Communication is one of the fundamental skills of any business person. Communication is how we sell to others and as Daniel Pink defines in his book “To Sell is Human” we are all selling all the time. Everyday we are selling our time, our thoughts, our efforts and energy to our colleagues, friends, spouses and even our children, but it’s more than just a pitch. A few critical elements that make up the selling and communication are speaking confidently, using proper body language, trying to find mutually beneficial outcomes (not zero sum), and sometimes simple gestures like a touch on the arm can lead to an increase in trust.
Project Managers are tasked with mastering the ability to communicate and having the full repertoire of behaviors to get our thoughts out quickly and in a way that our listener will understand. Remember, that when talking to different audiences, we need to adjust our strategy to meet their expectations. For talking to a customer or owner, being clear and concise is paramount. Living in the gray area and not committing to deliverables can lead to a negative impression of your abilities. With your peers, remember that fostering relationships will help you gain access to knowledge and experience that will benefit you as a PM. One of the biggest mistakes that I see on both the engineering teams and construction teams is the fear of asking for help. Admitting there is a problem leaves a bad taste in our mouths, but successful teams are focused on the final outcome, so providing assistance is critical to meet the deadlines. We need to be able to reach out to others and focus on our goals, rather than our own pried if we want to see true success.
Being able to communicate clearly with our audience limits the amount of wasted time we have with explanations and unnecessary conversations that risk putting projects behind schedule or even worse, sidetrack our action items. Imagine walking into your colleagues office with a question that will influence a critical decision, but rather than coming out in 30 seconds, you spend an hour and leave forgetting why you where there in the first place. If you are like me, you don’t have to imagine, because this type of derailment happens all the time. As a project manager we need to be able to have quick conversation and prevent them from being sidetracked. The two main ways to prevent this behavior are to have a strategy, and write it down. Knowing your audience affects what tools you need to use to effectively communicate your idea or question – Remember, a contractor thinks differently than an investor. Also, writing down thoughts will also keep you on task and limit the unnecessary conversations.
As Project Managers, we need to have the conversation with everyone and make them worthwhile if we want to keep our goals on track. If you have ever had trouble communicating with someone about a project decision, please comment below, I would love to hear your thoughts!