An IT executive recently said, "As you move up in the organization, people spend more time working on politics than they do on quality." That\u2019s a pretty depressing thought for those who\u2019ve spent years developing their technical skills in the naive hope that the results will speak for themselves. But when it comes to perceptions of quality, poor relationships can cast a dull patina on even the shiniest portrait.On the other hand, for those who realize that delivery is never perfect, the fact that the perception of quality can be enhanced by strong relationships is empowering. If your team is delivering day after day without receiving the recognition it deserves, take a look at how you are managing the soft side of delivery. In our experience, we have found that there are two common barriers to building relationships: being selfish and confining your interactions to formal meetings. \n\nBe the Guy Next to You\nIt\u2019s part of the human condition to live inside one\u2019s own head\u2014to assume that others have the same emotional needs, thinking styles and approaches to decision making that you do. But as the Army teaches, "It\u2019s all about the guy next to you." The best way to understand "the guy next to you" is to observe him, using one of the personality preference tools, such as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, to help you figure out how to best interact with him. Most professionals have taken these personality tests at least once in their careers but don\u2019t understand the power of the tool because they use them to understand themselves rather than to understand others. \n\n\n\nOnce you\u2019re armed with these insights, make sure you aren\u2019t selfish in your interactions. You can\u2019t build relationships if you are always taking and never giving. One IT executive, Mrs. Cold, called me recently and asked for a favor. We hadn\u2019t spoken in a long time, and yet the call began without the necessary tea and cookies (no "How are you?" or "How are the kids?"); instead, she dived right in to business. The interaction was cold and elicited from me a correspondingly cold response. Consequently, she didn\u2019t receive the help she was looking for. Mrs. Cold delivers, and she manages up well, but she doesn\u2019t invest in lateral or downward relationships. One day, when one of her projects stumbles and she turns for help to those she has casually dismissed, she will find herself standing all alone.One of the most powerful concepts in influence is the idea of reciprocity, defined by Robert Cialdini, author of Influence: Science and Practice, as people repaying in kind. Mrs. Cold would have evoked a different response from me if she had maintained regular contact, begun the exchange by focusing outwardly instead of upon her own needs, or followed up with some type of repayment (for example, an introduction to someone I wanted to meet, or a simple thank-you note).\n\nMeet Outside of MeetingsRelationships aren\u2019t built in conference rooms, through e-mail or over the phone. Relationships are built one-on-one, over coffee and lunch, and in social settings. For example, consider the executive who is remarkable in his ability to get his team organized and deliver the goods. Mr. Substance should be the next CIO but probably won\u2019t be. The problem is, he\u2019s all business all the time. Once you get to know him, he\u2019s delightful. Unfortunately, he doesn\u2019t interact with others in casual settings.\n\n\n\nAnother influence principle of Cialdini\u2019s is that of liking: People like people who like them. Mr. Substance doesn\u2019t reach out to others one-on-one because he is focused on what to say rather than on what to ask. Getting others to talk\u2014and listening in an active, as opposed to a passive way (in which you are just waiting for them to finish so you can say your piece)\u2014is the best way to identify common values, interests, pressures and goals. Successful questioning doesn\u2019t look like a courtroom scene in Law and Order, with one person doing all the talking. It looks like a tennis game: Serve up the question, return with added spin, pace or direction, and respond accordingly. It\u2019s amazing how often people don\u2019t play the conversation from where it landed and instead just pick up the ball and move it to another part of the court by ignoring their partner\u2019s response and changing the subject.Relationships make work meaningful. Not only in the way they humanize daily existence, but in how they ensure that good work is recognized, rewarded and well used. It\u2019s through relationships that you will be able to apply the tenets of marketing ("Tell them what you are going to do, tell them that you are doing it, and tell them that you got it done") in a way that isn\u2019t viewed as self-serving but instead serves others.