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Influencing senior stakeholders for project delivery

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Developing effective and beneficial stakeholder relationships is an essential skill for high-performing project managers. No matter what point they are at in the project lifecycle, managers need the ability to influence the behaviour of individuals and groups across the organisation in order to deliver large-scale projects on deadline and within budget.  

However, it’s not just about influencing teams across the business, project managers also need to persuade and win over decision makers at the top of organisations to be effective in their roles. Learning to build and maintain connections with c-suite executives is extremely beneficial, not least for those managers who are looking to progress to senior roles later in their careers.  

Understanding what motivates these important stakeholders and the pressures they are facing is the first step to mastering the skill of managing up. 

CEO challenges 

Understanding what’s on the minds of Board Members, CEOs and executives on the senior leadership team provides valuable insight for project managers.  

For example, in research taken at our CEO Retreat, we questioned leaders from a variety of organisations, geographies, and sectors about their top challenges. When asked about key concerns for the year ahead, cost reduction was in the top five priority list for CEOs. This is not, however, preventing leaders from making the right spending decisions where needed, with investment in new technology cited as the biggest change occurring across organisation.  

Innovation and growth were also top priorities for CEOs, although 70% acknowledged the need to create more time for long-term planning and 74% needed to improve the quality of strategic debate with their Board.  

Appreciating these concerns and considering how they will impact the changes needed for a successful project delivery can have a positive impact on how managers discuss ideas and new investments with the CEO. 

Other stakeholders 

The CFO, another important stakeholder and budget holder, must be considered as key to the project manager’s sphere of influence. In our research with this group, new technology, particularly AI and machine learning, was a main concern for finance leaders in 2024. Like their CEO counterparts, CFOs told us that investment in new technology was the biggest change they expected to see across their businesses.  

Also in the research, and a point of consideration for any project manager looking to secure budget, CFOs told us that feeling under pressure from shareholders and investors can mean they are overly focused on the short-term. With this in mind, offering both long and short-term opportunities when presenting a project delivery plan will support the CFO with their own wider stakeholder relationships.    

When it comes to the people agenda, and engaging the teams you need to deliver a successful project, the HR Director or CHRO can play a fundamental and supportive role. In our research with this group, retaining key talent and skills was top of the agenda for HR leaders. Working closely with project managers to identify the skills needed will inevitably be important to delivering on plans.  

Almost all (95%) of HRDs also told us they were aligned with their CEO on strategy, reinforcing this role as a key stakeholder for project managers looking to influence executives on the top team. Often, HRDs have a trusted relationship with the CEO and Board Members, meaning they are a vital stakeholder for project managers seeking buy in at a senior level. 

As budgets tighten even further in a difficult economy, it will be more important than ever for project managers to understand key stakeholders and ensure they have the right skills and knowledge of these groups to motivate action. By tailoring plans and conversations to the unique challenges of senior leaders in the business, managers can be more effective, not only in meeting their immediate targets, but also understanding the skills needed to move into more senior roles themselves. 


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