You’ll probably never see a project proposal with a line item for “human connection.” And yet, this idea of human connection is one of the intangibles that plays an essential part in both the success of a project and the satisfaction of everyone involved.
What is human connection? In part, it’s the chemistry that exists between various people who are working on a project. But it’s also more than that! It’s about intentionally building strong connections between people to improve communication, to align visions and goals, and to weather misunderstandings. This connection provides the foundation for successful projects as well as long-term partnerships. And let’s be honest, even the most introverted of us need connection with others!
Why human connection matters
In tech-centered companies, it’s easy to bury human connections. There’s research to do, code to write, and tests to run. And much of this work is done in isolation. For teams who work remotely or clients who aren’t local, these issues are compounded.
But in any business, compassion and empathy play an important role in getting to know people, understanding their “why,” and working together to achieve their goals. It’s about translating what’s being said through the lens of good intentions. How can we best serve?
For us, getting to know clients through an on-site discovery can be an important part of creating that connection. This time together allows us to dig deep into what drives their organization. It also helps us identify their goals for both a specific project and for their organization as a whole. And it lays the foundation for open communication and understanding.
What a true partnership looks like
There’s no Webster’s definition for “human connection.” For us, it means prioritizing relationships right up there with the work that’s being done. The work is still important (so, so important), but the relationship can’t get lost in the project plan.
It’s this human connection that takes a relationship from a contracted vendor who simply delivers code to a more active partner. This type of agency partner is truly invested in the client’s success and has a place at the table when appropriate.
We’ve found that these four principles help relationships grow into true partnerships:
True partnerships take time
A partnership takes time and effort to build. Anyone can start off a honeymoon phase with a positive attitude and expectations. But we create a high level of trust over time by working together and communicating openly—both in what we say and in how we listen.
In that initial phase of working together—before we’ve established trust—we focus on demonstrating who we are as well as learning who the client is and what they value. We know that all organizations work differently, and this is a time for discovering how they work and what’s most important to them. (For example, some clients want frequent detailed updates, while others prefer periodic executive summaries.)
Through this learning period (and beyond!), we want to be real, authentic, and transparent because it’s simply the right thing to do. We want clients to trust that what they see is what they get—at every stage of the project. Being authentic from that very first interaction ensures that there are no surprises down the road in how we work or communicate.
True partnerships involve mutual trust
It’s important for clients to trust us and to believe that we always have their best interests in mind. And it’s our job to demonstrate that trustworthiness in the little things, day in and day out. But it’s equally important for us to trust the client. This happens when we’re confident that they’re being open about their expectations and hopes as well as sharing all of the important information with us. No matter how hard we work at it, we will never fully understand the client’s vision as well as they do, and we need to trust them in that.
True partnerships require a willingness to work through things
This trust allows both parties to assume the best of the other at all times. When deadlines are tight, something isn’t working as expected, or there’s an unexpected roadblock, everyone is able to approach it as a team and figure it out together. (And let’s face it, when technology is involved, something will inevitably surprise us. )
It also means the frustrated party is willing to pick up the phone to bring it to the other party’s attention. For both parties, it means pushing through awkward conversations in order to resolve the issue and strengthen the relationship. (Most of us don’t enjoy pointing out where someone has messed up or hearing where we ourselves have messed up!)
True partnerships include commitment
This strong connection means that when something goes wrong—on either end—we want to make it right, because we share the same goal: a successful project. It’s about owning mistakes and coming up with a plan to address them. There’s no finger pointing, just celebrating the success of overcoming obstacles together.
On the other hand, relationships without this strong connection leave one or both parties always looking toward an exit strategy. This can include trying to catch one another in a mistake or put the blame on the other party. This isn’t healthy for the relationship or the people involved, and it affects the long-term success of the project as well.
Over and over, our experience has shown that true partnerships are worth it!
While not every relationship is going to be the perfect fit, finding one that is and taking the time to nurture it is like striking gold! When team members are valued right alongside excellent work, the end result is a great product and happy clients. That’s what makes this “work” so rewarding.