A key skill within project management is effective relationship management; I know some exceptional communicators and also know some who think they are exceptional communicators – unfortunately it is difficult to break through a hardened ego shell so this article is aimed at those who remain open minded to improving or honing their skill. Behaviours play a big part of relationship management and building – gaining respect doesn’t purely come from a shining track record of stellar delivery, it comes from a few factors:
- Respecting others – show interest in individuals and understand what their drivers are, listen to them and hold on to the information.
- Be genuine – we are all human, admit your mistakes and set your limits.
- Support others awareness of you, share interests and values.
- Demonstrate integrity – practice what you preach, roll your sleeves up and work with others.
Connect with others by listening, create a positive environment where you demonstrate a personal investment in the relationship, apply appropriate boundaries and gain a clear sense of what individuals are saying, build rapport and encourage others to listen in return.
When in a scenario you should look to apply the following:
- Acknowledge what is being said, register what is happening.
- Identify their intentions – what is it they hope to achieve.
- Review – consider the conversation and either respond there or give a time when you will be able to provide a response.
Always ensure conversations have a healthy balance of input and response, listen, offer support or solutions, listen, confirm understanding, listen, reflect and summarise. Make observations; provide feedback and/or opinions, challenge views, offer relevant examples/stories and advice. Don’t talk over others – let them have their say, but keep in control of the discussion.
I was approached by a client recently who has been working in a strategic role within the NHS for over 15 years, she is keen to make a move out to a different sector and has approached me to discuss how to go about making that change. It is always difficult when you have stayed with a role/organisation for so long, we do tend to become institutionalised and our confidence levels can really suffer when we challenge ourselves to move out of our comfort zone. At first we talked through the reasons behind moving on, an important factor whenever you are looking to make a big change. Having uncovered a deep seated unhappiness with how the role has been re-shaped over a number of restructures and changes to organisational policy – it has become very clear that a move away is important for her growth and well being. As such, we have structured a plan with which to work to. First of all we need to get down on paper what she has been delivering over the years, looking at how she works, and also what some of the key challenges have been. By pulling together a skills audit with workable examples we can start to work on the confidence issues. Sometimes it takes an overview of what you have achieved and the challenges you have overcome to make you realise just how good you are! We have decided to work together in constructing a CV as a good exercise where she will learn new skills in putting together a CV in the future but also gain a strong affinity to what is being included which will help when we reach interview stage. Once we have a strong CV I have agreed to analyse the types of roles which would be a close fit for her, we will talk through these roles and assist her in gaining a wider knowledge in how her current role fits into organisations outside the NHS. Once we have pinpointed some roles of interest, we will go through the application process and ensure the applications made are the best they can be to yield greater results. Whilst this part of the process is running we will begin interview coaching, making sure we include some fantastic and relevant examples to use whilst clearly articulating the right amount of information and understanding of what is being asked of her by interviewers. The service will not conclude here, we shall continue to work together right the way through the offer process and even through to settling into a new role. This is a big move for my client so it is important she feels fully supported whilst making the transition, there will be no point she will feel fazed or overly nervous as we’ve agreed a fully inclusive mentoring and support service. The CV Righter works with you to understand your needs and offer a bespoke service which will get you on the right track.
Over the years in recruiting project professionals I have found one of the key pieces of feedback from clients is that candidates have been unclear answering questions at interview. Often starting off with an example of when they did XYZ and going off on a tangent so not covering the response effectively. This is easy enough to do when the pressure is on and you are trying to convey a great deal of information.
The key to answering the question rather than missing the point is to think about what you have been asked and think about an example which clearly demonstrates the skill being questioned. Preparation before an interview is required, by taking the job description and looking at the list of requirements you can gauge the types of questions which will be asked and from there you can think about your examples.
- Set the scene – give enough information for the interviewer to understand what it is you were delivering / supporting or the task in hand
- Talk about your actions – I know we work in teams on projects but the interviewer wants to know what you did, so avoid talking about what we did and talk about what you did!
- The outcome – what actually happened, talk about the result so the interviewer can understand how effective your actions were.
Here is an interview question and response to demonstrate how to structure your responses:
Interviewer:“Give me an example of when you have dealt with widely dispersed stakeholders?”
“When I was managing the new IT desktop roll out of Windows 7 at XXXX I was responsible for a number of technical teams based at head office and out at various divisions across the UK. The stakeholders were internal people such as a board member (the sponsor), head of IT (head of programmes), senior project managers and teams based at 4 different locations and external stakeholders such as the software development company project managers and technical teams.
I created a stakeholder map which clearly identified all the stakeholders in order of importance and a plan which covered communications. It became apparent that I would need to meet the key stakeholders on a regular basis to ensure project milestones were clear and everyone involved could gain a clear perspective of where we were in the plan and highlight any bottle necks which couldn’t be addressed at my clearance level.
The result meant that I had bi-weekly meetings with key stakeholders and regular “on the ground” reporting from workstream leads to ensure the work was being completed in a timely fashion whilst checking against the benefits to keep the senior management team on board with operations.”
The above example is rather generic but you get the idea – setting the scene to give the interviewer enough insight into what was being delivered and then talking through who the stakeholders are to demonstrate your understanding of who stakeholders are and how to harness a communications plan followed by the end result is giving the interviewer the right kind of information without going into chapter and verse and detracting away from the question and more importantly the answer.
Adopting this approach to your examples is good practice and also can help you when talking through achievements on your CV.
When was the last time you went to the doctors? A while ago I am sure, but you know you should have regular checks even though you feel as though you are working as you should. The same goes for your CV, whether you are looking for work or not, you need to ensure your CV is in tip top condition so it can perform to its optimum.
The CV Righter offers a free Project Management CV health check for all UK professionals – send your CV in and let us perform a thorough review and let you know where the weaknesses and strengths are. We offer a constructive solution and remedy for any CV under-performing and ensure you understand why it isn’t working; equally if you have a good strong CV we tell you.
Don’t let yourself down by assuming your CV sells you and pitches you at the right level, ensure it can put you in the shortlist for your ideal role.