Famous culture expert, Dr Edgar Schein says in many of his books, “Personize it.” Find out what matters most to the person with whom you are building a relationship. It might be their family, a hobby, a skill, a cause. I struck up a relationship with an extreme introvert by finding out he was passionate about cycling. We had a common interest in the Tour de France so could both talk and listen with genuine animation. This interest built a strong relationship that has continued for over a decade.
When it comes to business and projects, find out what your person’s pain points are, and what can you do to help? If you’re a Sponsor, find out what roadblocks your Project Manager wants you to clear. If you’re a Project Manager, find out if your Sponsor is consumed trying to sort out conflicting priorities. When you’ve built that relationship foundation, this approach to problem-solving becomes more collaborative and productive because both parties feel like the other person cares.
Recognise also that sometimes when we offer help, it isn’t wanted! Sometimes a person wants to “vent their spleen” as Shakespeare would say. Often a simple question is sufficient, like “Would you like my help in solving the issue? Or do you need a sounding board? Or would you prefer to be left alone to try and solve it by yourself first?”