From time to time, every Project Manager will find themselves managing difficult conversations. Because it is an important part of our role. But it’s one we’d rather not have. Then, of course, at the end of a hard day or week at work, you leave work. And again, you will have to face these types of conversation at home, with friends and in social situations.
We all know a difficult conversation as soon as it gets started – in fact, we mostly spot it in advance. This triggers adversarial or defensive reactions that just make things worse.
There are ways to plan and manage a difficult conversation to vastly increase the chances that it will go well. You want the other person will listen and participate constructively. You also want a good outcome. So, in this guide, I’ll offer you some practical techniques to give you confidence when you are managing difficult conversations.
Projects create change for the people in the organization where we are working. And the success of your projects will often depend on how well you manage that change process.
But dealing with emotions and arguments is uncomfortable. So, too many project managers shy away from it. They either leave it to a ‘change manager’, or worse: they ignore it.
That is a big mistake. So, in this feature article, we’re offering a primer in Change Management. We’ll tell you what it is, how people respond to change, and the main pointers you’ll need to manage change effectively.
A large part of your job as a Project Manager is communication; arguably the largest part. So, only focusing on technical skills will not serve you. It’s essential that you develop excellent communication skills. Luckily, there are many great books to help you.
Increasingly, this is the area my training business is focussed on. My clients are learning the value of giving their project managers – and general managers – great communications skills. And my experience as a project manager taught me two things:
So, in this article, I have set out to share some of the brilliant books that have helped me learn along the way. In reviewing them, I have selected the ones that are most likely to help you, today.
Stakeholder engagement and management is one of the essential Project Management disciplines. But it is often taught in a simplistic manner. The standard ‘four-box’ approach to deriving stakeholder engagement strategies can easily leave newer project managers believing there are just four basic strategies they can use.
But this is far from the truth. In fact, there are many stakeholder engagement strategies you can choose from. And you can apply each of these with a wide range of tactics and approaches to suit your situation.
But, if you don’t know the full range of strategies, you’ll find yourself responding in too coarse-grained a way. So in this article, we’ll delve deeply into the full range of Stakeholder Engagement Strategies.
As a Project manager, you need to be prepared to learn from many different places. And, from the world of marketing, you can learn a lot about how to plan your stakeholder engagement campaign.
You are a project manager. You care about getting things right. So you plan meticulously, identify threats and take steps to mitigate them. The only thing that can get in your way now is one thing: people.
What all experienced project managers know is this:
It is your stakeholders who will ultimately determine whether your project is deemed a success… or not.
So you need to be equally rigorous in planning your stakeholder engagement campaign. You will need to learn from them, build their trust, and ultimately influence their attitudes.
So what are the components of a stakeholder engagement campaign, and how can you determine the best strategy for each?
A large part of Project Management is negotiation. The need to negotiate is not negotiable. Whether you are negotiating for resources, settling scope, or trying to agree a compromise with a stakeholder, it’s a skill you’ll need, if you want to be successful.
But the prominence and practices of negotiation vary widely from culture to culture. In the Arabic souk, or in the north of the Indian subcontinent, it is more than a way of life, it is ritual to be savoured. Everyone is familiar with its ploys and gambits, and is comfortable with the give and take, the spirited competition, and the feigned offence. Not negotiating is what gives real offence.
In other cultures, the idea of negotiating to settle the price of that next consumer purchase is alien to us. And we don’t think of haggling over whether to eat at the Italian, Indian, North African, or Chinese restaurant as a negotiation: it feels more like an argument. So, not every Project Manager feels comfortable with the idea of negotiating.
The good news is that negotiation is a learnable process. Once you assimilate the four basic steps, you can practice each, carrying them out diligently, and you will get a result every time. Note, that it won’t always be the result you hoped for at the outset: that’s not the goal of negotiating. There are, after all, two (or more) parties to please.
Two of the things that put off many project managers are Politics and Stakeholders. Yet they are intertwined and a necessary part of project management. You cannot escape either so you may as well embrace them.
In this podcast, Andy Kaufman of the People and Projects Podcast, interviewed me about Politics and Stakeholders – an interest we share.
This interview ranged wider than politics and stakeholders, but for me, that is at its heart. Andy’s case study questions tapped into real ad tricky situations.
One of the things Project Managers fear most is resistance. When we encounter difficult stakeholders, it triggers deep emotions. It’s easy to feel out of your depth professionally, and challenged, personally.
This is a common problem for all project managers. And it can be unsettling for newer PMs. So we asked an expert in this topic to write an article for you.
Elise Stevens runs the fabulous FixMyProjectChaos.com website, with over 100 podcasts for you to listen to. We like podcasts. And she is a seasoned practitioner who now coaches, mentors and trains project managers. Hear Elise’s interview with OnlinePMCourses founder, Mike Clayton.
But most important, Elise has thought deeply about the challenges posed by difficult stakeholder. She even has an eCourse available. So why don’t we turn this article over to Elise, and let her tell her story…
Regular readers will know that stakeholders are a big part of my essential project management rules. So, Stakeholder Analysis is a vital Project Management activity. It is how you learn about and understand your project stakeholders.Rule 6: Stakeholders will determine the success, or not, of your #Project. Click To Tweet
So, it is high time we gave you one of our comprehensive ‘how to…’ articles on the subject of stakeholder analysis. So, buckle up for a big read, because here is everything you need to know – and some more – about stakeholder analysis.
A seasoned Project Manager, you quickly learn that there’s no escaping project politics.
It’s a fact of life.
‘When you play a game of projects you deliver or you fail.’
But you may find yourself tempted to say something like: ‘Hang on, I’m a project manager: not a politician.’
That would be nice, wouldn’t it? You could spend your days focusing on the basic management principles.
Well, pretty near the top is… Stakeholder Engagement. And what’s that all about? Politics.
So, you’ll always came back to the political dimension.
Because it’s always there in real life. No matter how much you may want to; you cannot escape project politics. So you do need to understand the basics.