Camp David, which is just 62 miles from Washington DC, has been used by American presidents as an ideal negotiation site since 1943 when FDR invited Winston Churchill there. Ever since, a long procession of dignitaries—the USSR’s Nikita Khrushchev and the PLO’s Yasser Arafat among them—have gone there to work out political conflicts in a rustic setting with help from various American presidents.
The power of mediation doesn’t belong just to heads of state; every team and project potentially needs mediation help, especially when a team reaches a consensus that the client or another project sponsor doesn’t like. What happens if they disagree with your team’s result? The project manager or task leader needs to step in and mediate.
Although it’s natural to want to be in agreement with your stakeholders, your team may need to do the opposite. In addition to clearly communicating with the team about stakeholder expectations, the project manager or task leader should be an advocate for the team when discussing their results with the project sponsors.
A project manager or task leader has a responsibility to inform but not necessarily to please. As uncomfortable as this might seem, this communication role is a necessary part of the project process. It establishes an important channel of honest feedback between the team and sponsors.
- Understand project sponsors’ needs, wants and preferences
- Develop consensus about project plans and designs within the team
- Resolve differences internally, requesting input from sponsors and stakeholders as needed
- Establish regularly scheduled communications between stakeholders and the team, making sure that each party’s point of view is clearly expressed to the other