How to master effective communication in project management
Effective communication is a key skill for project managers. Whether it’s convincing a sceptical stakeholder, addressing an underperforming work package owner or advocating for necessary resources, these conversations can be challenging.
These discussions often involve sensitive topics such as scope, quality, timelines, budget, solutions, tools and methods. However, delivering negative feedback or sharing bad news can be uncomfortable for the individuals involved.
Why? Because the projects matter and you care! Hurting someone’s feelings, making someone disappointed or engaging in conflict is certainly not on my to-do list, as I’m sure it’s not on yours.
If you want to arm yourself with valuable tips and strategies to help you master the art of effective communication in project management – keep reading!
1. Keep difficult conversations productive
To maintain productive conversations it’s essential to avoid emotional outbursts and blaming others. Instead, focus on finding solutions and ways to fix problems collaboratively. During heated moments, take a step back, remain calm and redirect the discussion towards resolving the issue rather than assigning blame. Focus on the outcome of the meeting – what do you want to achieve?
2. Prepare your conversation with evidence
One common difficulty is engaging with stakeholders who don’t believe in the project. This situation requires strong and effective communication as you will be presenting evidence to argue for the project’s viability or discussing the possibility of stopping it. However, pushback can arise due to the association of stopping with failure. Additionally, some stakeholders may appear supportive in person but undermine the project behind your back.
Another tough conversation involves addressing work package owners who need to deliver their assigned tasks. Communicating the issue to the responsible party requires tact and directness to ensure project progress.
When engaging in these difficult conversations, supporting your arguments with solid evidence and presenting facts and data that strengthen your position is essential. Prepare in advance, gather relevant information and use it to back up your points.
3. Overcoming language challenges
Written communication can pose challenges, especially when dealing with diverse cultures and time zones. Another layer of complexity is added as it separates the emotional and visual cues you receive in face-to-face interactions. The lack of emotional and visual cues can make it challenging to navigate conversations effectively and fully understand the nuances of others’ perspectives.
Whatever you communicate, be mindful of your language as different individuals may interpret certain phrases or tones differently.
My personal tip for writing heated communication is to write down your ‘snotogram’ then leave it until you cool down and come back to it later with a clear mind!
4. Deliver with confidence and honesty
Confidence and honesty are key when navigating difficult conversations. If you don’t have an answer or are uncertain about something it’s okay to admit it. Honesty builds trust and credibility. Deliver your message with confidence, express your thoughts clearly and provide honest assessments of the situation. This establishes a foundation for open and effective dialogue.
5. Tailor your message to your audience
Being able to converse with a range of different team members and stakeholders is crucial. Individual emotion affects conversations. Especially the difficult ones! We are not robots; we all bring ourselves to play at work. Therefore, consider your audience and what triggers them and tailor your communication accordingly.
Different stakeholders have varying interests and concerns. For instance, a stakeholder may not be interested in hearing that the project is behind schedule due to a developer being allocated to another project. Instead, they may be more concerned about the overall progress and outcomes.
Similarly, a work package owner may not benefit from hearing your crappy opinions or doubts expressed by others about the project’s feasibility. Understanding your audience allows you to focus on addressing their specific needs and providing relevant information to their role and perspective.
Customising your messages to resonate with each individual will enhance engagement and foster a more productive and effective dialogue.
6. Offer options and encourage opinions
In challenging situations, it’s helpful to present options and solicit opinions from stakeholders. For instance, if the project encounters issues, propose different courses of action such as Plan A, Plan B or project termination.
This approach invites others to participate in decision-making and encourages them to think critically about the available options. Ask for their thoughts: What do they believe should be done? Why do they hold that perspective?
7. Listen and offer constructive feedback
Allow space for a two-way conversation and listen to what the other person has to say. Listening is an undervalued skill but is so important for all successful relationships. Focus on the positive, and offer constructive feedback, not just what they do wrong but what they do right or how they can improve!
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Having difficult conversations isn’t fun. But by following my top tips you can enhance your ability to handle such discussions effectively.
Remember to gather evidence, promote transparency, keep conversations productive and tailor your messages to your audience! With practice and experience, you’ll become adept at navigating difficult conversations and fostering positive outcomes in your project management endeavours.
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