Learning to say “No” can be a vital skill for a project manager. Learning to deal with “No” on the receiver’s end is equally important.
There are many “No”s a project managers finds him/herself obliged to deal with. It could be a “No” to additional funds, or to budget revisions, or to deadline extensions. Or a “No” from a service provider to a request to speed up the delivery. Or a “No” from a team member.
How do you deal with “No” on the receiving end? Is it “I do not take “No” for an answer? Or “How could you, after all I’ve done for you?” Or “Wait until your boss learns about it!” Or a blanc staring, Scarlett’s style?
With experience, you’ll learn to anticipate “No”s coming your way and you’ll deal proactively with it.
Here is a story:
The project sponsor asked for a project on three sites in three different countries. Each had a resident rep of the sponsor. As we started work, the representative of the sponsor on one of the sites changed and with him – the expectations.
We re-entered into negotiations, with some heavy weights on our side. During an intense exchange, it became clear that we are moving nowhere. They said “No” to all our proposals. We dropped that site. We still kept the two other project sites with plenty of opportunities to do good. It also freed some of our resources, thanks to which we launched a regional platform.
We kept the loyalty of our clients from the dropped site. And to compensate the local stakeholders for the lost opportunities, we invited them to the other sites to benefit from the products we delivered.
Couple of years later I met the sponsor’s rep and it gave me great pleasure to share all the good things we did on the other two project’s sites and the regional spin off.