There’s a saying that if you aren’t the dumbest person in the room you are probably surrounded by the wrong people. There’s no one right way to do anything and developing the skills and capabilities to mitigate conflict and keep your teams rowing in the same direction is a skill that must be constantly honed, especially for project managers who do everything through others.
Being a leader in organizations today can be entirely virtual with team members scattered all over the world in different time zones. As such, culture plays a key role in how persons receive the information you communicate and the way in which they interpret what you say especially on conference calls where it’s only auditory.
Knowledge workers are full of – drumroll please – knowledge, and this is one of the primary reasons where a PM’s paradigm can create conflict with other stakeholders leading to roadblocks that potentially derail a project.
As the PM on a project you’re not expected to KNOW everything. Let me say that again, Mr. and Mrs. Project Manager your job is not to be the subject matter expert (SME) on the project. This can be especially challenging for some personality types to accept because they attribute knowing the details of every aspect of the project to being on top of things. From my experience this just means that you’ve pre-occupied valuable brain processing power with details that don’t advance the project. Furthermore and more closely related to the very topic of this blog, when you assume this role as the PM, you potentially render your SMEs (i.e. key stakeholders) less valuable to you and the rest of the project team. At some point you’re likely to run into a situation where you must stand down for the benefit of the team and the project.
As they say, awareness is the first step to recovery, and the strategy for standing down is simple, be the dumbest person in the room. It’s amazing what you can learn when you don’t believe that you know everything already or claim to and your project team will thank you for it, because they now have the opportunity to contribute in a manner that let’s them feel more valued. This environment ought to be created from the very beginning as the team is being formed and you learn more about your stakeholders. This post assumes that you haven’t done a good enough job there, and the ramifications of that can be catastrophic, however, with this tip you can begin to turn the tide in your favour, if you realize this early enough, and make the necessary changes.
In addition to standing down and now allowing other stakeholders to assume their roles and be the SMEs in whatever disciplines they shine, your job is to pay attention. Review your stakeholder register and identify that special something – skill or capability – that every person brings to the team and start building a better picture of what makes them special/valued. At Kivify our team of PMs leverage a proven methodology/system to consistently understand stakeholders, establishing deeper relationships and communicating and influencing behaviours that drive project results.
For the time being in order to apply this skill in your project management, make notes on what you’ve learned about your stakeholders with your newfound time listening. People are all different and yet still similar in many ways and as a PM your job is to get the best out of your team, so understanding these little idiosyncrasies is where it starts. As your project progresses, use this insight you’ve gained to tailor your communication and leadership or motivational style to suit your team.
I learned this the hard way and hopefully this seemingly simple tip, which admittedly requires some discipline on your part, will bring you as much success in your projects as it has for me.
We’re always on the look out for quality PMs to join our team, so check out our careers page to learn more about our philosophy and get in touch if you think we’re aligned.