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Who enjoys dealing with multiple stakeholders?

 

I've noticed some PM vacancies mention this requirement to a potential candidate: "enjoys dealing with multiple stakeholders". Enjoys? Really? In my ten years of working in product, I've met dozens if not hundred fellow PMs and none of them were enjoying dealing with multiple stakeholders. Most commonly this aspect of product management is the most dreaded. 

By definition, a stakeholder is someone who can veto your work, who can make it irrelevant or substantially influence it. Even though the skill of dealing with stakeholders is essential in the arsenal of a successful PM - very few people actually enjoy the process itself.

I know only two situations when dealing with many stakeholders could be enjoyable.

1. If you're a Machiavellian type who enjoys politics

Yeap, those people exist and thriving in big corporations. There is no shame to be one, it's a super skill in a world of bureaucracy. Politics are scaled relationships between people so folks who are good at one might be good at another.

2. All stakeholders share the same vision and work culture

That's an amazing situation to be in. Unfortunately, it is rare, even in startups. But if you're lucky enough to be at an organisation that is big on both vision and shared culture - dealing with stakeholders becomes really enjoyable as they are no longer stakeholders, but your peers and teammates on the shared mission.

Every job has more or less enjoyable bits. Probably for most PMs dealing with multiple stakeholders is a less enjoyable part of the craft. But it doesn't mean they're bad at it. A good PM would be competently able to do any part of the job, even those that are not fun. It's like paying taxes, we all have to do it, most people are okay with it while some others are quite good and a very, very few find it enjoyable. 

Tips on making stakeholder management less painful 

Employ empathy 

Dealing with stakeholders remember they're well-meaning individuals that want the best for the company in their own way. You need to understand that way so your interactions will be friendly and efficient. You need to understand stakeholder's motivations and values to effectively communicate. 

Overcommunicate

I know it's awkward and tiring to keep repeating things over and over again. But when it comes to business communication - it really is very hard to overdo it. Still, there will be someone who missed an email, misinterpreted the words or "read between the lines". Keep repeating your message until it doesn't matter anymore. 

Keep in touch

Folks who are best at stakeholder management knows to harness relationships outside immediate need. Yes, that means socialising, getting to know people outside work, go for lunch or talk over coffee. These are not functions we're dealing with, these are people and everything will be easier if we are friends. 

Not all fun and games

Really. Not every aspect of a PM job is enjoyable. Some parts suck and that's fine. We're still be doing them, we are going to be good at them but let's not pretend. All PMs are different, perhaps some genuinely enjoy dealing with multiple stakeholders but to expect that from every PM will be an unnecessary stretch. 

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