by  Petro Porchuk

Positive Professional: A Project Manager’s Guide

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You have a project, and now you’re excited about the challenges you’ll face on the path to your goals, doing your best to keep constraints and baselines solid, and applying your skills to ensure the project’s success.

So, you are a Project Manager now!

In the customer and vendor world (assuming you are a project manager on the vendor side), you should spend a large amount of time and energy on communicating with your key customer stakeholders.

We all know how to build communication channels, identify stakeholders, and adjust information levels and granularity. But you deal with people, not machines. In the process of communication, terabytes of information are being circulated back and forth implicitly (such as intonation, mood, attitude, and gestures). In fact, the factor can dramatically influence your project.

In the Positive Professional guide, let’s focus on simple tips on how to build and maintain customer relationship as well as how you can rally support for the business grow throughout your project lifecycle and beyond.

Start IT professionally

“You never get a second chance to make a first impression.” The earliest use shown is in a 1966 advertising slogan in an ad for Botany Suits

Start with being truly professional.

By following these simple best practices, you will earn the trust of key stakeholders and give them confidence that their project is in safe hands with you:

  • Understand and support the Project Business Case
  • Organize and conduct meaningful meetings
  • Focus on relevant information only
  • Write meeting minutes and action items
  • Identify and communicate high-level external risks
  • Plan for everything

Remember that being late, missing a meeting without a notice, or not keeping your own—even minor—commitments is completely unacceptable!

Instead, encourage your stakeholders’ confidence in your being reliable, mature, responsible, proactive, and effective.

Establish personal objectives

Tell me the secret of your happiness.

Congrats, you have reached the “wow” effect! You are the right person for the business.

Now, it is time to deeply analyze your key stakeholders and—beyond the project goals—understand their personal goals. These goals may or may not align with your project global objective though.

For example, a project goal is building a software application to increase the productivity of nurses in hospital facilities and automate their routine. However, a key stakeholder’s personal secondary objective might be to streamline the implementation by adopting Lean as the industry best practice for further sharing successful experience with other departments.

Even though this secondary goal is not something you are contractually obligated to fulfill, put yourself in the customer’s shoes. This investment into your peer’s success usually makes a generous return on you and your company’s success as you may get a strong supporter on the customer side. Consequently, you will get issues and external dependencies solved much more efficiently.

Give them social glue

Technical experts, developers, architects, guru—introverts, introverts, introverts.

As an IT Project Manager, you must be aware of how many teams are made up of introverts! But everyone needs his or her own portion of social glue. Identify and give it to them!

  • Always have small talk, but keep it reasonably short
  • Learn and feel how much chit-chat your stakeholders want and need
  • Adjust to cultural differences
  • Avoid discussing things considered unethical in your peer’s country
  • Appreciate your stakeholders’ time

With one stakeholder, it is fine if your small talk is limited to “How’re you?” Build the “rapport” and get ready to get down to business.

With another stakeholder, you may use 20 out of 50 planned minutes to discuss his or her cat, dog, or yesterday’s football match. But if this off-topic information is important to your peer, believe that you are going to be extremely productive within the remaining 30 minutes, with all of your questions solved and suggestions approved!

Be positive

“Keep your face always toward the sunshine—and shadows will fall behind you.” Walt Whitman

Positive thinking in combination with your professional attitude is probably the strongest tool you can use as a Project Manager.

In addition, we get tons of stress, tight deadlines, issues, and escalations in our business world. With a positive attitude, you will rise above all those everyday challenges.

Show your gratitude rea sonably

Thanks, how’re you? Thanks!

Do not say “thanks” for obvious things. It is going to lower its value.

Learn how to feel if your peer does something more than he or she is expected to according to the role. You should support this kind of effort by saying “thanks.” It will motivate people to put in extra effort and will add to your project success.

Establish connections

It’s been a great pleasure to contribute to your business! Let's keep in touch!

Keep in mind that connections matter.

  • Become friendly
  • Always issue congratulations for important milestones and events (even personal)
  • Be a business partner with empathy and friendship, not a machine with vendor goals
  • Connect in LinkedIn, XING, and the like

Download the full version to learn more.