Project Management: How to Deal with Difficult People
Part 1: Dealing with Difficult Clients
It is no secret that project managers are required to face complex and sometimes overwhelming tasks. Although an individual or team can have all the talent in the world, if things do not run smoothly, success will always seem out of reach.
Many think of project management as dealing with specific variables; say, for instance logistics or projected earnings. However, it may come as a surprise that one of the greatest (and most easily solved) hurdles is learning how to deal with a seemingly inconsiderate client. What follows are a few of the most common management problems and some easy ways to resolve them before one’s efforts prove to be too little and too late.
Too Much Guesswork and Not Enough Clarity
One of the most common issues is that clients may seem a bit vague or fickle regarding their exact requirements. After all, this is the reason they hired a project manager to begin with! This can cause monumental problems in achieving the desired result if not dealt with promptly. It is the project manager’s responsibility to make certain that all goals are clear from the beginning and he should be aware of how much leeway is allowed for the given task.
Another great way to counter this scenario is to set certain benchmarks along the way; proverbial “checkpoints” designed to make certain that both parties are headed in the same direction and in the most effective manner.
So Much to Do, So Little Time
What if a client is slow to respond due to time constraints? Should the project manager simply wait until he or she receives a response? While it is difficult to proceed with a given project if a client does not give timely input, one of the key tools any successful strategy employs is to be proactive and take the initiative. By proceeding in the primary direction that the client wished to take, the project manager can keep things moving forward.
The client should be always kept informed, even if only in the form of brief updates. They can therefore give positive or negative feedback while not feeling overwhelmed. The client will feel more “in the loop” and by fostering these brief communications, they will rest assured that they are in good hands.
Low on the Priority List
Another pitfall sometimes encountered occurs when a client does not seem overly interested in the project’s outcome. Regardless of the reason, this can make communication difficult and completion a nightmare. An innovative project manager will determine ahead of time how much of a vested interest the individual has with the job’s outcome, in this way making certain he is a reliable point of contact. Otherwise, it is important for the project coordinator to find another representative or perhaps even avoid the project altogether.
Ultimately, a project manager is only as good as the result of his or her efforts.
Vadim Katcherovski is the CEO of Logic Software Inc. based in Toronto, Canada. He has over 20 years of experience in the IT industry and has managed dozens of software development projects.