It takes a high level of professionalism and expertise to successfully manage team communication while working on a project. Especially when dealing with a large team and many stakeholders, the process can get very complicated. Applying project management is a way to make sure things continue to run smoothly, and communication is a very crucial part of project management. In this article, we will go over some of the best practices that cover the communication aspects of project management.
Table of Contents:
1. Project manager communication skills
2. Stick to one communication medium
3. Create a project communication plan
4. Manage project communication
5. Monitor project communication
6. Use Rodeo for project communication management
As a project manager, you must have excellent communication skills. Throughout your career, experiences will help you continuously grow and improve your project management skills, which include communication skills. It goes without saying that you have to be clear, concise, and confident when it comes to verbal communication. Besides this, there are quite a lot of other ‘talents’ you will need to develop.
The project manager is not only responsible for providing team members with the necessary information, they are also the sounding board for their team members. They need to be very good listeners to understand the roadblocks and obstacles the team is facing.
The practice of active listening, means you purposefully focus on the speaker to fully understand their message. This is the opposite of passive listening, which means you hear the speaker but are not focusing on their message. You are merely waiting until they finish so you can reply.
To purposefully focus on the speaker and their message, make eye contact while they speak. Really take in what they are saying without interrupting or already thinking about your reply. After they finish, still take some time before you come with your reply. First show empathy by reassuring them that you understand their situation and that you are there to help them.
Mastering the art of active listening has a lot of benefits:
Build trustworthy relationships with team members
Understand problems individual team members face
Understand obstacles the team faces together by piecing individual recollections together
Develop your knowledge of various team members’ expertise
Recap and summarize
An effective way to ensure the messages you communicate or receive are clear is to recap and summarize the most important information.
Whether it’s a team member who has just relayed their struggles to you or a project task you have just explained, take the time to offer a short summarization afterward to confirm what has been said.
This is essential in reaffirming that both parties have understood the message the same way. Sometimes when you summarize information that a team member has given you, having it repeated to them will make them think twice about it. It also gives them the chance to correct any details that you might have missed or misunderstood.
Criticism and feedback
Being able to receive constructive criticism has always been a hot topic. Most people will agree it’s tough to take in negative feedback. This is exactly the reason why it also takes a lot of courage—and skill—to be able to give constructive feedback.
This doesn’t only go for the feedback given by project managers to team members, but also team members offering feedback to each other, which plays a huge role in improving accountability in a team.
When giving constructive feedback, it’s important to always:
Mention the positive things too, highlighting what has gone well before mentioning which aspects need improvement
Offer some good suggestions or possible solutions instead of letting the person figure out themself how to improve things
Your written communication skills are just as important as your verbal communication skills. There is a lot of administration involved with project management, in the form of meeting notes, task schedules, memos, reports, and more.
Therefore, make sure anything written is also as clear and concise as possible.
Here are some pointers that will help you achieve this:
Use terminology that is agreed upon within the team (every company utilizes different lingo e.g. referring to a morning meeting as a “stand-up”, “touch-base”, or “kick-off”)
Stick to an agreed-upon format for meeting notes and memos
Use a visual representation for the task schedule instead of simply writing them down in a list
Keep the number of team emails to a minimum
For more tips on how to write effective project management emails, read this article.
With roadblocks along the way and a lot of pressure on the team, it’s only natural for conflicts to arise from time to time. Team members will not always agree on what the best way is to solve problems or get the job done, and this process might need to be guided sometimes. Conflict resolution skills are a must-have competence for managers.
Here are some steps to follow when managing a conflict between team members:
Acknowledge: Sometimes a conflict arises purely because somebody feels like their perspective is not being acknowledged. So, take the time to acknowledge a team members’ issue and completely hear them out. Refer back to active listening!
Plan a meeting: Call an official meeting with the team members who are in conflict, giving them enough time to prepare. Ask them to put into writing what their concerns are exactly. Maybe they could even prepare a small presentation. This will really help them structure their perspectives and gives you the chance to get to the bottom of what’s really going on.
Find the underlying problem: During the meeting, carefully listen to both sides of the conflict. Sometimes people will say it’s a certain thing that’s bothering them, while not realizing it’s really something else. Try to look for the underlying problem that needs to be solved.
Decide the method of resolution: Once you understand the underlying problem, it really depends per situation how it is best solved. What resolution would support the project in the best way? Also, keep your strategic business goals in mind. Maybe it would be best to facilitate a way for both parties to avoid each other for the remainder of the project if the deadline is tight. Maybe you should motivate one party to appease the other, or decide that they must both compromise.
Communication can never be crystal clear when it’s scattered all around the place. Make sure there is one central point for everybody to turn to for all the information they need. All-in-one project management software would be a great solution for this.
Decide on one medium for all other communications you put out. These could be regular memos, email updates, or a chat tool.
Stick to just one, so people don’t need to dig through multiple systems to retrieve messages. Remember to encourage your team to stick to only one medium for communication amongst each other too.
Once you have decided which medium will be used, make this official by including this in your project communication plan.
A project communication plan is a detailed guide that defines who is involved in a project and how and when information should be delivered. Projects don’t start moving until there is a clear project plan, but the necessity of having a communication plan in place is often overlooked.
It shouldn’t be, as it offers a lot of benefits:
It helps manage expectations
It supports stakeholder and client management
It stimulates consistent communication among team members
What should be included in the communication plan
There are a few components that are always included in a typical communication plan, although this varies depending on the project scope.
Team members: Provide an overview of all project team members, their roles, and contact information. This ensures that everybody is able to find the right person to contact.
Stakeholders: Provide an overview of all the key stakeholders along with their contact information. Again, to make sure everybody can find who to contact when necessary.
Communication mediums: Define which methods of communication must be used for stakeholders and team members. Some stakeholders might individually prefer different mediums, this should be distinguished. Mediums can include phone calls, emails, face-to-face meetings, chat tools, and many others.
Types of communication: In which form will information be shared? This part defines the type of communication that will be used, such as weekly status emails for example. Also outline who these emails are for, and which exact information must be shared through them.
Style of communication: If a separate style is preferred for communication with stakeholders, for example, this must be defined. Clearly state that a formal communication style must be used for stakeholders, while a casual communication style can be maintained among team members.
Communication schedule: Outline how often communication will be needed. This includes a schedule of when team meetings and stakeholder meetings will be held, or how often emails will be sent for example.
The goal of communications: Determine beforehand what the goal of each communication type is. Which information must be communicated in the weekly emails? Which information must be discussed in the team meetings or stakeholder meetings? This must be clear from the start.
Who is responsible for creating the project communication plan and making sure it’s followed at all times? You probably guessed correctly; the project manager!
They are responsible for managing all project communication, which involves these tasks:
Creating all communication messages
Making sure communication messages are received by the correct recipients
Collecting and analyzing data related to the project
Storing reports and other communication documents
Keeping stored documents up-to-date, deleting unnecessary documents
The responsibilities of the project manager don’t end here. They must also monitor and evaluate the complete process, to confirm its effectiveness.
This includes making sure that:
Check if communications were sent when planned
Check if they reached the correct recipients
Check whether the information was clearly understood by the recipients
With so much on their plate, you might realize by now that the life of a project manager is not easy. They really deserve a tool that can lighten the load, and if many more benefits come along with it, it’s a total win-win!
With an intuitive tool such as Rodeo in place, you will truly have one central system for all project management-related information as discussed in this article.
It also provides a visual representation of projects and their tasks that everybody can refer to. With one point of truth and a schedule that speaks for itself, messages and other communications can be kept to a minimum and all data will be automatically updated.
To find out about all the ways Rodeo can help optimize your workflows, schedule a free demo with one of our experts.