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Stakeholders – Personality Types and Tips
By Project Manage This

As a vender you call them the “Clients,” internally they’re known as the “Stakeholders.” It’s your job as PM to provide these people with regular status, manage their feedback, maintain the stream of communication, and always offer the best customer service possible. At least that’s the job description bit. The biggest challenge you’ll have with this part of your job, and the one not in writing, is getting to know the personalities, how to gain their trust, determining the best way to communicate with them, and how to keep them on track.

One of the most important things to always remember is that their just people. And like all of us, no person is perfect. We have our quirks and our styles, and as a PM you need to adapt. This is where your communication and facilitation skills really come in handy.

Who are these people anyways? Below list just a few personalities you may have encountered, but by no means covers them all. And how to manage…

  • Talking Tom – Tom’s your buddy. He’s a super nice guy and you always enjoy chats. But the IMs about the latest movie, and the status call that results in more time talking about his pet iguana than project status might just take you over the edge.

    Tom tip – Enjoy the relationship you’re building. This is one of the good ones. However, never forget that it’s your job to keep the project on track. Make certain that you have clearly defined what information you need from Tom before you talk; create a check list (we do love our checklists) and make certain you get through it before you get derailed. You know you’re good when you find a way to jump from the topic of the new favorite TV show to an item on your list without Tom even catching on.

  • Missing Mindy – You really need that feedback, really badly. Oh Mindy, where are you? Mindy tends to vanish for days on end. When she does respond it’s about something completely unrelated to what you need from her.

    Mindy Tip – You won’t change her, don’t try. Chances are Mindy’s schedule is just as crazy as yours and highly likely she’s not nearly as organized as you. Keep reviews to a minimum and always lock in a meeting time to walk through what you need in detail. Take detailed notes and post them.

  • Emailing Emma – Emma starts thinking but before she’s done thinking has already begun typing and then hits send. Your box is flooded with one to two sentence emails. Emma doesn’t realize that you have 20 or so high priority items on your list, and each email distracts you from the tasks at hand. She’s not trying to make your life miserable, really, this is just how she rolls.

    Emma Tip – Do not respond immediately to every email. Don’t do it no matter how much you want to. Block out 2-3 chunks of time a day that you’ll dedicate to Emma emails; one early in the day, one mid and one near end of day. Keep your responses short and concise. Keep in mind that she cares about the project which is why there are so many emails, this is actually a good thing.

  • Grumpy Grant – Grant, well, he’s just not the nicest person in the world. His communication style may be a bit gruff, or maybe he takes being blunt to a new level. Grant is hard to please, isn’t sure what he wants, and may have a wee bit of an ego. It may not seem like it at times, but he cares very much about the success of the project.

    Grant tips – Don’t ever take anything personally, always look for the good, listen to what he has to offer and find ways to remind him that you’re partners. Building Grant’s trust will be a challenge but it’s critical to the success of the project and you can do it. He’s just a person and likely has some fine attributes – look for these and when Grant goes into grumpy mode remind yourself and pull these out of him.

  • Big Idea Bart – Bart is an amazing guy who inspires all. He is constantly coming up with ideas that would make your project better – really great ideas too. Unfortunately ideas that are often so far out of scope that you’d need to bring in a whole other team to achieve them. Oh, and a whole lot more money.

    Bart Tip – Let him talk. It’s inspirational and you may learn some new things from him. Then put on your problem solving hat… Great idea! How can we achieve what you’re looking for within the time we have? Remind yourself that you’re the PM, that you need to keep the project on schedule and on budget. It’s easy to get swept away, and that’s why your team needs you.

Build their trust, keep them grounded, and always remember that their just people trying to do their job the best they can just like the rest of us.

Who’s missing? Post a comment. No real names please – a given.

Project managers, program managers, producers, account managers, coordinators, and the like. The unsung heroes. We’re the ones that keep things moving and get it done on time and on budget. We keep our teams motivated and on track, make sure our boss and/or client is happy, and ensure that the community we’re building for get the best product possible. You never see us sweat, rarely hear us swear, and are amazed at how calm we are when fires erupt. That’s because we’re good at what we do.

We absolutely love our job. Making things happen, getting things done, that’s our nature. We never ever vent at work. Ok, rarely do. But we do have tales to tell. “Project Manage This” is a place for PM types to love and hate the career we’ve chosen.

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