Stakeholder Respect Isn’t A Given For Project Managers

I had the pleasure of speaking to delegates at the Project Management Institute (PMI) Conference in Adelaide last week. As ever, the conversation continued late into the evening, particularly around my statement that there’s too much arrogance and not enough respect in project management.

There are lots of people that think they’re doing a great job (I always cite the Dunning-Kruger Effect) and yet, the feedback from stakeholders doesn’t bear that out.

And that’s the only metric that matters when it comes to project management.

As a recent OPM.Gov article states ‘If effective feedback is given to employees on their progress towards their goals, employee performance will improve.’

If we need anything in project management right now, it’s improvement.

Lots of organisations talk about capability development, lifting maturity and lots of other phrases they’ve heard elsewhere. The key to doing all of this is to get feedback on what’s good and what’s not, then to keep asking the same questions over an extended period of time to find out if there’s been any improvement. Simply checking how many projects have been delivered on time and to budget at the end of the year won’t do it.

The PMI estimates that less than 40% of projects ever deliver on time and to budget, so that’s not an accurate measure. What is accurate is what people think.

Respect isn’t a given for Project Managers.

Respect doesn’t come with the job, with the title (see also program manager and portfolio manager) or with the size of the budget.

Respect doesn’t come with experience, gender or location.

Respect comes with hard work and empathy. It doesn’t happen by chance.

It takes deliberate effort and, in some cases, a long struggle to find an approach that works.

It requires a ‘personality-dance’ where the project manager takes the time to figure out the communication preferences of their stakeholders, their ways of working, the language they use and their values.

It requires consistency of behaviours, treating others in the right way and being open to new ideas.

It requires a determination to fix things quickly, to be accountable and to empower others to lead.

It requires a commitment to diversity, equality and an unswerving belief in the power of teamwork.

But mostly it requires self-awareness, self-reflection, personal development and humility.

Respect is earned through a commitment to regularly seek out and act on feedback. This is what it means to be a Conscious Project Leader and this is what it means to be successful.

How are you asking for feedback from your stakeholders?

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