Relationship building is an important skill that any IT manager should possess and develop in order to be an effective manager.
The IT department delivers technical assets that an organisation utilises to support its daily activities. These technical assets impact the entire organisation and therefore the IT manager needs to have an in-depth understanding of how the organisation operates, the needs of each individual department and the correlation between between the requirements of all business units within the organisation,
Delivering effective IT services requires a lot communication with members from different areas of the organisation, it is not an isolated service, communication is a vital aspect of delivering effective IT services.
When communicating with other members of the organisation, clients or suppliers, they will respond better to you if they like and trust you.
It is much easier to talk to stakeholders, internal or external, if they like and are open to you in the first place.
Networking as a key to relationship building
Networking is essentially about building solid business relationships. To do this you need good skills in creating rapport and listening.
If you can make a connection with people on subjects you have a genuine interest in, their confidence in you will grow. Use this connection to engage them and then ask genuine questions and just listen. They'll often tell you what you need to know. Strong relationships will inevitably stem from commonalities discovered in simple conversation.
Being interested in people
Building good relationships means being truly interested in the people you deal with, both from a business and personal view. While discussing business issues is usually the main purpose of speaking with someone, finding out something personal about them takes the relationship to the next level and makes the business conversation much easier.
Learning about hobbies, special interests, family, leisure time activities, organisation memberships and anything else that might be of interest will help you make a deeper connection with your peers. It is important to also be able to “read” individuals as you communicate with them. Some people are not comfortable discussing personal matters, you should be able to quickly understand this and make sure that you are not invading other people’s personal spaces or being inappropriate.
The important thing is what you do with the information you get. When dealing with team members, suppliers, clients and stakeholders try to mix personal information in the conversation. Every contact doesn't have to be about business. It's about peeling away the layers of formality and resistance to improve your chances of achieving what you want to achieve from the interaction.
Promoting a culture that favours relationship building
The best managers are those that develop a good sense of community within the team and across business units. Establishing a healthy culture as part of the community can help win the hearts and minds of clients, staff and suppliers. Culture is about sharing values and a healthy culture will be one that has people who care about each other. In projects it's about creating a 'community' within the project team that shares a common purpose.
It's not just a nice idea. A healthy culture can give a team an edge both in performance and in attracting good quality team members which is of vital importance. A good culture includes (often unspoken) expectations about the way things are done. In a project team these can be about how members respond to inquiries, how they greet each other, and how they behave when the pressure is on.
It's about treating people with respect and listening to their point of view. This doesn't mean you have to agree, but it does mean you respect their right to think differently and to express their views.
Cultures need leaders to set expectations and offer guidance on what's important. As a manager you will need to be aware that people are watching you for clues as to how to behave in relationships with others. Actions speak louder than words.
Relationship with suppliers
The contractual relationship is often one that's all about who has the power. One of the best ways that managers can improve their supplier relationships is to develop loyalty. Loyalty is a two-way street and to earn trust of suppliers, project team members need to demonstrate their value. It includes being professional and respectful in dealings with suppliers, being efficient in delivery of orders and specifications and working one-on-one when the supplier needs it.
In essence, it's about remembering that suppliers are people too and will respond well to a personal touch. When making a judgment about how their client will be treated, a supplier can't help but consider how he or she is treated by that organisation. Managers can cultivate supplier loyalty through open and honest communication. Keep them informed about major decisions and show them you have thought about how decisions will impact on them.
Good relationships are a key to success
It's easy to have good relationships when everything is running smoothly. But relationships really count when projects or related activities start to come undone. As with anything that involves people, establishing processes to encourage good communication and relationships and make clear expectations, provides the cornerstone for success in any project.