Everybody’s talking about it…the problem. We all know what the problem is and it seems ironic that the problem that everybody is talking about is communication! Ask anyone involved in the American workplace today and they will tell you that the problem is communication. In one form or another the problem is communication or more often, the lack of it. The PMI has studied the problem with respect to project management and it turns out…the problem is us! We, the Project Management Professionals, are not communicating properly. Or efficiently. Or effectively.
One of the ways in which we are communicating poorly is by communicating too much. Why? Because when we hear that the problem is communication we inherently respond by communicating more! This seems logical to the point of obvious and yet for the most part, it is ineffective and, well… just plain wrong. By communicating too much, too often, to too many people we become completely ineffective communicators!
Communication involves the successful transfer of information. It requires message transmission, reception, comprehension, and acknowledgment. Without all of the components working properly the system fails. If your inbox is flooded with hundreds of messages how many and how much of each do you read? How carefully do you listen to your team members when you are under pressure to get something done and they interrupt you with questions? Do you stop what you’re doing? Five minutes after they leave your office can you remember what you discussed?
Project managers are struggling to keep up. Time management seems impossible and the effort feels futile because saved time quickly translates to more work! For that reason, we focus on priorities. If we want our communications to be effective they need to be the priority for the recipient! That person is carefully guarding their own time and likely to be filtering messages based on importance to them. Not its importance to YOU!
So here are five tips to get YOUR messages through!
1. The right information to the right people at the right time
Prioritize your messages. When emailing, save the message to draft and read it completely before sending. Read it from the perspective of the recipient and determine if your message is complete and concise. Will they understand it without all of the background information in your brain?
2. Be brief, be sincere, be seated
The famous quote from FDR is really about public speaking, and it applies to all communications. The briefer the better. Think about when and how your message is likely to be read. The 140-character rule is a great place to practice. Make all of your communications tweet-able. The reason people don’t like long emails is that they are hard to read at red lights.
3. Stop, Look, Listen
This advice is typically given to prevent being run over by a train. Now the train that’s coming is some problem on your project that your team member is trying to tell you about…and you’re not going to understand it unless you do these three things when they come to talk with you. Stop what you are doing. Look at the talker…make eye contact. Listen actively, aggressively, intently. Ask questions. Make sure you understand the issue!
4. Don’t get your daily exercise by jumping to conclusions
As a Project Manager you are going to hear about problems. Lots of problems. Some of them are real, many of them are not. To help you decide if you need to take action, ask yourself a question…is this issue causing now, or going to cause, a performance problem for your project. While there may be action required by you, if there is a performance problem you MUST ACT quickly and decisively. You have many challenges in this position and you simply cannot afford performance problems on your team.
5. Think now, speak later
If you pause before you speak it not only gives you time to think about your response it projects an image of intelligence. If you are in a hurry to get out of a conversation, chances are your response is formulating in your mind while the speaker is talking. This results in interference in your brain. This “noise” often prevents us from doing a good active listening job which leads to our response not being perfectly appropriate to the situation. In the words of Abraham Lincoln “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and to remove all doubt.”
Dave and Lisa write from Frederick, the home base for their company, Leadership Techniques, LLC. Join Lisa and Dave for their upcoming class, Collaborative Communications Strategies. Their entertaining and engaging presentation style elicits interesting interactive discussion from the attendees so that everyone can learn more effective ways of communicating both in and out of the workplace.
Effective communication is the key to success for today’s Project Manager’s. Come and discuss your challenges and discuss what is working and what is not. How are intra-generational communications fitting in to your environment? What benefits and challenges are brought forth by having baby-boomers working side-by-side with Gen X, Y, and Z? How does dialect fit in? How about flexibility? Today’s work environment is becoming increasingly flexible for individual employees which makes planning meetings very challenging indeed!
Come and help solve your communication challenges. Let’s talk about it!!