Friday, October 21, 2011

Grab your feedbag... Time to care & feed those project relationships

There probably isn’t another word in any language more despised than the word politics. Simply saying the word tends to evoke churning of stomach, gnashing of teeth, and rolling of eyes. Yet we spend tons of time talking about it, watching it, and yes, engaging in it particular when it comes to getting stuff done for our projects.

While you might feel like you need a shower to wash away the grime and dirt that seems to come with politics, I think it deserves second look.  Maybe a nip and a tuck are in order for its VALUE in project work to be fully experienced.

Playing politics
My favorite definition of politics says it’s about getting people with different interests moving in a common direction. How do you do it? Well, there are two approaches.

Negative politics is first person driven where the individual gets things done at someone else's expense. This is the person who happily wins when others lose. Hmmm...That's no good.

Positive politics is when we use influence with an eye to the corporate mission to get things done. We seek to create a win-win for everyone as much as possible. We're advocates acting in the best interest of the project. Yay...That's more like it.

It’s no easy feat to get people across lines of business to work together.  It requires patience, organizational awareness, and a broad, deep network of relationships. And you know what makes the job even tougher? Read on.

Caring & feeding for change
A project is a temporary endeavor undertaken to create a product or service. How does this play out?  Projects create change, and that's what makes it even tougher. This means somewhere somebody is going to have to do something different, and chances are they won't like it much. Ugh... 

Project-driven change doesn’t happen overnight.  While building relationships cross-functionally is a great lateral first step, it’s the caring and feeding of those relationships through positive politics that makes it happen.

Caring and feeding relationships is an ongoing activity activity. Don't expect people to pony up if you're only coming around when you want something.

Practice some VALUE
So how do you avoid the whispers of "Oh no, here they come again?" Caring and feeding relationship requires presence and VALUE which includes:

Visibility – Ask questions; be curious about people. Adapt your style to the style of others.
Availability – Stop multi-tasking and be present for others. Focus on the person or people with whom you're talking.
Lead by Example – Do what you say you’re going to do. Treat others how you like to be treated.
Understanding – Show empathy for constraints.  Lend a helping hand.
Embracement – Create ownership by hearing and incorporating their ideas.

In this digital age, we tend to have a just in time mentality which usually doesn't leave much time for networking or the positive politics approach. The downside is it can bite you badly when you don't take the time to cultivate the relationships you need to get projects done.

Just like anything, balance in all things is needed. What things do you do that help care and feed your project relationships?

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