Listening to what is NOT being said

In a recent Extraordinary Project Management webinar, we covered one of the five key tenets of Extraordinary Project Management: Target, which covers how we hone and improve our skills at being very clear about what outcomes our projects will deliver both to our stakeholders and to our teams and – importantly – why those outcomes are desirable.  

I wanted to take some time to reflect on a small but significant aspect of that conversation in which we talked about listening to what is NOT being said.  

This sounds like nonsense – after all how can we hear something that isn’t audible – however Extraordinary Project Managers will quite often find themselves operating in an environment where people in an organisation either can’t or won’t voice their opinion.

The reasons for this will be complex and vary from company to company, however an Extraordinary Project Manager is constantly scanning the room in a meeting or presentation seeking to identify those whose body language suggests that they are aching to contribute but are holding back.

Sometimes the signs are relatively obvious things such as leaning in to speak but then withdrawing as somebody gets their point of view in first. Others will be less obvious such as body language becoming ‘closed’ when decisions are being made that they may not agree with or they perceive time is being wasted on unimportant matters.

In the webinar, our Extraordinary Project Managers (EPMs) shared the variety of tactics they adopt when they identify people such as this as there is often a great deal of value in what they have to say as they will provide a different perspective to the status quo or “accepted position” and begin suggesting alternatives. Interestingly (and perhaps a little worryingly!) more than one EPM said that quite often simply showing an interest in what a person has to say generated a response along the lines of “Nobody has ever asked me before”.   Additionally, the EPMs noted that very frequently they go on to enlist these people as project champions as they can be an untapped mine of talent who simply want to help bring about success for the organisation and become crucial allies in helping us reach our target.

Projects are delivered by people – not spreadsheets, nor methodologies – therefore in understanding how we achieve our Target we must understand how our people will help us to do this.

This kind of thought-provoking conversation and real-world tactic sharing is what makes the EPM programme so powerful.

Could this be for you? A programme of training, exploration and mentoring where you will meet like-minded people who are also good at project management and start making your journey to being Extraordinary?  

With thanks to Chris Crawford-Gray of Project Black Hole