How Well Do You Communicate?

The key to managing projects successfully is a deep, dark, well-hidden secret.

Ready? Are you certain you can handle it?

Here goes: You must have stellar communication skills.

Sounds simple, right? We all believe our communication skills are stellar. We know how to speak well, handle emails, process through the technology—all of it. But do we really? To be most effective, your communication must focus on people and their preferences.

Here are some tips for managing projects (and people) successfully:

Be on time. For calls, web conferences, events, and meetings. This establishes the fact that you are reliable and sets you up for trust-filled relationships and better rapport. Note: Showing up a little early is even better!

Be mindful and respectful of everyone’s schedules. This means choosing to postpone or cancel events as seldom as possible and with as much advance notice as possible. Sure, everyone likes to be given time back on their calendars, but frequent canceling of meetings undermines the work your team is doing and can erode trust.

Be consistent. Your people need to know what to expect. When you exhibit erratic behaviors you make it difficult for people to trust you, which limits your ability to have a successful event (or meeting).

Host a project kick-off meeting. It is vital to a project’s success that all relevant parties gather together at the start. It helps strengthen relationships, establish communication norms, ensure that everyone understands the goals and expected outcomes—and whatever else you choose to include in the agenda. Document concerns and any updates during this meeting, and then share those written notes with everyone afterwards. Face-to-face is best for this meeting, but a high-quality web conference works, too.

Discuss communication strategy. At the outset of a project, find out how each person on the team prefers to communicate and be communicated with. Be sure to cover routine project updates, as well as emergencies, quick question and answer needs, and whatever else is relevant. Honor everyone’s preferences to the best of your ability. Include phone call, email, web meeting, and instant message preferences. Make a list of how people prefer to connect for scheduled events, as well as how they like to be contacted spontaneously when needed. Set days for when to submit project reports.

More effective meetings. Use a web conferencing tool and the engagement tools it provides, such as screen sharing, chat, document upload, webcams, and the ability to rotate leader access.

Other tips for effective meetings include the following: 

  • Plan. Establish an agenda or meeting format when determining the communication strategy.
  • Ask better questions. Intentionally using open-ended questions helps draw information and more than one-word answers from your responders. Doing anything else restricts the free flow of information.
  • Honor the silence. It is easy to become uncomfortable and “squirm” when there is dead silence on calls and web conferences. Resist the temptation to jump in immediately. Silence occurs for a variety of reasons. For example, cell phone coverage can be unreliable. People might be making notes and processing what has been discussed. And, we all hate those times when people talk over each other. So, silence might just be people being polite. Step back into the conversation once you sense that everyone is ready to continue. 

Host an after project review meeting. Evaluate successes and what could have made things go more smoothly. Take notes, and share those with all participants.

Clarify, restate, and, clarify again. Make sure you know what people mean and they know what you mean. Do this in every discussion, every time. Do it both verbally and in writing.

And finally, enjoy the experience. This time spent is your opportunity to strengthen relationships, work through challenges, and celebrate wins. All of this matters and figures into the overall success of your team and project.

Want to test your current communication skills? Follow this link to a brief assessment: mindtools.com/pages/article/newCS_99.htm

If what you've read here resonates and you'd like to discuss it further, contact me, TODAY.

Originally published in ATD Links here