I would guess that most PMs see themselves as givers more than takers. After all, stakeholders don’t come to us bearing gifts; they come to us bearing requests. Much of our job is about providing stakeholders with things they need. We engage in all sorts of giving activities, from providing information, to offering support, and eventually giving “presents” in the form of deliverables.
In many ways, giving is the nature of what we do. Hopefully, all of this generosity is benefiting the project.
If you feel like your days are spent giving endlessly and you’re still not where you want to be with your projects, however, perhaps it’s time to start becoming more of a taker. Just make sure it’s the right kind of taker.
1. Take Ownership. Don’t Take Care Of Stakeholders.
How many project managers are told or feel like their job description includes “Take care of stakeholders”? We may see ourselves as taking care of stakeholder issues and conflicts, for example. But PMs as caretakers creates an unhealthy expectation and dependency on the PM. A more compelling way to make sure project and stakeholder needs are met is to focus on taking ownership for our role and responsibilities, and making clear what the expectations are for others to take ownership for their roles and responsibilities. Project stakeholders shouldn’t want, and don’t need, caretaking. Projects need stakeholders who will collectively own the success of the project by taking ownership for their work, their decisions, and their deliverables.
2. Take Charge. Don’t Take Orders.
The PM dress code does not include an apron, little note pad and pen in order for PMs to run around and ask stakeholders what they want. Yet, we often let ourselves get into that order taker role. In fact, if we’re honest, sometimes we willingly take on that role. It’s easier to be an order taker than to step up and take the project horse by the reins. It’s a little scarier, too, but that is what the project and stakeholders need. Coordinating resources is not enough. Stakeholders, and certainly a good sponsor, should be looking to you for advice, suggestions, and recommendations. If you’re going to call yourself a project manager, then manage it. That means taking charge, not just taking orders.
3. Take Stock of Stakeholders. Don’t Just Take Stakeholder Roll.
A list of stakeholders is good to have, but it’s only a starting point. You need to take stock of how each stakeholder is going to be impacted by and, more importantly, how they can impact the project. Furthermore, as stakeholders come and go as the project evolves, it’s critical to revisit that stakeholder analysis to make sure their impact is positive and to mitigate sabotage as much as possible. Taking stakeholder roll and taking stock of stakeholders are two separate exercises. You need to do them both.
For most of us, the idea of being a giver holds more appeal than being a taker. We may see ourselves as servants to our stakeholders and organizations. That’s not a bad thing, per se. Certainly, people show up to work every day with the intention of providing something and serving the organization.
But many projects stall, drift off track, or otherwise fail in some way because we forget about the “manager” part of the job title. And managing anything needs to include taking as well as giving.
So how about you? Are things going well or do you need to do a little less giving and a little more taking? If so, just make sure you’re taking the right things.