Advanced Project Management Pitfalls: Utilize Soft Skills, Permission Structures for Being Wrong

Sean is the owner of Consolidated Business Services, LLC in Anchorage, Alaska.

This is the second in a series of articles tackling advanced project management challenges, following up on Purpose, Not Process. Together, we will explore why soft-skills evaluation falls flat in most organizations and how we can use simple tools to change the haphazard management practices, instead moving toward leadership practices. Let us begin with the difference between a manager and a leader:

Managers focus on being right, leaders focus on outcomes.

For some of us, being “right” often defines the acceleration of our careers. You are data driven, focus on analysis of facts and are not encumbered by the vanity of ownership over process or ideas. You care about results, you care about how those results are accomplished and you are resolute in your belief “the best solutions are the right solutions.” You are a high-performing, high-potential organizational asset with authority, leeway and respect.

What happens when a stakeholder is wrong but has the power to enforce their position? As project managers, we run into this situation somewhat frequently. In fact, A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide)—Sixth Edition changed the knowledge area “Stakeholder Management” to “Stakeholder Engagement” because we cannot always manage stakeholders, we can only manage our methods of engagement.

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It's the old gag: people that pay for things never complain. It's the guy you give something to that you can't please.

- Will Rogers