Communication is probably the most important, yet under-rated life and business skill. Good communicators are often good leaders, able to bring people together around a shared vision, setting expectations and clarifying roles and responsibilities.
So of course, an outstanding project manager is a highly adept communicator. The Project Management Institute (PMI) estimates that project managers spend up to 90% of their time communicating with others. But it also found that 20% of projects fail due to poor communication. There is clearly still room for us to grow.
Hopefully, the development of a project communication plan is part of your regular project planning process. It’s important to think about your audience, objectives, messages, and channels before each project commences. Ideally, you’ll be able to involve key stakeholders in this process, to ensure that you communicate in a way that works for them.
The essentials of project communications are covered in the PMI training courses.
Read more: Your guide to PMI certification
Over the years, we have found that the following four tips to be extremely helpful in ensuring that project communications remain on track.
1. Listen carefully
Obviously, the starting point for listening is during the initial briefing phase, when you need to determine exactly what your project needs to deliver, how, when and at what cost. Missing key information at this stage leads to a whole host of issues later on, including loss of support from a strategic sponsor, loss of funding, and unmet expectations.
It’s just as important to listen to team members who may be trying to tell you that they don’t understand your instructions, don’t agree with them, or can’t meet them.
These messages may be subtle at first, so be sure to listen to body language as well as words. If a person is not making contact, or is displaying defensive body language, it would be probably be wise to talk to them alone and try to work out what is bothering them.
2. See the big picture
As project manager, you need to keep your eyes on the prize. Having a clear vision of the end goal and success criteria will help you manage priorities and potential conflicts, while keeping the team motivated and on track when the going gets tough.
3. Use intrinsic motivation
It isn’t easy to motivate a group of people who don’t report to you. To get it right, you need to know what they really care about. You might be surprised to learn what really high performers. Hint: giving them everything they need to master their roles autonomously.
4. Mind your language
Think carefully about how you communicate. Are your emails clear and concise? Can people from diverse backgrounds and geographies understand them? Is your tone friendly yet professional?
When writing emails, avoid unfamiliar slang or jargon, use an active rather than passive voice, use bullet points where possible, and keep it as short as possible.
A few carefully written emails are preferable are better than a load of poorly written, pointless or overly complicated ones.
It's important to be present, visible and engaged during the lifecycle of a project. If you can hone your listening skills, keep everyones' eyes on the prize, appeal to their intrinsic motivators, and speak clearly, you'll be well on your way to building a wonderful career in project management.