Project Practitioners > Understand your project stakeholders to influence them

Understand your project stakeholders to influence them

By Alfonso Bucero

Every project manager will be measured by project results. Then, you will need to influence them. One of the key skills to be developed for being a good influencer is communication. Understanding people certainly impacts your ability to communicate with others. The biggest mistake I made in the past frequently was to put my highest priority on expressing my ideas and feelings. What most people really want is to be listened to, respected, and understood. The moment people see that they are being understood, they become more motivated to understand your points of view”. If you can learn to understand people, how they think, what they feel, what inspires them, how they’re likely to act and react in a given situation – then you can motivate and influence them in a positive way.

Then, in order to influence people we need to consider what is best, to be loved or feared. Machiavelli pondered that timeless conundrum five hundred years ago and hedged his bets. “It may be answered that one”, but because it is difficult to unite them in one person, it is much safer to be feared than loved. In any case I need to confess that I did not understand some people when managing projects. I always tried to discover why.

Why people fail to understand others?

Lack of understanding concerning others is a recurrent source of stress in our society. We once heard an attorney say “Half of all the controversies and conflicts that arise among people are caused not by differences of opinion or an inability to agree, but by their lack of understanding for one another". If we could just reduce the number of misunderstandings, the courts would not be as crowded, there would be fewer violent crimes, the divorce rate would go down, and the amount of every day stress most people experience would drop dramatically.

Everyone is unique

We need to respect and recognize everyone else’s unique qualities. Learning to appreciate their differences is the right path in my personal experience. If somebody in your team has a talent that you don’t have, great. The two of you can strengthen each other’s weaknesses. For instance, I use to work with people from different cultures and I consider myself as a lucky person because of that. You need to celebrate people’s differences in temperament. Variety makes for interesting dynamics between people.

For instance, my wife works with me in the same project (our small company). She is very analytic and pragmatic; she knows how to care of all the small details when we are preparing a project proposal for a customer. I’m much more dreamer and visionary. So that mix works well for us, because it is a good combination. Once you learn to appreciate other people’s differences, you come to realize that there are many responses to leadership and motivation.

Some things everybody needs to understand about people

Knowing what people need and want is the key to understanding them. If you can understand them, you can influence them and impact their lives in a positive way. If we were to boil down all the things we know about understanding people and narrow them down to a short list, we would identify these five things:

 1. Everybody wants to be somebody: There is not a person in the world who does not have the desire to be someone, to have significance. Even the least ambitious and unassuming person wants to be regarded highly by others. For instance, when I was a technical consultant I dreamed to be a project manager some day.

 2. Nobody cares how much you know until he/she knows how much you care:

If you want to be a project manager with influence you need to love people before you try to lead them. The moment that people know that you care for and about them, the way they feel about you changes. Showing others that you care is not always easy. People are your greatest assets and your greater liabilities.

 3. Everybody needs somebody: Everybody needs friendship, encouragement, and help. What people can accomplish by themselves is nothing compared to their potential when working with others. Doing things with other people tends to bring contentment.

4. Everybody can be somebody: Once you understand people and believe in them, they really can become somebody. And it does not take much effort to help other people feel important. Little things, done deliberately at the right time, can make a big difference.

5. Anybody who helps somebody influences a lot of bodies: The final thing you need to understand about people is that when you help one person, you are really impacting a lot of other people. What you give to one person overflows into the lives of all the people that person impacts. The nature of influence is to multiply. It even impacts you because when you help others and your reasons are good, you always receive more than you can ever give. Most people are so genuinely grateful when another person makes them feel that they are somebody special that they never tire of showing their gratitude.

Today is a Good Day to improve your influence skills.If you want to know more about how to be more influential look at: "The Influential Project Manager" (

Alfonso Bucero, MSc, PMP, PMI-RMP, PMI Fellow

Managing Partner

BUCERO PM Consulting



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