Put Yourself In My Shoes

Filed under Communication | Posted by PMStudent

Going to an existing project team is a unique challenge.

Doing it twice in a few months makes you reflect on lessons learned.

There are a whole new set of stakeholders, and whole? new team.? Every individual has their own history, contributions, and incentives in relation to the project at hand.

I have said for a? long time that the primary quality I respect in other project managers and try to develop in myself is empathy.? My lessons learned of late are in accordance with this insight. ?Empathy is really about trying to fully understand where your stakeholders are coming from as human beings as well, not merely their “role” on the project.

Team Empathy

Some rights reserved by Patrick Hoesly

You may be able to look at a schedule and see what your staff is working on, but until you speak with them directly and ask them with sincere ?interest what they are working on, you won’t really know much about their role. ?These people are not cogs in the machine, they have unique skills, aptitudes, and motivations.

You may discover that Joe has experience with a type of work that Matt is doing, and Matt is really struggling with it. ?Joe was never asked and never volunteered this information, but now that you’ve spoken with him on a human level you understand this and can make positive changes as a result.

Customer Empathy

Whether it is one individual representative or a myriad of end users and managers, understanding how they feel about various aspects of the project is critical. ?Requirements can be interpreted many ways without this context, and there are usually design preferences that it will benefit you to understand.

In a complex project environment, you may have multiple key stakeholders as customers and their expectations from you as the project manager will vary widely. ?Some may expect meticulous reporting, some may not care. ?Preferred communication methods and styles vary from person to person. ?The list goes on and on.

Sponsor Empathy

Your sponsor will also be coming at this project with a unique set of goals for you and the project itself. ?If you have a relatively “hands off” sponsor they may give you lots of room to breathe. ?On the flip side, there can be a striking lack of autonomy or just ?a big chunk of your time taken up by a sponsor who wants to be constantly informed of every little detail or has you running on wild goose chases all the time.

It’s important to know where your stakeholders are coming from very early on so you can be proactive.

Build trust early by:

  • Showing sincere interest in their perspective
  • Help them understand your perspective
  • Taking action to?accommodate?their interests and assuage their fears