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Tips of the trade - 5 ways to assure you communicate effectively

Posted Oct 05 2009 10:02pm

We have all heard that 90% of a Project Manager's job is communication. Communications take a large part of a project manager's time, and it is crucial to convey information effectively. Information is constantly streaming at us continually via email, twitter, smart phones, and instant messaging; individuals have even started writing about slowing down the rate of communications. Hence it is important to keep in mind that it is the responsibility of the communicator to assure the message is timely, understood, and resonates.

As a project manager, here are some ways you can use to communicate effectively.

  1. Talk with the receiver about the best mechanism and timing for them to receive information - With sponsors, key stakeholders, and key team members, it is good to have an open and frank discussion about how best to give them updates, obtain status, and assure they are prepped for when they need to communicate.

  2. Write emails for the audience receiving them. - For projects there is the ground on the floor knowledge for those involved in the day to day, the view of the countryside for those viewing the larger picture, and the plan view for the executives looking to achieve the strategy and outcomes. The email to the day to day team, will be too detailed for those looking for the 1000 ft view. It is wise to consider your audience for the email, and not to send an email meant for one audience to all others just for a couple extra minutes of time. The time made up will be lost as you have to answer questions which arise.

  3. Pick up the phone, schedule a drop by, but make an effort to talk - There is written and there is verbal communication, and if you are located in the same next of the world. I'd highly recommend touching base in person with people. Make an appointment, have an agreed agenda, then walk it. Also observe individuals reactions and body language.

  4. Watch for signs that your point was not received - Once the item was communicated, have signs it was received. Once, I had a supervisor who would only recall items which made it to her daily schedule or folders which she carried. There was a pile on the desk, and another pile on the floor. However, if I got a note in her daily schedule or the file added to the bag The discussion had made its way home. If the paper got placed on the desk or on the floor, I knew I had to come back another time and try again. Today was not going to be the day. Be observant for patterns of behavior indicating definite reception.

  5. 3 ways 3 times - There is a discussion that individuals need to receive a communication 8 different ways, 8 different times in order to understand it. I'm more of the opinion if you can communicate in ways which resonate, 3 ways and 3 times are the charm.

Hopefully these tips will help you improve your communications, they have been helpful to me. Please share other suggestions below on improving communication effectiveness.

Further Readings on Tips of the Trade:

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