Agency Management, Operational Excellence

Ten Sentences Project Managers Love to Hear

by Shana Hirsch, May 15, 2014

preloader_logoProject managers are often expected to be miracle workers. While to some extent they are – after all, they provide clients with solutions to problems – project managers can’t always solve or fix the unsolvable or unfixable.

However, project managers usually try to create the sought-after miracles; in fact, many such managers work quite hard to solve the impossible and are, often, successful. All project managers appreciate their efforts to create miracles being recognized.

In the world of project management, there are many sentences that project managers want to avoid, such as “We’ve been told it’s impossible several times already.” Sentences like this imply that there is no solution but that the client persists in the endeavor despite possessing this knowledge.

At the same time, there are numerous sentences that project managers love to hear. These sentences often present challenges, offer support, and usually indicate a willingness to avoid micromanaging and leave the work in the manager’s capable hands. The top 10 sentences that project managers love to hear are:

“I know it might be difficult.”

This simple sentence tells a project manager that the client understands the complexity of and effort required to solve the issue presented to them. It also expresses an understanding that not every problem is easily resolved and that some glitches may occur on the way to obtaining the perfect solution. The result of uttering this sentence is that a project manager feels supported by the client in their efforts and able to present and discuss any complications that may arise during the process.

There is a difference between a difficulty and an impossibility. A difficulty implies a challenge, while an impossibility implies that something cannot be done. Project managers love being handed challenges, viewing them as a way to display their skill and ingenuity.

“You’re the expert, what solution do you suggest?”

Letting a project manager determine the pathway for the problem presented to them allows the manager to use his or her skill set to the fullest and doesn’t tie them to using or incorporating a client’s suggestions or ideas. By taking a backseat to the manager’s skills, a client makes it more likely that the offered or provided solution will be reasonable and resolve all issues connected to the problem.

“I would like X and Y, but only if that’s reasonable.”

This sentence provides a project manager with guidance as to what solution a client seeks, but without pigeonholing the manager into only providing that very solution. This allows a manager to work to find the best solution possible, even if it doesn’t perfectly match what a client requested.

“I’m available to answer any questions or to meet again.”

Increased communication makes it less likely that information will be forgotten or lost in the shuffle. It also ensures that a project manager remains informed of any issues regarding any problems that arise, helping him or her incorporate the need to address these issues in their work.

The most important aspect of this sentence is the lack of a specific time. This leaves the frequency of contact up to the project manager, giving them time to work on the issue without unnecessary or overly frequent interruptions.

“You can provide updates when you choose.”

Some clients request that updates be provided whenever a certain “percentage” of a project has been completed. The problem with this is that the term “percentage” is subjective: what defines a project as 25% complete other than the perception of the individual completing that 25%?

Allowing a project manager to determine the timing and frequency of updates makes it more likely that the updates received will be relevant and show actual progress. Don’t worry about a manager not providing updates, much of a manager’s efforts are dedicated to ensuring that progress on a project occurs and is timely.

“Let’s add more team members, if you'd like.”

Project managers rarely work alone. Most love working on a team not only because it means more hands to deal with the issue, but also because it means more brains to contribute ideas and thoughts. A client who is willing to pay for an increase in the number of employees working on their task actually helps project managers complete their job.

Note, however, that what this sentence does not do is move up deadlines or otherwise change the overall purpose of the assignment. Having more team members on a project does not always mean that work can be done faster.

“Tell me what you need.”

A project manager can estimate the time, resources, and other things he or she will need to perfectly complete a project. Although clients may estimate this information, they are often unfamiliar with all the aspects of a project and may underestimate a manger’s needs. Giving a manager what they need makes it more likely that a solution to the presented problem will not only be given the required time and resourcesely, but also resolve all issues.

“I consider this a partnership in which I’m a semi-silent partner.”

Clients hire project managers for their expertise and ability to handle and resolve problems. A client who tries to micromanage or otherwise insert himself or herself in the management process often hinders progress or causes problems. This sentence tells a project manager that the client understands that their input and assistance may be needed, but that it won’t be constantly provided without request.

“I shared everything I know with you, but can help with any questions.”

Project managers are professionals; they know what they need to know and have in order to efficiently work on a project. A client’s job is to share as much information as possible, and then step back and allow the project manager to work.
Increased communication makes it less likely that information will be forgotten or lost in the shuffle. It also ensures that a project manager remains informed of any issues regarding the main problem that recently may arise, helping him or her incorporate the need to address these issues in their work. This sentence lets the project manager know that the client understands their role in the partnership.

“This is great, thank you.”

For a project manager, handing a solution over to a client is akin to releasing a child into the world: the foundations have been laid and tested, often with intense effort, and now it’s time to set the solution free. Just like a parent, project managers love hearing that their work is appreciated and working as expected.

Recognizing the manager’s hard work, skill set, and stepping back to allow the manager to work means that the manager can use his or her professional skills to quickly find the best solution to a problem. Although a client may choose to change the actual wording of these sentences provided above, any one of them shows that the client understands and respects the working relationship they have with the project manager.


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