A question I sometimes need to field is “what are the top 5 critical communication skills a Project Manager must possess to be successful?”. There are more than 5 skills that revolve around communications, so the choice is a difficult one.
Then the proverbial light bulb went off! I decided my answer to this challenge involves looking for the “lowest common denominators” — the most general and encompassing skills. My list, not necessarily in order of importance:
1) Listen — This is a real challenge for many of us, particularly if we are also experts in our field. We need to remember to seek first to understand, then be understood. Whether we are actively or passively listening, this is a skill needed to gather information about the project and its stakeholders.
2) Read — Believe it or not, literacy is still a top problem for people entering the work force today. Project managers often have reams of things to read — contracts, plans, specifications, status reports, meeting minutes, and more. Speed reading is an important skill as well to keep up.
3) Write — Another key part of literacy is writing. We write emails, notes, status reports, thank yous, and more as part of our jobs. It’s a basic and important skill.
4) Speak — Speaking makes many people nervous. I always have the students in my project management classes deliver an oral presentation. To make it real life, I have them deliver an “elevator speech” about a risk or issue their project is facing. We need to communicate and speak with people daily to ensure the messaging about our project is on target.
5) Persuade — Perhaps this is more appropriately classified as content development. We need to make sure all our communications, spoken or written, are high in content. We also need to be able to persuade project stakeholders to accept compromise, project team members to act appropriately and disseminate lots of small “bites” of information about our projects.
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