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Project Manager needs to engage the stakeholders with full dedication, and that would start off when doing the stakeholder analysis.
Making friends..umm..not sure, but I definitely would agree that making good terms with all will help deliver the project smoothly with lesser issues. But bottom line - Project needs to deliver for which they are hired/ started.
As for any other type of things in this life the key is to understand the meaning of this word: limit. That´s all. And that is a hugh thing to manage and understand.
Project Manager needs to engage all the stakeholders. Being friends may have a positive or negative influence on the project execution. Stakeholder engagement should be based on the Power-Influence Grid, wherein those stakeholder with Low power and low influence need to be only monitored whereas those with High power and high influence should be managed closely.
Personal friendships along professional relationships can be tricky. At the heart of the question is one of conflict of interest, real or apparent.
You want to make sure that you make the best professional decisions for your clients and companies, regardless of your personal friendships with stakeholders. In fact, your personal friendship should be a lower priority to your professional commitments.
I agree with Stephane - You need to set limit to the level of friendship depending on the stakeholders and his level of influence and involvement.
I fully agree with Stephane and Rami. The good rule is to keep friendship outside the professional domain.
Sometime it is really necessary to create closer professional relationships with some stakeholders. I prefer to use the term "project intimacy" when the project context lead you to act as a trusted advisor to help your stakeholders.
I work for a smaller company so the project sponsor and I get along well; I work with him and report to him on every project.
Now working with our customers, I don't always develop that same level of friendship. We are friendly and can carry conversation about kids or sports, but it stays on a small-talk and professional level.
You should always like the team say put limit to avoid decreasing you authority.
As a project manager you also have to be able to say "no" to stakeholders - in fact, the best answer is "yes, but it will cost this much, will take this much time etc." A personal friendship may make this difficult, hence the potential conflict of interests indicated in previous comments.
Moreover, even if the friendship does not really impact the professional relationship, the other stakeholders may be under the impression that it does - hence "perceived conflict of interest".
So my guideline is "great professional relationship - OK, but friendship - after the project ends".
From my point of view, as a project manager you should engage your stakeholders without trespassing some personal boundaries.
Thinking about what means friendship, go to a bar and share a drink after work and talk about last movie, sports or other topics, maybe it can help to engage it, and I can't see any impact to the project.
Otherwise, invite them to your home, or add to your social media (i.e. Facebook) that's something that I always avoid. I all project that I've worked, some stakeholders requested me to share some RRSS, always my answer is ¨No, until we'll finish our project or professional relationship ¨ . My rule, no real friendship until the project ends. Same as George said as a guideline.
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