Project Manager Tips – Communication

Project Manager Skills

Business Team
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When I read project manager job descriptions, they often seem to be written for superman or superwoman, as they require skills in a huge range of areas.  Typically they include leadership, self-starter, analyst, motivator, not to mention negotiator,  as well as coach and team builder and so on.

Is it really possible to find all these qualities in one person?  Even if the individual is very competent, every person has their own preferences and style and cannot possibly be an expert in everything.  Somebody who is analytical and great for planning may be not so good at negotiation, or the competent leader may not be so good at the detailed work.

The conclusion is that these shopping lists of project manager qualities may all be desirable, but that they will not all be provided by the project manager. Here are some project manager tips you might find helpful in both building and learning these skills.

A Project Manager Priority – Communication

So if the project manager is unlikely to be master of all possible skills, which ones are really essential, assuming that the other skills will be present in other members of the project team?  High on my list would be Communication skills.

One way of looking at project management is that the leader (also known as “project manager”) takes the role of communicating the vision of the completed project to the team members and other stakeholders, even before the vision is realised.

This is a challenge.  Even when something exists and is generally accepted as useful, it can still be very difficult to get everybody to work towards the vision.  There is an old story where the bricklayer was asked what he was doing, to which he replied “building a wall”, while his colleague answered “building a cathedral”.  They were doing the same work, but one lacked the vision.

Team Motivation also depends on understanding the relevance of what has to be done and deciding that it is worth the effort.  Again, communication is a key project manager skill, so that the team understand not only what has to be be done but why it is important.

This leads me to Communication as one of the most important skills for the project manager.  Good communication can be used to share bothe project vision and how to achieve it.

Communication can take many forms

Active Listening
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In it’s most direct form, communication is simply talking but in our modern world, communication can take a very wide range of forms.  Some of them are particularly useful for project managers, such as:

  • Gantt Chart
  • Schedule Network
  • Earned Value
  • Resource Levelling etc.

Other communication methods are not restricted to project management, but are certainly also useful:

  • Social Networks
  • Live Presentations
  • Reports
  • Photographs
  • Telephone
  • PowerPoint slides
  • Automatic translators
  • Meeting Minutes
  • eMail and so on.

One of my favourites for the project manager is “Active Listening“, where the listener stops doing everything else and pays attention to the speaker.  This is one of the most powerful Project Manager tools, both to get the work done and to build up team spirit and mutual respect.

If the listener multi-tasks (looks at the ticker on the computer screen, reads mobile phone messages, flicks through brochures or reading material and so on), while pretending to listen, the reaction of the colleague is likely to be negative.

The opposite scenarios is far more conducive to the sharing of motivation and vision which a project manager needs. Simply by agreeing within a project team that meetings will take place without multitasking is one of the easiest ways to improve project team communication.