Skills PMs need for successful stakeholder management

FM newsroom – management. Project managers are often accountable for managing business relationships and being a central point of contact for the teams as well as other internal and external stakeholders. Success in managing these relationships can have a direct impact on the outcome of the given business area and the organization as a whole. What skills can lead to success? 

However, navigating stakeholder relationships can be complex and tricky, but with systems and structures in place, as well as possessing the right skill set, it needn’t be a burden or a responsibility to be dreaded – Rachel Wells, a coach for millennials and GenZ for management and leadership roles, points out for Forbes.

Beyond achieving business growth, stakeholder partnerships enable you to realize the full extent of your career potential as a manager, because they develop management skills such as strategic thinking, relationship-building, and conflict resolution, as Wells claims. The expert also listed the three core skills that enable project managers to tap into that potential, and forge and manage successful stakeholder relationships:

Communication skills

Perhaps it’s the most obvious, but undoubtedly it’s one of the main causes of failed partnerships. For relationships to be effective and projects to run smoothly, you need to ensure your communication meets the criteria of being transparent from day one, establishing clear expectations, and liaising promptly if any issues crop up instead of delaying until later. Get into the habit of asking questions to clarify responsibilities, requirements, and expectations, and ensure meetings are held regularly, Wells advises.

  • Create a stakeholder communication plan to map out all your stakeholders and plan communications based on their level of seniority, interest, and impact.
  • Utilize various channels, use the advantages offered by AI to boost your communication, and test to see what works comfortably for both you and the stakeholder.
  • Flex your communication style based on what matters most to the stakeholders, or their level of understanding on a particular subject. For example, when managing a technical project, you might need to translate technical jargon into something that is meaningful to non-technical decision-makers as well.

Strategic thinking

Strategic thinking ensures your relationship with the stakeholder furthers the organization’s vision and values. Such thinking involves asking yourself:

  • What are we seeking to accomplish collectively as a joint team?
  • What’s our end goal for this partnership?
  • What do we need to accomplish together and what are the deadlines for our short-term goals this coming year?
  • What are the best ways of working to achieve the end goal?
  • How can both sides can provide added value?

Listening skills

Active listening in this context entails proactively seeking out and welcoming feedback from your stakeholders, in a non-judgemental setting.

  • Invite stakeholders to share their perspectives and any emerging concerns, on a regular basis.
  • One of the best ways to invite a full range of feedback is by getting into the habit of asking open-ended questions such as those that start with “what” or “how” as opposed to closed questions that require a “yes” or “no” response.

Stakeholder relationship management can be tricky business, but armed with these skills and approaching it with mutual understanding, empathy, and a solid collective vision, PMs can create a thriving partnership and strong business relationships that will last.


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