Empathy is a Skill That Must Be Practised
- Project Manager
“Empathy is a powerful weapon in your emotional intelligence arsenal. Make sure you deploy it properly”
When you are dealing with stakeholders, managing multiple tasks and other million things in your projects, sometimes it can be hard to pay close attention to how other people feel.
For example, during one of my previous projects, I encountered a stakeholder that expressed frustration and concerns with my project timelines as they did not align with other projects that she had on the go. She brought up a lot of valid points to align some of her projects with mine and suggested some changes.
Empathy is part of your interpersonal skills and as a project manager, you must apply it when dealing with all stakeholders in your project.
In order to address this issue with the stakeholder, I scheduled a one on one meeting with this stakeholder to discuss the issues further, understand her point of view and relieve her frustration about the project. We discussed ways to align some of the timelines, mitigate some of the risks and improve communication styles. It was a very productive meeting that showed me she was really interested in the project and could influence the project greatly.
I also let her know that I would bring her concerns up to management in the next steering committee meeting. She thanked me for taking the time to connect with her and hear her concerns.
She was very satisfied that we had a chance to discuss the project in detail and said that in the time she had worked for the organization, no other project manager had address her concerns the way I did and that she felt really engaged in the project. That really reinforced my confidence as a project manager and validated that I was doing a really good job.
The project was very important for this stakeholder and I needed to understand that this stakeholder had her own agenda and had developed an array of emotions dealing with my project. Paying close attention to how the stakeholder felt about the project and identifying her concerns definitely helped improve our relationship and allowed us to collaborate stronger together.
It is important for a project manager to have empathy when dealing with others on a project. Sponsors, project team, vendors and stakeholders will display an array of emotions throughout a project.
The project manager must recognize these emotions in others, be aware that they are common and learn to deal with them.
In order to effectively deal with others’ emotions, project managers must be aware of their own emotions, how those emotions are transmitted to others and the effect they have on them.
Also, project managers need to understand how others in their team display their emotions, feelings and reactions to situations. The project manager must learn what pushes others’ buttons and what could trigger a conflict or difficult situation among them.
Developing empathy will help you understand your stakeholders’ emotions, work with them to overcome conflict and build two-way trust.
Are you an empathic project manager?