7 Rules to manage the high power / high interest stakeholder, that acts like Attila the Hun, part 1

PMI’s new knowledge area: Stakeholder Management, was created for a good reason; Stakeholders make or break the project. Their perceptions drive their decisions. Their involvement or lack therefore, is a detriment or a help to the PM. In this article, I will focus on the Hi Power, Hi Interest stakeholder based on the PMBOK’ s Power-interest grid, which was created by Professor Aubrey Mendelow.

image001The Conqueror is both powerful and committed to the project. This can be a good or bad thing, depending on whether the conqueror is Attila the Hun or a liberator, like general Eisenhower.

The PBMOK’s advice is to manage them closely. Following that advice, let’s assume you have to work with Attila the Hun. This stakeholder is feared in the organization, is outspoken, opinionated, and rose to that position, heaven knows how. As a PM you may feel intimidated by their sheer personality as well as overshadowed by the attention they receive. To observers, it seems the Conqueror is the PM, and you are just a figurehead. What is the solution to this? Well, there is no easy solution or “silver bullet”.

What you can do is to use time-tested battle strategies. First, don’t do a frontal assault. You will be overpowered. Instead, schedule a periodic short one-on-one meeting, to reason with Attila and do understand their thinking. Second, discuss the situation with your safety net: the PMO office, your manager, other PM’s or someone in management whom you respect. Keep them in the loop, and ask for their help, as needed.

Third, Conquerors take up a lot of your time, so prepare by freeing yourself up so that you have time to manage them closely. Ask for additional resources, such as a project coordinator or business analyst to help you.  Fourth, stay on top of things, document and distribute information, be ready to answer any question, etc. Your response time to any request, email, or call should be immediate. Conquerors want immediate attention. Fifth, keep the Conqueror busy and distracted by delegating important, but time-intensive, activities. Sixth, build alliances and work behind the scenes to get support for your ideas. However, don’t be discouraged if the alliances falter in the face of Attila the Hun.

Lastly, think long-term. Don’t fight skirmishes or focus on minor or even significant irritations. Instead, brush it off. Act professionally and positive at all times. Don’t act out of anger or frustration. If you follow these 7 rules, you will be head and shoulders above your PM predecessors who crashed and burned quickly. You will not be taken off the project. In fact, onlookers will be impressed with your consistent and unalterable demeanor.   But a warning: if you lack your manager’s support, and don’t have the resources or time you need to manage the project well, then look for an exit strategy. Sometimes retreating (leaving gracefully) is the better decision.

Instructor at Key Performance
Instructor/coach at Key Performance


Jose Carranza, (BSEE, MBA, PMP®, PMI-ACP®, PMI-PBA®) is a passionate educator and coach who brings 30 years of corporate and consulting experience into the classroom or into a team. His engaging style and broad experience challenges students, while his humor and experience motivates them. He has worked as a software programmer, utility engineer, Lean Six Sigma consultant, business analyst, sales engineer, and project manager. He has led projects throughout North and South America as well as in Western Europe.