A Project Manager’s Communication Do’s and Don’ts

To be recognised as an effective project manager, you have to have a highly developed set of communication skills. And I am talking both written and verbal. This doesn’t refer to the formal conversations you have with your family and friends. In my experience, I’ve been working with project managers who know how to handle a formal conversation. However, when it comes to clients and project teams they can’t handle the “pressure” every time. What I’m trying to say is that as a project manager you need to make sure your clients and every team member understand you. By communicating and observing many project managers, I found several do’s and don’ts that will help you with the improvement of your skills. Pay attention to the following.

Listening

This is something today’s project managers rarely do or don’t do at all. The listening skill is equally important as the other and it’s the first rule we are taught in school. Look at it as if you’re being married or in a relationship with your lovely girlfriend/boyfriend or wife/husband. What happens if you are the only one speaking? – Exactly, you won’t hear the other side of the story. Relationships like this end up pretty fast.

Silence

Sometimes being the silent one is gold. There are different forms of silence and you should develop that when you are listening carefully and considering everything you hear. When talking, there is no need to keep talking in order to break the silence. It happens very often, the long pause to be one of the most effective ways of getting a thoughtful response.

Ask

Yes, this is one of the most difficult tasks to do. Ask. I’ve seen project managers listen carefully to everything the new client wants and they just sit there and listen. When it comes to making things happen, they have a huge difficulty because they don’t know how and when to contact the client. Just ask.

  • What would they prefer?
  • Who should be contacted and when?
  • E-mail or phone communication?
  • Long emails or attachments?
  • Face to face meetings or conference call would do the trick?

This list could go on to eternity. There are many questions you can ask.

Formality

Remember this: nothing is going very well until you establish a good working relationship with your client. Start formal and work toward the informal style. Keep it simple and appropriate. I’m talking about both verbal and written type of communication.

Verbal and Nonverbal Key Points

You should be able to read what is your client telling you just by seeing their non-verbal keys. Crossed arms, posture, fidgeting, expression, hand gestures, eye rolls, inappropriate laughs, hair twirling are open paths to what your client is thinking at the moment. By noticing these things, you need to control yours and look for others. You can use these things for better handling the situation when all the circumstances don’t allow you much for open and direct communication. Use them to your advantage!

Uno

Don’t use acronyms. We are not in your industry and sometimes we don’t understand what you’re trying to tell us. How many times you’ve faced with a client who asked you what you mean by this or that? If the client is in your industry, fine… you can do that. I know, you often forget this, but it would be better if you ask your clients for an internal list of acronyms if your client is in an acronym-heavy environment. Don’t hesitate. You can use them just to have better communication.

Bad News/Good News

It’s not important if you have something bad or good to tell your client, do it in person! There isn’t anything in this world that could get him pissed more than finding out bad news from someone else. “I was just about to tell you the news” is too mainstream! Strong and effective project managers don’t hesitate to deliver the bad news. Everything is in how the bad news is communicated. For me, a bad news moment is an additional opportunity for the whole team to partner in finding the proper solution.
Complement this reading with two other communication advice articles that include practical tips for good communication practices within project teams and modern professional communication routines you should start using in your project management. For overall improvement in construction productivity, download the free ebook and find in-depth communication tips.

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