Why Empathy Matters in Project Management
Project managers are in a unique position. On the one hand, we are responsible for managing the budget and timeline of a project. On the other hand, we are responsible for managing people and our interpersonal communication. Letting one of these take precedence can lead to budgets blowing up, to not holding people accountable to their work. It can also lead to people losing interest because they don’t feel like they are being valued or heard.
One of the most important tasks one can learn as a project manager is how to actively practice empathy. This is important for several reasons:
- Knowing and being aware of how your team responds to different situations will help you adjust your communication style to fit them best.
- Practicing empathy can help you read non-verbal cues of your teammates and your client, helping you predict how conversations are going and course-correct if needed.
- Empathizing with your team will help build trust and comradery. Building trust will help you effectively communicate tough feedback and will give you peace of mind knowing that you and your team members are all on the same page.
When I first started in project management, learning and working in a process was the main emphasis. While it helped achieve projects, there was a lack of human element, especially when unforeseen issues in the project came up. I found that when I sat down with different individuals to hear their frustrations and ideas, it created a bond between us and showed my team that I was willing to listen and care. Though this initially took some extra time and effort, it ended up saving time down the road since we had developed an understanding of how my team worked and how I could more effectively manage projects with them.
Empathy is not an easy trait to learn, especially if it does not come naturally to you. A first step is to sit back and actively listen to what your teams are saying and how they’re saying it. In time, this will become a natural part of your work and will help grow your professional relationships and skills.
For further reading, check out these links: https://medium.com/@Workep/empathy-the-winning-skill-for-project-managers-b89e8d5e7de