A project team is like a chronograph watch. If anything stops working, the whole mechanism fails. That applies even for the well-hidden miniscule particles! As the project manager, your biggest challenge is to monitor this delicate system and identify the possible outage before it happens. Once it does, you're the captain who's expected to wind up the watch, so it can get back on track and show the accurate time.
As a project manager, you interact with both internal and external parties, within different subject domains and varying levels in the hierarchy. All of them are your stakeholders and need your undivided attention. Communicating with clients is definitely not the same as communicating with your peers, just like managing a tech team is different to running a sales team. You have to walk a mile in everybody’s shoes and you’ll inevitably become the mediator that finds mutual ground with all parties, and unites them to deliver a successful project. Here is some advice on how to achieve that.
ENGAGE YOUR STAKEHOLDERS. BE PROACTIVE. BE HONEST.
A project lead is expected to be proactive. Nobody likes unexpected bad surprises, so if you detect potential bottlenecks - point them out. Your clients will appreciate your honest warning and will be prepared for the hiccup. In turn, your team will get the necessary time and resources to address the issue. Remember: hiding a problem could harm your organization, your relationship with the client and your team’s morale. Pointing out a problem and anticipating needs will do the opposite!
Going further, being in touch with stakeholders isn’t important only when dealing with issues, but also when planning the project pipeline. Before you set deadlines and make promises to the client, discuss all tasks, target delivery times and available resources with the team. Regardless of how good you are at planning, it’s always possible for your estimates to be out of line. This is okay - it’s why you have a whole group of specialists on your side. They can advise you on achievable timeframes or point out resource gaps. Thus you’ll avoid creating unrealistic expectations for the client, and stressing out the project team.
CHOOSE THE APPROPRIATE COMMUNICATION METHOD.
Digital technologies have made our lives at work easier. It’s very easy to drop a message and forget about it… until it’s 5 days later and you realize you need the addressee’s response to complete today’s report, but they haven’t replied. And, to make it worse, they’re on vacation now. You get the idea - basically, if you need an urgent response you shouldn’t overcomplicate things by writing long emails and following up when it’s too late for the project agenda. Simply pick up the phone for 2 minutes and call your stakeholder. It will be a time saver and a more pleasant experience for both of you.
The same applies for your project team. You need to judge whether a certain topic is best discussed in a meeting, via chat or on a conference call. Here’s a general rule - avoid arranging too many meetings, as sometimes they actually hinder productivity. Respect your stakeholders’ time and be efficient. If possible, arrange planned meetings with clear agenda that allows you to go through multiple priorities at once. Your team will appreciate this kind of agility.
It’s definitely not easy to support multiple stakeholders’ agenda, get along with various personality types and lead both your and your client’s company to success. Everything comes down to the way you communicate and we hope this material helped narrow your approach at least a little. To access more detailed advice, download our white paper on stakeholder management: