6 Ways to Build Strong Relationships on Your Project Team
In a roundtable session at a software conference, participants discussed how to build strong relationships when a new team is being formed to tackle a major project. Everyone agreed that the success of the project would hinge not just on the technical savvy of the team members, but also—and especially—on how well the team members get along.
Here are some of their ideas and recommendations.
1. Find common ground
When facing the stresses of a big project, people sometimes become so focused on their differences that they forget about their similarities. Whether collocated or spanning the globe, team members invariably have a lot in common. Discovering similarities—ideally before the project gets underway—helps not only in building relationships, but in working through the conflicts that inevitably occur.
2. Discuss differences in work styles
Early in the project, it’s a good idea to compare work styles and communication preferences. Collaborate with teammates about how you can work together in a way that respects both their style and your own. Give each other permission to raise concerns about how you’re getting along so that you can discuss those concerns and make adjustments sooner rather than later.
3. Laugh together
A project bogged down by intensity can be a miserable experience. For that matter, even a week without some lightheartedness can strain a team’s spirit. It’s not necessary to schedule regular laugh-athons, but a team culture that allows for some levity is a good thing. When conflict arises, people who can laugh together will be able to resolve conflict faster and more amicably.
4. Listen persuasively
Failure to really listen can trigger frustration, distrust, and a “why even bother?” attitude in those who feel their concerns are not being listened to. Listening persuasively by being fully focused and paying attention can help significantly in creating a strong relationship and maintaining that relationship as the project proceeds.
5. Consider the other team members’ perspectives
When team members act in ways that seem contrary or counterproductive, it’s tempting to dismiss them as troublemakers. A better approach is to try to understand their perspective. Taking their viewpoint into account may help you choose more effective ways of interacting with them.
6. Don’t forget the common courtesies
Common courtesies are so easy to forget under the pressure to deliver. For example, notice and appreciate the efforts of others. Thank them for their help. Lend a hand even when you won’t get credit for doing so. Show respect. Model the behavior you’d like others to exhibit. And when in doubt, do the right thing.