In my previous post, I introduced the first 3 of 5 relationships that I consider vital for Agile Leaders, or leaders in any context. This post contains the fourth and fifth relationships.
#4 – Relationship with Your Stakeholders
The fourth important relationship is with your stakeholders. In a project context, stakeholders are those who are positively or negatively impacted by the solution. In an agile environment, it might be end users, business teams, and even other agile teams.
Identifying relevant stakeholders, understanding their wants and needs, and managing their expectations is important. Building relationships of mutual respect and trust is essential.
To understand stakeholders, we need to appreciate their goals, desires, and hot buttons. We need to engage and communicate with them in the style that they need. I once heard a project manager say that their most important deliverable to stakeholders was “communication”.
Building relationships with stakeholders can be challenging. Rank and hierarchy can play a part, as can physical distance, or the sheer number of stakeholder in your context. You may not feel like you have time to build relationships. You may be afraid because your goals collide with theirs.
I recently had a coaching client that I was helping to transition from wwaterfall-style development to Agile and Scrum. There was a set of key stakeholders who felt threatened by the change and they did what they could to undermine it. I realized too late that I had not invested enough in building the relationship with these stakeholders, understanding their fears, and aligning on common goals.
Self-check: Have you identified your stakeholders, sought to understand their needs, and built relationships with them?
#5 – Your Boss or Customer
Last but certainly not least is the relationship each of us has with our manager or customer. Everyone has a boss or manager, though some may not be as obvious as others. For example, when I work as an enterprise coach, the “boss” is usually the client champion for Agile that hired me. Whatever the context, there is always a boss, customer or client that has made the choice to work with us.
Boss relationships can be challenging. I know that early in my career I had difficulty with bosses because of my fear and anger and the baggage I carried from my childhood. My default was to see authority figures as dangerous. I have worked and continue to work to overcome this and to ensure that I don’t project my negative view of authority figures on my bosses today.
Another common dynamic that we can play out with our bosses is the Karpman drama triangle. In the drama triangle, each person takes on the role of victim, persecutor or rescuer. Those prone to being victims will gravitate to that role and make their boss the “persecutor”.
Like all the relationships, the relationship with your boss requires an investment of your time and energy. You can view this as unimportant or hope that your hard work speaks for itself. Or you can nurture this relationship and build a strong bond.
Self-check: How would you rate your relationship with your boss or customer? Have you invested in this key relationship? Do you have any baggage that could get in the way or a strong bond based on trust and mutual respect?
Agile Leaders Need Relationships!
Whether in an Agile context or a more traditional context, relationships are the key to success. They are even more important than hard work. Take a moment to evaluate yourself across these 5 key relationships. How would you rate yourself in each area? Where do you think you are strongest? Can you build on those strengths? Which relationships do you think you are the weakest? What could you do to mitigate or strengthen those relationships?
This article was originally posted on the ProjectManagement.com website.