Building a Relational Ecosystem for Managers – Part 1

Becoming successful in today’s marketplace requires more than expertise and a strong resume. Of course, we all know this. For many years, including as far back as the writings of Dale Carnegie, relational influence and establishing personal strength in the area of building relationships, has been essential.
As an executive coach, I’ve heard many stories about relational issues. Everything from complete meltdowns to inspiring choices of forgiveness that changed a company or department. Brock Cohen jokingly said:

I think the expression “It’s a small world” is really a euphemism for “I keep running into people I can’t stand.”

In work through Trove, Inc. the last years, I’ve discovered the project manager faces the same challenges as the executives that I coach. In fact, when it comes to the project manager’s effectiveness in:
o Getting project team member’s aligned
o Motivating members and stakeholders through the project cycle and…
o Moving up in an organization (promotions, new assignments, etc.)…it comes down to learning how to build a


Soft skills are more than just important for project managers; they are essential for effectiveness and increased opportunities in the industry.

This blog will address one of the ingredients necessary to become a strong leader as a manager and to serve as a reminder for those presently leading in the higher places of organizational structure. The three parts of this blog will discuss these components:
1. Relationship Building
2. Relationship Bandwidth
3. Relationship Management

I. Relationship Building

We’ve all been relationship building since we were kids. When we are children and unhindered in our preconceptions and biases, friends seem to find each other. Literally, whether in my neighborhood, school, church, or on a sports team, friends found me and I found them. Of course, some were friends for a season, or, a school year, others, through high school, and, a few on through life. This blog is not about making friends, however. There are elements of what happens as a child that draws people together. The thought that as a project manager, supervisor or higher leader in an organization has forgotten some of these elements to attract others is a scary one. Ask yourself, “how did I find friends growing up?” “How did another child of a completely different background, race or even interests become my friend?” “What barriers did we children eliminate or ignore to play well together?” The following quote is strong:

Relationships-of all kinds-are like sand held in your hand. Held loosely, with an open hand, the sand remains where it is.
The minute you close your hand and squeeze tightly to hold on, the sand trickles through your fingers. You may hold onto some of it, but most will be spilled.
A relationship is like that. Held loosely, with respect and freedom for the other person, it is likely to remain intact. But hold too tightly, too possessively, and the relationship slips away and is lost.”
— Kaleel Jamison

In the workplace, most of my coaching clients are so busy with the tactical delivery of their product or service that thinking about soft skills, including professional relationship building is the last thing on their minds.

TIP #1 – Relationship building is a professional essential, not, an option in today’s workplace.

Why is the true today? It has always been true. Now, organizations are running leaner and each unit of talent requires levels of success that go beyond the tasks and the delivery. No generous head counts that maybe once allowed for relationship building to be a low priority with internal and external clients.

In an article, on, entitled Successful Relationship Managers Are Partners to Their Clients, Scott Vanderbilt writes:

The keys to success in any relationship — whether romantic, business, or otherwise — include both communication and action. This holds true in financial investing as well, where the relationship between the Relationship Manager (RM) and the customer can take one of two paths: 1) a successful path where both parties understand and trust each other, or 2) an unsuccessful path where communication and trust drop to subterranean levels and contribute nothing positive to the financial bottom line.

Scott Vanderbilt offers three actions a manager can take to begin to build relationships that apply perfectly to general management:
1. Inspire confidence
2. Provide the Best possible (financial) Advice
3. Deliver on Commitments

Isn’t this true in most, if not all areas of life: (1) Inspire confidence, (2) provide the best possible advice and (3) deliver on commitments.

TIP #2 – Relationship building needs intentionality, planning, “rehearsals” and evaluation.
o Plan in advance for certain scenarios to actuate your personality with friendliness and sincerity
o Go over any upcoming relational opportunities and plan your strategy
o Rehearse (even if only in your mind) different ways to express yourself in team or group settings
o Informally evaluate your relational “performance” to bring professional development into view going forward

You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.
— Dale Carnegie
TIP #3 – Relationship building requires the acceptance of the various personality types involved in any project team dynamic.

Practical steps:
o Simply come to the realization that you can be more successful as a manager when you attempt to build relationships with project team members.
o Be intentional and be aware.
o Accept that “different” personality type as a challenge not a barrier.
o Try new ways to build if the first round doesn’t work.

The next part of this blog on Builing a Relational Game Plan will focus on Relational Bandwidth, which includes stress management.

To build solid professional relationships will require these three tips plus a good attitude. Soft skills are now more important than ever. Attitude and a determination to give this part of your professional development some attention is key to success.

You cannot control what happens to you, but you can control your attitude toward what happens to you, and in that, you will be mastering change rather than allowing it to master you. Brian Tracy

Rick Forbus, PhD
CEO and Executive Advisor and Coach

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