In prior posts, we began coverage of Interpersonal Management Skills which are crucially important in project management given that it is a people-oriented profession.
As a reminder, the skills, in their entirety, include:
- Clarifying and Confirming
- Constructive Criticism
- Managing Differences (The topic of this post)
- Discussion Skills
Use: To deal with differences or potential conflicts in a way that allows you to preserve your priorities without either capitulating or adopting an adversarial stance – or resorting to arbitrary use of power.
What my experience has shown me is that when 2 people are in disagreement, it is often the case that one or the other person isn’t 100% correct, or the way we may want to go. Instead, the answer often lies somewhere in the middle. That is, both parties will often end up contributing to the eventual outcome or decision under discussion.
Have you ever witnessed violent agreement? I’ll bet you have… That is, two people seem to be in a disagreement, and, being an objective observer, we clearly see they both want the same thing but are using different words to say it.
When we observe or are involved in (what appears to be) a disagreement, the first step is to clarify and confirm each person’s perspective.
The objective is to ensure we understand what they said and can confirm why they feel their perspective is important.
So, we might say something like: “If I understand correctly, you are suggesting the following approach because it results in this outcome you are looking to achieve.“
Once we’ve done that, we can then share our perspective ensuring the other person understands our position and why it is important.
Once both perspectives have been fully shared and understood by each party, the solution often (but not always) emerges. And, if not, it then becomes important to tease out the potential benefits and drawbacks of each.
At this point, we would want to again reference the other person’s perspective and ask questions as to things that we know our suggestion handles but may not be addressed by their recommendation.
We might say: “The way I understand your suggestion is that it would resolve this issue you are seeking to address. That said, we are also hoping (or needing) to address this aspect of the situation. How do you see your suggestion handling this?“
And, we’d want to offer the same dialog in reverse. That is, we would ask the other person to share their thoughts on the benefits and drawbacks they see in our approach. While they may not be as well versed in this process / skill as we are, we want to make sure to open the door for such dialog to clearly demonstrate that we are looking for the “best possible” solution, not simply our own.
Once this approach has come full circle, I’ve often found the solution is clearer and agreeable by all parties.
If, however, we are still at an impasse, we have a couple of alternatives:
- If we are in a position of power and can dictate the next steps, we’ll want to respect the other person’s perspective by indicating how their idea is thoughtful, even beneficial, but since it doesn’t address particular aspects of the issue, we need to go with an alternative. And, if possible, it is important to weave in aspects of the other persons suggestion if in fact it will provide a more holistic solution.
- If we are NOT in a position of power and we remain unable to reach an agreement, we’ll need to take this topic up the food chain until we reach agreement on the go-forward approach… And, when doing so, we’ll want to continue modeling these skills.
In future posts, we’ll cover the remaining Interpersonal Management Skills.
In the meantime, if there is one statement that provides the best advice I could share on interpersonal management, it would be: “It is not what you say, but how you say it! ” If we model that simple guidance in EVERY interaction we have with others, it will go a TREMENDOUS way in establishing and maintaining harmonious communications and relationships.
In closing, if you are looking to improve PM capabilities in yourself, or organization, feel free to reach out so that we can discuss how I can help!
Click here to go to part 4 of Interpersonal Management Skills.
Click here to return to our topical index of articles on High Performance Project Management.
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