Effective communication skills are essential in a leadership role – in fact, it is an essential skill to master in any field of business. No matter how well you understand your role, no matter how good you are at your job if you cannot communicate effectively then you will run into issues with colleagues and clients. Good communication is fundamental to all areas of your working life.
We talk a lot about good communication in the workplace and especially within project management – that’s because it is not as easy as you might imagine or hope. That’s why projects tend to have a communication plan put in place at the outset – but the communication plan is not the whole story.
Of course, you do need a method to disseminate information and a system through which project team members can talk, discuss ideas and collaborate in other ways, especially if the team is geographically diverse. The method also needs to ensure clients and stakeholders are part of the communication system. However, if the form of communication is not clear then the system will fail. And, most likely, your project will also fail.
For a project to run smoothly the communications themselves need to be crystal clear as it is all too easy for ambiguities to creep in and for assumptions to be made.
Good project management tools with features that, for instance, automatically notify team members, clients and stakeholders when feedback is required or decisions have to be made, or when there has been a status update, can help with the practicalities of effective project communication. They ensure everyone has access to the latest version of documents so prevent issues with different arties reviewing different documentation.
Nevertheless, such tools still rely on people being able to clearly express what is required and what has been done; and on people listening to others and hearing what they say.
So, no mater how sophisticated a PM tool is there is no substitute for meetings and there is no substitute for face-to-face meetings whenever possible.
Meetings are essential for clear communication
Some people love meetings, especially those people who love a platform for their ideas and opinions. Yet others are happier to take a back seat, even when they might have something valuable to contribute. Meetings can be a waste of time if not properly planned and controlled but if meetings are run properly they are the most effective way for everyone to understand whatever it is that needs to be understood.
Seeing colleagues, clients and stakeholders face-to-face avoids any uncertainty about opinions, responsibilities, issues and expectations. Meetings are important but have developed an undeserved reputation for being a waste of time – the problem is not the meeting itself but the way it is run.
As a bare minimum project meetings must:
- Have an agenda (distributed beforehand so that everyone can come prepared)
- Have a chair-person to ensure the meeting stays on topic
- Stop any one person from dominating proceedings
- Limit the meeting to one hour
- Assign responsibilities for any action before the end of the meeting
It is important to eliminate pointless project meetings so in order to focus thoughts some people like to run stand up meetings – it’s amazing how people will keep to the point if they have to stand and are not sitting back in a comfortable chair with coffee and biscuits!