A recent study of Fortune 500 companies identified the number one predictor of a project manager’s effectiveness is stakeholder partnership. Securing the buy-in of a project’s stakeholders helps build its foundations, and nurturing those relationships throughout the project’s lifecycle can be the most powerful asset in your toolkit. However, deftly maneuvering these multiple personalities on top of your project’s budget, scope, and timelines can be a challenge at the best of times. Here are five important mistakes to avoid to help you nurture that partnership.
Losing trust. Project managers often kick off a project with the good faith and good will of their team, but it can be quickly and easily lost. Failing to follow through on deliverables, executing on them correctly, or identifying and mitigating risks early on can render a project manager impotent.
Lack of communication. You may feel like working in a silo projects an image of confidence and competence, but the moment a stakeholder is blindsided by anything negative that illusion will be shattered. And with it, any good will and trust you’ve built up will be lost and the battle to rebuild it will be an uphill one. Also remember to cater your communications for your audience – what’s suitable for a developer may not necessarily be suitable for a COO.
Failing to advocate for the project. Your account team is your client’s advocate and your team leads are your team’s advocate. Your role is to bridge these often competing demands, and the most effective way to do this is to always advocate for what’s best for the project. And often, this means just saying no.
Not building consensus. You’ll encounter many instances where a decision needs to be made, often with key stakeholders in disagreement. Table options for discussion, outline their pros and cons, and above all else, make sure there are no surprises. If you can, communicate with the stakeholders individually in advance and find any common ground before you meet as a team to negotiate. Your role as an honest broker will help continue to build you trust and respect.
Lack of empathy. Perhaps the most valuable skill a project manager can learn is empathy. It helps you understand your client’s needs, your management team’s business imperatives, and your team member’s pain points. And as much as you do have to say no, sometimes you just have to swallow your pride and say yes — to added scope, shifting timelines, or unreasonable requests. When that happens, empathize with your team. Understand and appreciate their frustrations with the ask. If nothing else, it means that they care.
Managing budgets, documentation, and timelines are tangible skills that are specific to project management and, assuming a basic foundation, can be easily taught. But it’s the less tangible softer skills that will elevate a project manager from good to great. The New England College’s Masters of Science in Management’s program prepares students to face these real world challenges head-on, with communication skills, management skills, collaboration, and interpersonal skills among its outcomes.