Persuasion is a Skill That Must Be Applied Carefully
- Project Manager
"If you want to influence, convince or sway your stakeholders, you must learn to be persuasive"
Persuasiveness is a skill that is developed over years of experience. As a project manager, you deal with your team, vendors, sponsors, clients, management and other stakeholders and you are constantly persuasion when dealing with them, You are constantly trying to get them to approve a document, agree with you on an idea or give you the green light to keep moving forward.
I was assigned to a project that was in the planning phase. After discussing about the project with my project team and other stakeholders, I encountered issues due to the amount of work that would be required to complete the project. From what I could grasp a few days into the project I realized that there was a need to break down the project into multiple phases if I wanted to be successful. It would be difficult to persuade the members of the steering committee but not impossible.
I knew that I needed to be persuasive and discuss the timelines, budget, risks and potential issues that could affect the project with all stakeholders involved. I worked with my team to compile all required information to convince the steering committee that breaking down the project into small phases was the way to go.
I needed to convey the message that breaking down the project would allow the team to complete increments of the project in a timely manner, deliver results faster and provide a usable solution to customers. I knew that the steering committee had members that had seen this approach before but even though the project was managed in a waterfall approach I would suggest to break down the project into phases and apply the waterfall approach to each phase.
I developed multiple options for stakeholders to choose from and be able to be informed. All options showed the following:
- specific details of new requirements, timelines, risks, issues, constrains and cost for each solution
- pros and cons for each solution
- details about the integration with next phases into project
- information about what would happen if no action was taken (status quo)
All this information was presented in a monthly steering committee meeting with all members and a report submitted.
All the presented information was critical for the steering committee members to make an informed decision.
The members of the stakeholders took some time to think, weigh in and agree on one of the options. They agreed upon the option that provided the most benefit and off we went to start working on the project.
An important lesson I learned is that reaching for persuasion as a technique during a project is different to any other attempt to persuade someone about any other aspect. As a project manager, you must use persuasion to reach your project objective and value for the good of the project and the organization.
Either if you are planning with your sponsor or team, negotiating with vendors or selling an idea to a client, you must understand your audience. You need to learn what they truly want, need or or desire from your project. You must use this information to your advantage and determine how to attract them to your ideas or objectives. Work along with your team to help you figure out ways to persuade better.
You must understand that the game of persuasion is also a game of give and take. In order to take what you want from your stakeholders, you must given them what they want and compromise but without pressuring them.
Are you a persuasive project manager?