“Understanding that people are irrational has made my life a lot better.” – Scott Adams, the creative genius behind Dilbert
In the world of managing projects, I have found this to be especially true when it comes to irrational project stakeholders. As project managers we are expected to build productive relationships with all stakeholders, in all areas impacted by the project. This includes operational teams, customers, vendors, government and statutory bodies. The above quote from Scott Adams made me realise that it is irrational of me to expect my project stakeholders to be rational throughout the life of any project.
How to deal with irrational project stakeholders:
ONE: Expect that all of your stakeholders will have at least one period of irrationality during the life of a project. Understanding that there will be at least one period of irrationality during the project will take some of the surprise out of the event. Sometimes things happen that may leave you at a loss as to why it happened. If you expect that it will happen, then you will spend less time agonising over why it is happening and more time on resolving the issue – enabling you to move on quicker. Then if I issue doesn’t end up happening during the project, you will be pleasantly surprised.
TWO: Invest in your relationships. Spend time nurturing your relationships. The more time you invest in your relationships, the stronger they will become. Reduce the chance of encountering irrational project stakeholders by having strong relationships in place beforehand with your stakeholders. This will help you to focus on what is actually important for the project because you’ll be working as a strong team – together.
THREE: Be empathic to the needs of individuals and the organisation during periods of change. How people react and deal with change is individual. Our project stakeholders are no different. Perhaps we expect that even though our project stakeholders may be supportive of the project, they will still find some things challenging. As project managers we should be empathic to what is going on and not be so judgemental. Try to deal with the real issue at hand, not the behaviour.
FOUR: Be open and transparent to forge stronger connections. One way to reduce the impact of irrational project stakeholders, is to have strong relationships that are open and transparent. It is easier to engage with stakeholders and discuss the issue in a calm and rational manner if you already have a relationship built on trust and honesty.
FIVE: Move on – let the past be the past. Once the period of irrationality has past, try to keep it in the past. It can be difficult to do, but for your own mental health it is important to move forward and not dwell on the past. Use techniques that you have developed for coping with stressful situations and breathe deeply.
Improve your stakeholder engagement skills with these additional resources:
- How to Manage Stakeholder Expectations – Fix My Project Chaos
- How to Engage with Your Stakeholders – Fix My Project Chaos
- The Art of Stakeholder Engagement – Fix My Project Chaos
- Stakeholder Engagement – 6 Tips for Effective Dialogue – Green Impact
- 5 Tips to Getting Committed Stakeholders – SMS Management and Technology
- Stakeholder Engagement is Dead – Long Live Stakeholder Collaboration – 2 Degrees
- Driving Project Success Through Stakeholder Management – Cardinal Solutions
Remember to enter your email address below to get our free e-book for more useful info. It’s a fantastic resource to help you achieve your career goals. This e-book is our gift to you to help make 2017 your best year yet!
Written by Elise Stevens – founder of Fix My Project Chaos