It’s easy to think of project management software as the tool you use to take care of business. It’s what you use for logging, tracking, and monitoring. You use it for scheduling, budgeting, and reporting—the “hard” skills of project management. But behind the resource allocation status graphs and project plan are real people.
Even if you’re aware of how your project management tool helps you communicate more efficiently with team members, stakeholders and clients, have you ever considered that your project management tool can improve and transform your work relationships? The changes can be simple ones, but they’re also the kind of changes that have a profound effect on levels of trust, confidence, motivation, and loyalty—among team members all the way up the chain to executive committees, clients and customers.
Here are three significant ways that your project management software can drastically improve your work relationships.
1. Forge connections that build trust
The right project management tools will help you make meaningful connections with the people behind the resource allocation graphs. Collaborative tools help improve the soft skills of communication and teamwork in the way they create touchpoints by engaging everyone on the team in one location. In turn, these increased team interactions can build trust over time. Here are easy ways to use collaborative PM tools to improve the levels of trust in your team:
- Make resource assignments visible and accessible to all team members. Complaining about someone else’s workload – or lack thereof – is more common than you might think (even if you don’t hear the squabbles directly). When people can see how and where everyone’s work is allocated, it removes every opportunity for the naysayers to complain that someone else isn’t working hard enough.
- Encourage team members to approach one another (rather than always going to their manager) to talk through the challenges of their project work. If team members can make comments in the context of project items, that makes things easier. Bonds of trust are built the more team members share ideas and work through challenges together.
- If you’re a manager, share relevant project data that you access from your PM tool with your team. When important information is discussed among the team, you not only share the bigger vision, but the transparency increases motivation and commitment.
- If you have an avatar or an identifying picture attached to your PM tool, make it a photo. This way, if you’re working across teams or there are new team members, people know what you look like, and can remind themselves of the person behind the screen.
- Use the project calendar to mark significant dates, including milestones like birthdays. The right kind of personal touches goes a long way!
- Use your project management tools to manage your To-Do lists and stay on top of any extra commitments you made to your team. This will keep you from over-extending yourself and not being able to follow-up. Nothing builds trust like following up on a consistent basis.
All these practices contribute to building solid, trusting work relationships with your colleagues. Also, teams with high levels of trust between members are more enjoyable places to work.
2. Build client confidence
The collaboration features inherent in your project management tools will also let you build great relationships with clients. Building great relationships is something that is easy to say or write or aspire to, but how do you get there?
Transparency is a fantastic way to show that you know what you are doing and that you want the client to be part of it. Provide direct access to views into your project management tool. You can set access parameters and surface curated data and information to show exactly where the project stands. No surprises for clients, big confidence booster for the project team.
Also, when you let your client see exactly how much progress you’ve made towards your goals, it shows your commitment to their project. Consequently, your client will be able to see the steps you’re taking to deliver on your promises. Together you can identify and resolve any issues that might be stopping you getting there.
Finally, make sure that you include feedback loops so that your clients can tell you how it’s working out for them. Whether you do this through your software or another channel is up to you, but project management software collaboration features—with commenting and chat functionality, along with tagging and sharing items—streamline ongoing feedback in one place.
3. Provide a good work balance
If you could work wherever you wanted and whenever you wanted, as long as your projects were completed on time, would you do it?
In Susan Dominus’ article “Rethinking the Work-Life Equation,” recently published in The New York Times Magazine, she writes about a study where sociologists set up half an IT division to work under the company’s usual working policy, while the other half were given full rein to work however they wanted—as long as they hit their goals. In addition, managers were trained to be supportive of the challenges employees were dealing with outside of work, and to open up about their own. Managers were also reminded twice a day to think about the ways they could support their employees to maintain a good work/life balance.
It didn’t surprise me that the “work however” group was able to deliver their projects as planned and that they were much happier doing so. What did surprise me was that further research showed that their families benefited too: Their children reported less stress and teenagers said they slept better.
Successful work-life balance is dictated by a number of factors: company policies, management, and an employee’s own personality. But each one alone doesn’t make a flexible, happy workplace. Instead, a project management tools can make the difference between a team being able to work on software projects in another office or part of the world, to a team being required to come into the office and work hard-coded hours.
People in the New York Times article’s experiment reported that they were less inclined to leave the company, even three years later if they were happy with how they were able to work. Working relationships, therefore, must have been pretty good between employees and their managers – because however great the flexible working policies, if you don’t get along well with your team and you don’t have the tools that enable you to do your job, you wouldn’t be inclined to stay.
There are so many ways the right project management software supports elements of building, nurturing and maintaining relationships that create a happy and successful work experience. Being able to build and maintain trusting relationships that are collaborative and adaptive is key to keeping people working with your company. Make work as flexible and inclusive as possible, and start to see some of those benefits across your projects.
Are you missing out on a better way to manage work relationships?
The relationship among teams to each other and to external stakeholders thrive when using a Dynamic Project Management system. This smart, adaptable and human approach to managing projects is the modern way to manage work.