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How to Build Relationships as a Project Manager? 

By Julie Cooley 18 Jun 2024
How to Build Relationships as a Project Manager? 

Are you worried that your job will be replaced by AI? Though AI can create schedules, produce risk registers, and help prioritise solutions, it cannot build relationships with your stakeholders. Power skills, formerly known as soft skills, cannot be replaced by AI. Since hard skills can be taught easily, AI excels. As a Project Manager, these power skills are what set you apart. Relationship management and team collaboration are integral to your success as a Project Manager. 

These power skills may be simple, but they are not easy. Working with different personalities can be challenging. The good thing is that most people have the same needs and desires, so when they are met, they are more likely to be productive and engaged. 

Arguably, one of the main responsibilities and challenges you will experience in your Project Management career is people management. Influencing without authority is a coveted skill. You have many different levels of stakeholders to interact with, from your project team to senior leadership. Though you have been tasked with a project, it does not mean that everyone is on board. 

Ways to Solidify Relationships With Team Members

project manager

There are a few ways to solidify your relationships with your teams and leaders to help you when you need to enforce change management and buy-in. 

1. Build Credibility 

If your team trusts your knowledge and skill set, they will trust you more when you are requesting them to be early adopters or need their help with a project. If you are not an SME, reading best practices and procedures and job shadowing can assist your expertise. 

2. Show Your Team You Care 

If your team knows that you have their best interests at heart, they are more likely to care about the project work and make deadlines. Ask them about their weekends. If you know they are going through a tough time in their personal life, check in with them. Congratulate them on their wins and successes. 

3. Be Creative and Stay Connected 

Send fun IMs to your team. I used to send messages to my team like “Have a Winning Mindset Wednesday.” I would only send the messages to the team members who appreciated them. It was an easy way to stay on top of my mind and foster connection. 

4. Do Not Be Afraid to Challenge the Current Culture 

You can bring in value when you identify efficiencies. My former department was puzzled when I would take notes at every meeting. My manager received feedback that the team did not think I was paying attention because I was taking notes. I advised that taking notes was the way I retained information. A few months later, my teammates would ask me to refer to my notes to remember what was discussed. The notes I took also became the baseline for documentation.  

5. Identify Process Efficiencies

 If you see something that needs to be improved, mention it and take ownership of it. In a previous job, I saw that the procedures were outdated and were not formatted in a way that was easy to read and reference. I brought it to my manager, and I suggested that we should form a focus group of SMEs to review and revise the procedures. We were able to update all the procedures and reduce the current amount of documentation by 37%, making it easier for the staff to use the procedures to ensure quality and consistency. 

6. Show Appreciation 

Send a thank you e-card. If your company has a recognition programme, utilise it. One of the ways my former department showed appreciation was to utilise peer-to-peer cards. You would send a card to a teammate when they went above and beyond. When they collected five peer-to-peer awards, they were given a $50 gift card. 

7. Network and Build Relationships Outside Your Department 

Get involved with Employee Resource Groups, Communities of Practice, and other groups your company may offer. Not only is it beneficial for your personal development, but it will help you create strong relationships with employees that you may not have otherwise interacted with. You may work with these employees as stakeholders for a future project or assist you in your quest for a promotion. Consider having lunch or coffee with these new connections regularly to keep the relationship strong. 

8. Adapt to Their Communication Styles 

Each employee prefers a different communication style and method. By adapting to their preferred style, you are showing respect for them. If they prefer a phone call, call them, and if they prefer IM, instant message them. I had one manager who would not respond to emails and preferred to have a meeting to discuss questions and issues.  


My manager had assigned me a high-profile project to resolve financial discrepancies. She was worried that the team would not respond or complete the work by the tight deadlines given. Since I had a strong relationship with the staff by implementing the above tips, the team gained the capacity to resolve the issues and meet the deadlines. They were extremely willing to help since they trusted me and knew I cared about them. 

By providing value and building strong relationships, you can take steps to project success. AI is fantastic as an administrative tool, but it does not have the emotional intelligence you have.