Relationship Building

Our four part guide to the Attributes of the Effective Program Manager:

Part 1 of 4: The Program Manager’s Role
Part 2 of 4: Relationship Building
Part 3 of 4: Effective Questioning
Part 4 of 4: Decision Making

Part 2 of 4: Relationship Building

Program management involves human relationships, and the program manager must be more than proficient at relationship building. Leadership is more than just the facts. It’s about establishing relationships of trust both up and out (to and among stakeholders) and down and in (to and among teams and project managers).

Leadership exists on a basis of trust, and program managers must constantly develop and use relationship capital. In light of the number of relationships that exist at the program level, program managers must establish strategies and tactics to manage those relationships. Suppliers, customers, subcontractors, program personnel, and auditors, among others, all require strong relationships, which facilitate honest dialogue and result in quick problem identification and resolution. Additionally, these relationships instill a sense of loyalty and friendship that can be leveraged in a time of crisis or need. Performance in a time of crisis or need is highly dependent on the trust that existed within the team before the crisis or need.

Many program managers use formal methods such as surveys, interviews, complaint logs, and focus groups to constantly analyze and assess the status of critical relationships. Why is this important? Consider this: being able to accelerate a supplier’s deliverable can be more dependent on your personal relationship with the supplier than on the contractual relationship between you and the supplier. Similarly, customer satisfaction is often dependent on the strength of your relationship with the customer. In addition, the ability to increase your team’s productivity is often dependent on your personal relationship with the team. In short, the ability to accomplish objectives through others is directly correlated with the strength of the relationships or the relationship capital the program manager has developed.

One of the best leadership tips I ever received was to read books on salesmanship. You may be wondering what sales and leadership have in common. Through various sales books, I’ve learned that the best salespeople are great relationship builders. Relationship building involves knowing your customers: understanding what motivates them, what their needs are, and how to negotiate and communicate with them in a way that allows you to meet their needs. This information is equally valuable to program managers, who lead better through relationships than with logic. With solid and productive relationships, the program manager can implement logic within the program.

The following sales books are invaluable resources for a program manager:
How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie
How I Raised Myself from Failure to Success in Selling by Frank Bettger
Selling the Invisible by Harry Beckwith

Another advantage of building relationships is that it facilitates the ability to solve problems. For example, many companies struggle with fixing entrenched problems that cross organizational boundaries because they don’t have respected leaders with relationship capital who can cross those boundaries. Without deep-rooted trust on all levels, program managers will have a hard time fixing or changing the problem. Deep-rooted trust is relationship-based. To be a successful program manager, you must have deep-rooted trust across the organization. Only then can you leverage relationships to solve the persistent problems that plague the company.

As a program manager, you must encourage your project and operations managers to be relationship builders as well. An organization with a high percentage of relationship builders is an organization that can solve problems quickly and respond to new challenges effectively. The right response for solving problems often becomes self-evident. The ability of organizations to implement this response is dependent on relationship builders who can leverage trust to overcome the natural and political resistance to change in the organization.

Our series is about the attributes of effective program managers. Another attribute is the integration of technology to the program management process. WorkOtter helps make your program management effective by implementing and managing your program proccesses. Get a demo of WorkOtter and see how we can make your program management effective.

“The Handbook of Program Management: How to Facilitate Project Success with Optimal Program Management, Second Edition” by James T. Brown is a copyrighted work of McGraw-Hill and McGraw-Hill reserves all rights in and to the Content. ©2014 by McGraw-Hill Education. Purchase the book on Amazon.


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