In this new series – Gaining Management Support – I will be blogging about credibility, trust, and access and how these 3 concepts impact relationship management. One of the best ways to establish a working relationship is to start with line management while you are waiting for your first HPI (Human Performance Improvement) project or during project down times. Spend some time getting to know the folks you are most likely to be engaging with for a future project.
Alan Weiss in his book, Organizational Consulting: How to be an effective internal change agent, recommends that internal consultants avoid what he calls the IRS syndrome – “I’m from the IRS and I’m here to help you”. Just because you may be an expert in training and “schooled” in HPI/HPT (Human Performance Technology); you don’t need to alienate your internal customers. You want to gain credibility in order to be accepted as a peer and then earn their trust. So it’s easy to play it safe and agree with the current point of view when seeking acceptance with a new internal customer. Contrary to how to win and keep friends, you may need to take an unpopular viewpoint on an issue you feel strongly about. But don’t just show up only when there is a problem and declare “gotcha” or “I told you so”. Work on proactively providing ideas for improvement. Be mindful of finding the right balance between suggesting ideas and showcasing your “brilliant” concepts.
Ideally, the best time to initiate a relationship is during a current project especially when the shared project is going well. A “project client” is no less important, the difference is in intensity during the life of the project. A project client is the one who is ultimately accountable for the project results, and may not be the one who initiates the project discussion, explains Dana Gaines Robinson and James C. Robinson in their book, Strategic Business Partner: Aligning people strategies with business goals. Before you can get access to strategic work, a Performance Consultant has to prove s/he can deliver on tactical projects that are solution oriented. Gaining access starts with cultivating a relationship with project clients.
The secret is not to ignore or by-pass the project contact person but to work with him/her to gain access to the project client. Suggest that he attends meeting with you regarding issues that need to be resolved at the higher level or collaborate on joint update briefings to the leadership team. Dana and James Robinson assert that by establishing good relations with the contact, access to the project client is less adversarial and demonstrates an authentic approach to getting answers/ direction that was not previously available. Project clients can become true clients; one that provides access to strategic initiatives. Or they can provide introductions to true clients. If possible, volunteer for activities that will give you visibility with this person while supporting him/her on the assigned project. They will begin to learn more about your “other” capabilities and your ability to handle more than “assignment at a time” will be confirmed. And in all your interactions, ensure that they are truly value added conversations; else you be perceived as wasting a busy executive’s time. -VB