Written by Drew Simmons
The start of an HCM implementation project can be daunting. At first, it is normal to experience an intimidating feeling where you may feel like you have little or no guidance on how the project will come to fruition. Rest assured that through it all, you will not be alone. You will be given an experienced Project Manager who understands how the project should be conducted and will lead you through to project success. Your Project Manager will quickly become your strongest ally and best friend. In this blog post, we will review tips on enhancing your relationship with your Project Manager. It is important because, after all, you will be in daily contact with this person for the next 4 to 24 months, depending on the scope of the project.
The Importance of Familiarity, Comfort, and Trust
Korn Ferry has introduced the model of Familiarity, Comfort and Trust (FCT) into the business world to help us understand and embrace the power of high-performing relationships. Understanding this model is essential when partnering with your Project Manager during an HCM implementation project. The model acknowledges that there are many elements of diversity that traverse many different dimensions. Diversity is not just defined by the things we can see, such as age, gender, national origin, race, or ethnicity. Diversity also encompasses things we cannot see, such as family, organizational role, language and communication skills, work experience, etc. When a team first starts working on a project, the consulting and project team members do not always know each other, thus the inherent absence of familiarity, comfort, and trust at first. Understanding the dimensions of diversity helps us to identify common ground, and these are the areas where we can become familiar with other project collaborators to yield a better project outcome.
Source: https://www.kornferry.com/content/dam/kornferry/docs/fact-sheets/BuildingTrustingRelationships_FactSheet.pdf (© Korn Ferry 2018. All rights reserved)
The first stage of the model is familiarity. Familiarity  is defined as the state of being familiar; friendly relationship; close acquaintance. Becoming familiar with your Project Manager is essential because it is the foundation of building a high-performing relationship that is critical to business success. How do you become familiar with your Project Manager? Take some time to engage with them proactively. At the start of the working relationship, ask them about their interests. Find out how they spent their last weekend or the evening. If there are approaching holidays, ask them how they plan on spending them. Open the opportunity for someone to talk about themselves or their interests. It will show them that you are interested in getting to know more about them. They will most likely open up and return the interest that you have initiated. This period of acclimation will help to overcome areas where you may not know the Project Manager or be uncomfortable. Breaking down these barriers is important to do early in the working relationship to easily partner with your Project Manager to conduct difficult conversations that may arise later in the project.
The next stage of the model is comfort. Comfort  is defined as a state of ease or well-being. As we become familiar with our business partners, it leads to comfort. In this state, you will find that you are building rapport. This stage is where you begin to see the removal of potentially awkward moments during conversations with other stakeholders. Comfort is where you start to embrace commonalities, helping to deepen your relationship with your Project Manager.
The final stage of the model is trust. Trust  is defined as reliance on the integrity, strength, ability, surety of a person or thing, or confidence. Trust is the sense of relying upon others when working together. It’s the meaning of “I’ve got your back.” During implementation projects, trust is essential. It is not possible for you to be everywhere at once during such a project. You will need your Project Manager as a bona fide partner. This may be your first implementation project, but it is not the first for your Project Manager. Learning about your Project Manager’s professional expertise as you become familiar with them will help you become more comfortable with them, ultimately leading to a sense of trust. Trust enables you to collaborate with ease, which builds stronger team dynamics. These relationship “deposits” are critical before the challenging times when you need to make “withdrawals.”
Regular Communications are Important
You may be asking yourself, “What is the best way to build FCT with my Project Manager?” Establishing active communication channels is an excellent way to lay this foundation for FCT. If your Project Manager has not already done so, the client project lead should schedule regular project status meetings with the Project Manager alone aside from the larger team’s project status meetings. This is your private time with the Project Manager to talk candidly and share concerns without potentially impacting the rest of the team’s morale. Believe it or not, these meetings help reinforce FCT, which strengthens the foundation for project success.
When starting status meetings, please do not feel compelled to jump right in to discuss the project and its milestones. Instead, take some time to engage in small talk with your Project Manager. Ask about their hobbies. If you know about their hobbies, find out more details. How did they get interested in them? Do they have a favorite sports team? What is the most interesting trip they have taken? What shows are they binging on streaming channels right now? There are so many questions that you can ask during the start of the status meeting. Some people may think that this is a waste of time. Trust me; it is not. This is a standard component of conducting business. You are helping to strengthen the FCT dynamic with your Project Manager. Remember that you are helping to make those significant “deposits” in the business relationship dynamic. These conversations will also lead to a long-lasting partnership with your Project Manager. Again, your Project Manager is your best friend and strongest ally in the project. Take the time to build your relationship with them and get to know them well.
Have Difficult Conversations As Early As Possible
Now that you have acquired and extended familiarity, comfort, and trust with your Project Manager, the environment has been set to have difficult conversations effortlessly, should the need arise. FCT is considered to be a huge “deposit” in business relationships and engagement; difficult conversations are the inverse or the “withdrawal”. If you have FCT in place, you will be able to conduct conversations with your Project Manager with no problem. The key to successfully conducting difficult conversations is to stick to the facts of the situation, reiterate the desired outcome, remove obstacles, and seek resolution so the project can move forward. This tactic eliminates the emotion from the situation that could sabotage your relationship with your Project Manager. If you have done the work by building FCT beforehand, your business relationship account will not be “overdrawn” by the time you conduct all the difficult conversations that emerge during the project.
Don’t Take It Personally
You will likely encounter a situation where an escalation is needed during a project. An escalation occurs when something goes awry on a project. For example, maybe a data import was not executed as expected, and data is now in a less than ideal state with a deadline quickly approaching. It could be a situation where a stakeholder is overwhelmed with project tasks and cannot complete them. In these situations, it is particularly important not to take escalations personally.
When an escalation occurs, The Project Manager’s job is to use their intuition to protect the health and integrity of the project. If they feel that the project is in jeopardy, they will use their discretion to “raise the flag” to get the project back on track. A good Project Manager will be able to use the FCT model to have an early conversation with the client project lead regarding the project’s health before formally executing an escalation. During this conversation, be open and transparent with your Project Manager regarding your concerns about the project. Remember that you are dealing with the facts relating to the project. There is no place for emotions in this conversation. Like you, the Project Manager is working hard to successfully complete the project as quickly as possible. During an escalation, the important thing is to remember to focus on finding a resolution, not on the problem. This is where the progress lies.
HRchitect has a pool of some of the most talented Project Managers in the HCM consulting industry. So if you are looking for a partner to help guide you through your HCM deployment, we can help. Over the past twenty-five years, HRchitect has helped thousands of organizations worldwide align their HCM technology initiatives with business objectives to achieve extraordinary results. As a result, HRchitect is a name you can trust for all your HCM technology needs from strategic planning, system evaluation & selection, implementation, change management, client-side assistance, ongoing managed support services, and everything in between. Contact HRchitect today and request a consultation with one of our experts.
About Drew Simmons
Drew Simmons joined HRchitect in 2018 and brings over 25 years of experience in the field of Human Capital Management, including 5 years of experience with UKG Pro, to the HRchitect team. In his role as Director, UKG Pro Implementation Services, Drew leads a team of highly-skilled consultants to ensure high-quality delivery of Implementation, Optimization, Integration, Reporting, and Ongoing Support consulting services to HRchitect’s clients utilizing the UKG Pro Suite. Drew holds six UKG certifications and is also Certified in iCIMS Talent Cloud.
Drew’s well-rounded experience in Recruiting, Benefits, Compensation, Diversity and Inclusion, and HR Management within a multitude of industries has given him a proven record of accomplishment in project management, system implementation, conflict resolution, and troubleshooting critical business issues.
To learn more about Drew’s expertise, connect with him on LinkedIn
 As defined by Dictionary.com (https://www.dictionary.com/browse/familiarity)
 As defined by Dictionary.com (https://www.dictionary.com/browse/comfort)
 As defined by Dictionary.com (https://www.dictionary.com/browse/trust)