In my project management workshops, I ask this question, "What are the top causes of project failure?" Nine times out of ten, I hear the answer—poor communication. Hence, let's look at how to improve your project communication.
There are many ways in which project managers communicate -- coaching, summarizing action items, influencing a stakeholder, educating team members, listening, facilitating decisions, creating a contract with a third party, escalating an issue, and meeting with a project sponsor, to name a few.
What happens when poor communication exists? People get the wrong information. Others get the right information but at the wrong time. Consequently, individuals misunderstand and make flawed assumptions.
"Take advantage of every opportunity to practice your communication skills so that when important occasions arise, you will have the gift, the style, the sharpness, the clarity, and the emotions to affect other people." –Jim Rohn
7 Attributes of Great Project Communicators
If you want to improve your communication, consider these powerful attributes of great communicators:
- Intentional. Developing a communication plan is one of the best ways to improve project communication. Who do you need to communicate with? What should be communicated? When will the communication occur? How will you communicate (e.g., face-to-face, email, presentation, meetings)? Why is it important? Click here for a communication plan template.
- Clear. The best project managers are clear. Put yourself in the shoes of your stakeholders. What can you do to ensure clarity in your messages? Most noteworthy, lead by communicating in simple and clear terms.
- Continuous. Some project managers start out with a blast, communicating wonderfully. Somewhere along the way, they lose their steam. The project manager gets busy and fails to distribute minutes or tell the developers about decisions to change the requirements. In contrast, the best project managers have a healthy habit of regularly reviewing and updating their communication plan and continuously executing it.
- Unforgettable. Your stakeholders are bombarded daily by information — advertising, emails, tweets, messaging, podcasts, and videos. What can you do to stand out? How can you communicate in a creative manner that catches your stakeholder's interest and keeps them coming back for more? For example, I once saw a quality assurance manager and her testing team dress up like bugs and invite team members to throw water balloons at them to celebrate a milestone in the number of bugs (i.e., software defects) they found.
- Wise. One of the best things a project manager can do is review the lessons learned from similar projects. What were the communication issues? What decisions were made? How were they made? What were the results of the decisions? There's no need to make the same mistakes as prior project managers.
- Honest. One of the most important attributes of a leader is honesty. People want to know that they are dealing with someone trustworthy and with their best interest in mind. Don't shade the truth or hide information intentionally. Furthermore, look for ways to be as transparent as possible.
- Harmonious. Finally, most of our communication comes through body language, such as facial expressions and gestures. Speech and tone of voice are also key. Want to enrich your communication? Make sure your words, body language, and speech are in alignment.
The Purpose Driven Project Manager
Looking for ways to improve your interpersonal skills? Kick it up a notch with my book—The Purpose Driven Project Manager. Discover how to use your interpersonal skills to build high-performing, unified project teams.
Find a Mentor
None of us are perfect communicators. We are blind to our bad habits. For years, I habitually looked up and away from the person I spoke to. Why? I was thinking about how to solve the problem we were discussing. I was unaware of how this behavior was annoying others.
We don't know what we don't know. So, how can we discover our communication issues?
Ask a trusted mentor or friend to provide feedback on the communication strengths and weaknesses. What do you need to work on? Your writing skills. Your public speaking skills. Listening.
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"Intelligent leadership, creative communication and depth of technical skill all describe Harry Hall." –John Bartuska, Director of HR–ONUG Communications