We all know that good communication is essential for a project manager, but knowing what we should be doing and actually doing it can be different things. We know that excellent communication skills can make or break a project and yet, over time or when we are under stress, we can forget to implement the skills we have already learnt.
But learning doesn’t stop when we leave school or university or when we finish a professional training course. There is always room to learn more and grow more in your career, which is why CPD (Continuing Professional Development) is so important for a project manager or, indeed, any professional. More than ever, in today’s fast-paced, high-tech world we need to keep up with all the latest developments that affect how we work.
Here are some potential communication issues to avoid:
Not Reporting a Problem
Have you ever come across a problem in a project and hoped you could sort it out before anyone senior found out? (Be honest). Obviously you need to use your judgement and determine how serious the problem is, and how easy it will be to resolve it quickly, but once it is identified as serious then you should inform the client, senior management and other stakeholders. Clearly explain what the issue is together with suggested solutions and timeframes for a resolution. If there are team members affected by the problem you should also explain the situation to them because they are likely to have ideas on how to fix it.
Failing to Apologise
One of the skills of a great project manager is being a strong leader, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t accept when you have made a mistake. I’m sure we all know people who think that apologising is a sign of weakness but, quite the opposite; it is a sign of strength and confidence in our own abilities but understanding that we all make mistakes. So accept when an apology is needed and make it a genuine one.
Keeping Back Information
We all know the importance of regular updates on the project status and keeping everyone informed of serious issues but some project managers have a tendency to keep some information to themselves. They might think they are avoiding bothering others with issues that have no relevance to them, but everyone on a project should be kept in the loop. Failing to keep team members fully informed, in particular, can simply lead to a de-motivated, unenthusiastic team if they don’t understand the implications of what they are doing and why.
Have you ever avoided picking up the phone when there is bad news to deliver? Or even when there is good news to deliver? Communication isn’t just about status reports, documentation, email and meetings. Make a point of picking up the phone and talking to people who are not in the same location as you – talking in person can be a far better way to ride out crises or come up with solutions to problems than the written word, which can so easily be misinterpreted. Don’t put off contacting someone just because you haven’t scheduled a call or video conference; you may be surprised at what you can learn and what you can impart during an impromptu conversation.