By: Justin D., HawkPoint Project Manager
Being a good business partner means more than just giving customers what they want. Being a good project manager means more than nagging people to meet deadlines.
As a project manager at HawkPoint, I strive to provide value internally to our team, and externally to our customers. To provide effective management skills, I maintain an “outward mindset” and other concepts discussed in Arbinger Institute’s Leadership and Self-Deception: Getting Out of the Box as well as The Outward Mindset: Seeing Beyond Ourselves. Key takeaways from my readings and experience are outlined below, and what you can expect when you team up with me at HawkPoint.
Be open and honest. When is honesty not the best policy? It’s important to report all data and progress—even if it’s bad news.
Communicate, communicate, communicate. Call out project scope changes early. Be clear and help them understand the impact to timelines and resources. Communicate updated costs and due dates as soon as possible.
Must be willing to challenge customers, respectfully, of course. Push them for the best solution to their needs. Sometimes customers want something changed, such as an enhancement or change to a system, but they do not fully understanding the impacts of that change. Respectfully challenging the reasons behind the change and better understanding the outcome they are looking for can help ensure everyone is happier in the end. Sometimes helping a customer see that tabling a change they want will allow them to get a faster ROI, and we can circle back to that change after they are already getting value from the project.
Be a bridge between the customer and the company. Strive to help both sides equally achieve their goals and meet deadlines. This can be difficult, especially when we feel loyalties to our direct team members, but maintaining an “outward mindset” makes it easier to remain unbiased.
Having an outward mindset does not mean “be a doormat” It means seeing others as equal, seeing customers as people. Even when they are challenging you or making extra work, seek to better understand the true request and where it’s coming from. Take a walk in their shoes, assume good intentions and identify ways you can help each other.
With an outward mindset, you are able to push for high levels of accountability and quality, which is the core of project management. But, you will never have an outward mindset at all times. It’s something to practice and work toward. There will be many times when you will be invited “in the box”. It’s important to identify those triggers to help you prepare and maintain your outward mindset.
Triggers are the things that might invite you to see the person you’re working with as an obstacle or an issue, rather than seeing them as a person. Examples of triggers include:
- Someone who explains things to a far more complex and detailed degree than needed
- Someone who is indecisive
- Someone who enjoys small talk at the start of a meeting (when you are task-driven)
- A difficult customer who never seems to be happy
While it may be hard to remember these people have needs and goals as important as yours, you need to take a step back and look at the situation from an outward mindset. Try to see customers as people. Keep an open mind, be respectful and set expectations from the first meeting and you will be surprised how much more smoothly projects unfold.