By John R. Nocero, PhD, MBA, CCRP, GCP, CC, ACB & Katherine J. Pryor, MPM
There is no doubt about it, being a project manager is a tough gig! If you are a project manager or have ever thought about jumping into the field, you may have heard it described as being akin to the task of herding cats – feral cats at that. There are competing priorities amongst often disjointed teams that directly impact the budget and timelines; the project sponsor is often guilty of expanding the scope without increasing the budget or timelines; and there is the ever-present issue of project quality and risk mitigation. On top of all that, there are still people out there who do not understand the role of the project manager and foster uncertainty as to the important and positive influence a strong project manager can have on overall project outcomes.
Unfortunately, many project managers are perceived as edgy and hurried people unwilling to listen. Other complaints have been that project managers will not heed their functional lead’s advice or take direction well, and are basically not kind or pleasant people to be around. This perception is especially strong with internal team members where many team members avoid interaction with the project manager. Does it have to be so? My answer is no. Jill Lublin, international speaker and author of The Profit of Kindness agrees. In her book, she discusses that kindness is a type of currency that can be successfully used in business relationships to foster better relationships thereby increasing a company’s bottom line.
It is possible to be an effective project manager AND a pleasant person with who people enjoy working. In fact, kindness is a critical trait for a strong project manager to possess. At the end of the day, effective project management is about relationships – relationships with internal teams, sponsors, any external vendors, and all other players who may present during the project life cycle. In order to build strong and mutually beneficial relationships, one must be somewhat likeable and being kind to those around us is a way to be perceived as likeable. The old saying, “you catch more flies with honey than vinegar” certainly rings true in the project management realm.
Relationships with internal team members are often the most strained because it is from those internal teams that the project manager must make the magic happen. Internal teams often feel overwrought and underappreciated therefore are most likely to protest requirements and timelines. Taking time to develop mutually beneficial working relationships with internal team members yields positive project results. A relatively painless first step for project managers is to slow down and listen to what is being said by the internal team(s). From these types of interactions, there is likely beneficial insight that helps identify potential risks; provides solutions to tricky problems; or introduces time-saving options. If none any of those, at least it was a show of respect from the project manager to internal team member(s). Everyone appreciates being heard.
Overall, it costs nothing for a project manager to be kind but the returns for relationship development with internal team members are priceless.
Lublin, Jill (2017). The Profit of Kindness: How to Influence Others, Establish Trust, and Build Lasting Business Relationships. The Career Press, Inc. Wayne, NJ. USA
Weinstein, Bob (2017). https://www.projectmanagement.com/blog-post/27360/How-to-Use-Kindness-as-a-Business-Tool Retrieved 20 Aug 2017