Project Management

Mindfully Managing Senior Stakeholder Relationships

Stakeholders play a pivotal role in the success of any project, and establishing a good relationship with stakeholders is one of the most important responsibilities of project managers. Effective communication between project managers and stakeholders occur on various levels—spoken, written, implied. Both sides are influenced by culture, perceptions, emotional intelligence, intentions, and hierarchies. The goal is to balance these factors out and drive the business. In an article for PM Times, George Pitagorsky lists a few things you need to pay attention to in managing relationships with stakeholders:

  1. Handle situations with certainty.
  2. Use emotional intelligence.
  3. Cut through the hierarchy by treating the superior as a peer.
  4. Pay attention and get access.

Prioritize the Long-Term Health of the Relationship

Before starting a project, it is important to claim responsibilities and create expectations for others. You may be tempted to make various promises to create a good impression on your stakeholders, but it will backfire later on if you set the bar too high and cannot deliver your promises. The key is to analyze and read your stakeholders. Some people are high-achievers, so if you can set some ambitious and doable goals, they will be more pleased. If others are more realistic and flexible, don’t even try to shoot for the moon and give a sense of false confidence; just be honest in creating expectations that you are able to meet.

Emotional intelligence, the ability to discern your own and other people’s emotions in order to label them appropriately and adjust emotions to adapt and achieve business goals, is also a critical factor. As project managers, you are subordinate to senior stakeholders. You cannot go overboard or communicate with stakeholders like your best friends. However, there are times when you can be completely honest and communicate on a personal level with your stakeholders. You just need to pay close attention to their emotions and the context of encountering.

Despite hierarchy, project managers and senior stakeholders can become peers who support each other and create a friendly work environment. Being a subordinate doesn’t mean you always have to bow down and be a people-pleaser. If your relationship with your stakeholders is something pleasant and beneficial to have, you’re going to get the time and attention from them more, which helps sustain a healthy relationship in the long haul.

Pitagorsky writes about how to make best use of your stakeholders’ time:

Senior stakeholders are busy. They have many things going on simultaneously and may feel that the issue they have with you is low on their priority list. Their time is limited, as is, in most cases, their interest in details. To manage a healthy relationship with senior stakeholders, you must make sure that your message is delivered succinctly (brief, to the point and clear). if you are trying to get across the message that there is uncertainty about your ability to deliver the desired results in the desired time frame, start with an engaging statement like “I’d love to be able to say that we can absolutely commit to delivering, but in good conscience I can’t.”

The point is to engage and give your stakeholder choices. Respect her time and need and interest in detail.

You can view the original article here:

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