The Best Ways to Avoid Communication Risks as a Project Manager

Nov 4, 2019 | Project Management

When it comes to project management, communication is everything. As a project manager, you are expected to demonstrate excellent communication skills, including verbal and non-verbal, to coherently convey your message to your team for the timely completion of the project.

However, if you are not careful, your team members can misread what you are trying to tell them, and end up doing the opposite of what is expected of them. This is why it’s essential for project managers to understand and avoid certain communication risks that can put the project in jeopardy.

The Significance of Communication

Communication serves as the most vital tool that a project manager uses for forging positive working relationships with their team members, thereby ensuring the success of the project.

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Photographer: Austin Distel | Source: Unsplash

As a rule, a project manager must clearly and openly convey information and details to all team members, stakeholders, vendors, and third parties. If they are unable to do so, there is always the risk that the other party will not understand their point-of-view.

In this article, we take a look at how project managers can avoid common communications risks in project management.

Establish Your Communication Vehicle

A communication vehicle is a way you convey information to other people. Oftentimes, the way you deliver a message is as important as the message itself. When you interact with someone face-to-face, your body language and facial expressions can add value to your message or decrease its impact on the listener.

Some project managers are more comfortable communicating with their team via email, whereas others prefer personal interactions. Once you determine the communication vehicle that is most suitable for your message, you can outline it in your communication plan and enforce it.

Understand Your Audience

When you are sharing project information with your team, you must focus on the needs of your audience. What inspires one group of people and may offend another. This is why you should try to meet every team member personally at the project’s inception. If you do this, you can assess the comfort level of every individual against different communication vehicles.

Your team will appreciate the time you are investing in communicating with them. As a result, they will dedicate more time and attention to meeting your expectations. By planning beforehand, you can build rapport with your team and create a path for effective and respectful dialogue to take place. Therefore, you can eliminate risk and guesswork that otherwise exists.

Be Politically Astute

Political astuteness usually refers to the set of skills, knowledge, and judgment you use to evaluate the goals, interests, and values of stakeholders. To be politically astute as a project manager, you must communicate smartly to gain the trust of all the people involved in the project.

You must identify the key stakeholders of a project and know what their goals and motivations are. After that, engage with them and convey your goals for the project, and both of you can work together to achieve your collective goals.

However, you must remember that people respond to and are motivated by positivity.  Therefore, you must ask for their suggestions, insights, and assistance to resolve all the project-related problems. This approach can greatly reduce the risks associated with interpersonal project issues.

Timing and Anticipation

The thing about time is that it’s relative. Therefore, you have to rely on your intuition and understanding of a situation before you determine when to say something.

However, the general rule is to convey information sooner rather than later. Projects often operate at an unrestrained rate; thus, communicating relevant information at the right time is paramount to the success of the project.

On the other hand, anticipating the responses of other people is a skill that people acquire over time. When you communicate with your team, you should observe their reaction and notice how they respond to you. Anticipating the ‘next move’ of your team members or stakeholders is not only prudent but an excellent technique for avoiding communication risks.

Prepare an Agenda

For every meeting, you must prepare a specific agenda outlining what the team needs to accomplish in the meeting. Project managers should communicate the topics and the overall goal of the meeting to their team beforehand. This helps save time, gives a purpose and direction to the meeting, and allows your team members to share their insights with everyone else.

Work day
Photographer: Adolfo Félix | Source: Unsplash

As the meeting starts, you need to cover each point and document all the feedback you receive. By doing this, you will have a summarized list of points at the conclusion of the meeting, which will help you to reiterate the key points of the agenda.

During the meeting, observe where each of your team members stands. You should ask them to provide their feedback, complaints, and inquire about things they don’t understand. This will allow your whole team to be a part of the conversation and provide their thoughts on important issues.

Lastly, you must post an immediate communication summary of every point discussed during the meeting. Furthermore, you need to highlight key decisions reached, due dates, and what the entire project team should work on next.

The most important part of this exercise is to demonstrate the key decisions made during the meeting. You can use these decisions to justify a particular course of action later. As a result, you will be able to develop a timeline retrospective while mitigating communication risks.

End Positively

A project manager needs to be skilled in spinning a negative message into something that’s powerful and inspirational.

Consider highlighting individual and team accomplishments while also recognizing resource contributions. This can give your team a sustained sense of accomplishment and inspire hope.

As a project manager, your goal should be to maintain a positive momentum while reinforcing the challenges that need to be overcome. Be sure to end all meetings enthusiastically on a positive note. You shouldn’t forget that the team feeds off a project manager’s energy and drive.

Utilizing all these ingredients will greatly reduce communication risks and allow your team to benefit from well-directed and fine-tuned communication practices.

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