Studies have shown that roughly 56% of projects failing projects have poor communications as a factor. Whether you are presenting or just having a meeting, having strong communication skills is critical for project managers. Here are 5 essential practices to work on:
- Develop and rehearse an elevator pitch. Be able to provide a quick 30-second message about the primary goals and benefits of your project. When asked what you are working on, what you are doing, or what your project is about, lead off your response with that message. It may even be included in the opening of some presentations. It should be the one memorable message you want everyone to remember.
- Practice active listening. The most effective communicators are active listeners. Focus on, understand, and appropriately respond to others communicating with you. As I like to call it, get in GEAR: give verbal responses to let it be known that you are listening, eye contact at an appropriate level, ask relevant questions to ensure understanding, and restate and reframe (restate without negativity) to confirm you correctly understood.
- Don't make unfounded assumptions. Assumptions not based in fact or logic, have contributed to many project failures. For example, if there is a hand-off required for a critical path task, do not assume it happened as planned. Trust, but verify! Confirm that it is actually taking place. Similarly, do not assume everyone agrees with you. When discussing important actions, be sure to explain your thinking to help get others on board or to raise issues if they believe something is wrong.
- Practice acknowledgement. Always acknowledge good work, even with just a simple "thank you" or sincere praise. Give small rewards to high performing individuals or teams at major milestones when met. This can be something small - a $25-$50 gift card, access to a gift catalog, or an inexpensive team lunch. These simple acts will help build a stronger, more motivated team.
- Keep a project deck. A project deck is a collection of all the slides from any project presentations. A project deck will help you put together new presentations quickly and ensure key messaging is maintained. Remember that less is more, so keep the number of slides and words per slide small. It's also important to keep some more detailed slides hidden in decks just in case someone wants more information.
Following these practices are sure to increase your personal and project success. If you have other practices to share, please leave a comment.
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