success rates for project delivery to today if achievement was higher? Probably not, however I bet communications were deemed as much stronger. I am a huge fan of modern technology and it’s benefits for easy access and recorded communications however as we become busier and lazier – it is all too easy to fire off a few emails and update online activity boards without actually discussing any changes or actions required by the project team. How many times have you seen your name entered next to a piece of information or been put on copy of an email and thought; “what does that actually mean?” Our ability to interpret information varies from person to person and so a great deal of important instruction / information can also get lost in translation.

As a project manager the minimum you should be doing is making sure you speak to people, understand their workloads other commitments and ensure everyone is clear on what is required. I am not a fan of unnecessary meetings either, meetings are required but only last week I was talking with a PM from the investment management sector who was complaining that they have meetings about having meetings – this is of course a step too far.

Work out a communications plan – make sure you list everyone involved on the project with the most heavily involved at the top working down to less active members of the team. Placing priority on the more heavily involved and working out a mutually convenient way to communicate such as weekly calls / coffee and teleconferences for groups to join in is a good start. Don’t be a stranger to the team and if possible, do pop over for a coffee and chat to see where they are at with their workstream. By effectively communicating at the start of the project and building relationships – you can convince the team of your intentions to keep in touch and that you are not micro managing, explaining the need to have a transparent view of where everyone is at will help you all work together more effectively. In my first PM role I reported to a programme director who said to me, “If you tell me when things aren’t going to plan, I will have your corner. If you cover up and drop me in it then you are on your own.” You can’t say fairer than that! Encourage your team to communicate – but you can only do this if you are openly and regularly communicating yourself.