My prodigiously prolific project management peers have several deliciously witty answers to the question; “what provides a project manager with the panache needed to stand strong in tough situations?” yet, none walked away with the text book answer. A textbook answer is. . . . (can you hear the drum roll crescendo?)
• Context in which project conversations occur
• Culture in which projects are completed
Why do these two factors what help us project managers grow into our well deserved swagger – our panache?
• Context flexibility is adapting responses to environments – formal conference room or informal team conversations. This is the WHAT & WHY of how we communicate.
• Cultural awareness is acknowledging nonverbal’s could be different for gender or culture. This may modify the WHAT.
Don’t worry, my panachious peers will get their day in court in future blogs as they had very swell and street smart answers. But for today, the text book answer rules as I have the blogs’ administrator password. So let me explain the WHAT and WHY further according to Dr. Kevin Hogan, author and consultant in body language and how to understand peoples intentions and predict conversation outcomes.
• What: This is the event. Eyeballs are staring at you as you explain to senior leadership the Chaos Reports’ impact on your project.
• Why: This is why they are there and their alternatives. Do they understand their motives e.g., how the project will further their department goals or how the Chaos Report findings may jeopardize their career? Are there better uses of their time or funding dollars?
If your project overview doesn’t further their “why” their body language will leak their discomfort and then you dump more information on them without realizing that they don’t need information but clarification of why its important. Their discomfort gets worse. Ya know; twitchy stuff, stammering stuff, withdrawing behavior or curt language choices that question your logic. Let me explain according to Dr. Hogan the steps taken to resolve the situation:
1. Confusion about you and uncertainty about what will happen.
2. Looking for other information either in the PowerPoint or in your body language or you reading them hiding their chin behind their hand.
3. Not finding the information and having a negative reaction to you. Ouch!
So, what do you do? I tend to pose questions that start to address the whys of their attending vs blowing off the meeting or even worse, dismissing me. Examples:
• This project is important because …
• We funded this project too improve….
• A user told me the other day that when this feature is implemented it will improve…
Are you a project manager or a sales person? Yes! I mean both. I tend to address the unspoken motivation to make their why more obvious. So I encourage you to move away from status meetings that are data dumps and provide quick snippets of why the project was launched and early signs that benefits can be gained.