1. I'd like to steal from Sales - now, admit it, how often, as a PM, have you wanted to do that? I mean, the stuff they promise...and force you to deliver... they deserve it, right?
2. I'd like to pass along to you a technique (stolen, as I mention above, from the world of Sales).
3. I'd like to make sure you're aware of a podcast which, although not devoted entirely to PMs, is almost always chock-full of great ideas and techniques.
So, on to accomplishing these objectives (in no particular order - get your sequencing software outta my face!).
There is an excellent podcast which I try to catch whenever I can, called Manager-Tools. You can find them (duh) at http://www.manager-tools.com/ or simply subscribe to it with your MP3 player of choice. If you get nothing else from this posting, at least visit their site and subscribe to their 'casts. They are outstanding. Don't be a PM snob - just because the word "project" isn't in their title it doesn't mean you cannot apply their techniques. Au contraire, mon ami, I assert that Project Management is really a core sample, a veritable microcosm of general management, and that's what the guys at Manager-Tools talk about all the time.
Their most recent post (as of this posting) is one covering "Feel, Felt, Found". It's a tried and true technique coming from the world of sales, in particular, used by sales folks to overcome objections. You've probably been a victim, er... recipient is probably the better word, of this, and you may not even have known it. That speaks to its effectiveness. And although it's used to fight off objections, it's not a big leap to adapt it to low-level conflict. In fact, what is low-level conflict but an objection, or vice-versa?
Here are two quick scenarios, roughly carried over to ScopeCrepe from the podcast, and translated into project-ese by me.
Scenario 1: A project team member, we'll call her Melissa, has come to you to complain that a person they count on for a deliverable -we'll call him Mike - has failed to provide that deliverable. She's upset, and she's complaining about it to you about Mike, saying that she won't be able to provide her deliverable to you.
You respond: Melissa, I respect how you feel here. When others don't provide me with the deliverables needed for my project, I have felt just like you do; what I've found is that you may need to test whether the request to Mike is really clear to him, and to document any problems in collecting a commitment from him.
Scenario 2: You are working with Kavi on a presentation for your Project Director Sal, for whom you've worked a few years longer. Kavi calls and says that he has seen the presentation and disagrees with the approach - it's too wordy and not focused enough on key project milestones.
You respond: Kavi, I hear you and can see why you feel that way. I actually have had that exact same reaction myself with this Director. What I've found, though, is that when I push for a presentation like you describe, it didn't connect with Sal, which is why I chose this approach. Let's talk about ways to at least get closer to our approach.
You catch the theme. It's all about loosely connecting a flow that acknowledges the feeling of the person raising the conflict, then expressing that you have felt this way yourself - or something like this, anyway, and that in your experience, you've found that there was a way to deal with it or a reason to explain it, or whatever applies in the particular situation.
I won't go into more detail, because I really want you to listen to the podcast, in which they even go into helping coach you on what gestures can be used to amplify the technique, and when to use it most effectively.
So - bottom line - please visit www.manager-tools.com and check out this podcast as well as scads of other gems there which do apply to PM in most cases.
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