Project managers spend a large part of each day communicating—facilitating meetings, emailing stakeholders, responding to texts, writing reports, and having one-on-one conversations. We are so busy, we rarely take the time to think about the effectiveness of our communication. How can we become a better communicator?
Here are five practical ways. Pick one or two and work on improving your communication this week.
Becoming a Better Communicator
1. Join Toastmasters.
Howard Hendricks said, “Practice doesn’t make perfect. Practice makes permanent.” How true. Just because we speak or make presentations a lot does not mean that we are improving. We can actually become worse. Individuals need feedback and coaching to become better.
Consider joining an organization like Toastmasters International. This organization provides education and public speaking resources. More importantly, you’ll have regular opportunities to speak and to get feedback in a safe environment. If you like, you can even compete at different levels allowing you to further hone your skills.
2. Use Visuals.
You’ve heard the saying—a picture is worth a thousand words. One of the best ways to improve your communication is through the use of visuals. It does not have to be fancy or require much time. Draw a picture on a white marker board. Create a visual in PowerPoint.
Want a simple way to engage your project team in the development of a project schedule? Create a Kanban Board. Check out my article on The Beginner’s Guide to Trello.
Imagine a developer who is creating a website. Wireframes are a great way to share the user interface screens and get feedback before writing code.
Imagine a business analyst who is mapping a business process. Why not create a swim lane diagram showing the steps and actors?
3. Study Great Communicators.
Another way to improve your communications is by studying individuals who have inspired others to action.
How about Winston Churchill? Take note of his quotes such as, “Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.”
And who hasn’t heard Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech? Notice the cadence, pauses, and the repetitions in the speech.
Lastly, YouTube provides a library of great speakers and speeches. For example, watch Toastmaster Champion Ian Humphrey: It’s Not About the Knockdown.
Speak clearly, if you speak at all; carve every word before you let it fall. —Oliver Wendell Holmes
4. Read Books on Communication.
Want to get inside the head of some of the world’s greatest communication experts? Check out one of these books:
- Everyone Communicates, Few Connect by John Maxwell
- Crucial Conversations – Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High by Kerry Patterson and Joseph Grenny
- Everybody Writes: Your Go-To Guide to Creating Ridiculously Good Content by Anne Handley
5. Ask for Feedback.
We all have blind spots, don’t we? So, why not ask someone to observe you when you speak, teach, or facilitate a meeting. Afterward, meet with the individual to hear their observations and suggestions for improving your communication. Yes, this requires humbling ourselves a bit, but it’s one of the fastest ways to enhance your communication skills.
Question: What other tips do you have for improving communications skills?
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