You probably do, especially if they are likely to be important to you, perhaps a new sponsor, a key stakeholder, or a major supplier.
But, do you go beyond that? Do you consider exactly what impression you wish to create?
Probably not, most people don’t.
Which gives you a great opportunity to take the lead. Here’s some ideas on how you can do this.
Now, I accept that this may take a few minutes to reflect on, but only a few minutes and without any other effort, you will be more likely to make the sort of impression you would like to make.
In fact, many of my clients tell me they have made it a habit to consider this as they walk towards the meeting room, or wait for the virtual meeting to open.
NB: Please resist the usual temptation to select works like trustworthy, expert, professional. They are boring because everyone is trying to be that (even if you don’t think so!)
Review the OnDemand webinar Building Your Reputation
Of course, one should not make generalisations, but in my experience, project managers tend to be very practical, like to stick to the facts, and play things straight - oh, and do their very best for the benefit of the organisation. And, that they see politics as either a necessary evil or a complete waste of time, and resource.
Some project managers are borderline Machiavellian, playing the dark arts like pros.
Regardless of where you sit on this continuum, you are not going to avoid the need to get involved in the politics, because it will get involved with you. And if you maintain a strong negative reaction to it, it will likely get the better of you.
Because you’ll be loathe to do it, you’ll do it half-heartedly, and you’ll probably miss the nuances. Oh, and your opponents will probably be much better at it than you, because they’ve been practicing since the school playground!
Here are a few thoughts to help take the heat out of it, so you will more readily do what you need to do, for the good of your project (of course!):
So, you have a choice. Are you going to continue sticking your head in the sand, or are you going to get out there and start trying to understand how all these decisions are getting made?
Review the OnDemand webinar How to Handle Project Politics
If powerful people are going to lose out, what out, because they will likely try to block even the most rational and beneficial projects.
When powerful people are going to win from the change you are leading, they will move mountains to resource and support you.
Whatever project your are running, this is why is it necessary to understand the impact it could have on the power balances. It will highlight the challenges and the opportunities ahead.
Over the last few years, this has become even more extreme as the change agenda becomes more and more disruptive.
A director I spoke with recently was responsible for driving the digital agenda, which would see the FTE count in his organisation fall from some 28,000 heads to less than 8,000 - if successfully implemented.
His problem? Convincing senior stakeholders to get on-board.
Why would they?
Most of their power, teams and resources would disappear, if not their own jobs. Far better for them to sit it out, let the organisation slowly decline for lack of innovation, so they get to retirement with a big fat pension pot.
Review the OnDemand webinar Diagnosing Power Dynamics Around Your Project.
Sometimes it seems like it takes forever to manage to get a meeting scheduled with a stakeholder. Anyone would think they are not interested!
But, being fair, it is probably just because they are so very busy. So many competing demands and pressures on their mind, and in their diaries.
Which makes it all the more important that you use their time wisely. Make sure you are clear about what you want. Make sure you’ve got all the facts lined up, the slides ready.
And herein lies a trap for the unwary.
Most people, when it comes to influence, tend to influence from their own position. They are naturally focused on what they have got to deliver, their objectives and their problems. So they look at the stakeholder and think (quite rightly), “What do I need them to do?”
Then the mistake, “How can I get them to do that?”
A reasonable enough question, but it has missed one that can make all the difference, “How is this going to affect their agenda?”
Unless you can answer this, frankly, you may as well cancel the meeting, or postpone it. Why? Because your interests are best served by being able to position your requests in their world, from their perspective, taking account of their concerns. If you don’t they’ll likely postpone their decision until they have thought it through from their position.
Review the OnDemand webinar Strategic Influencing for Project Managers.
Back in 2017 when I contributed to the PMI with my webinars I didn't expect them to get so much traction. I knew that influence is an important topic for Project/Program Managers, which I guess is why I was asked to do them in the first place.
Looking at the stats, this has been borne out, so I thought I'd kick off this blog again to share more practical ideas on the topic of influence.
When we did the webinars, we conceptualised them as a short course on influence, which now lives on in the PMI OnDemand library. So, why not check them out here:
There have been literally hundreds of comments, so why not add yours too. And when you do, help others in the community by making substantive comments about what you found most interesting, your own suggestions on the topic (I don't have a monopoly on good ideas!) or even, ask relevant questions. I look at them all, and will respond too.