Three Steps to Become a Better Communicator
There are no ifs or ands. Communication is the heart of project management. Simply go through your day and find a task that doesn’t involve communicating with another person.
Here are some examples of the tasks that I do during a typical workday.
Log in to access the internal instant messaging client
Check my e mail; reply immediately, and file away any others for later
Log in to TeamGantt to respond to any comments I have
Quick phone calls to my managers if you need status updates
Give feedback to your team members and review deliverables
Scrum meetings can be held in person or via video conferencing.
Answer the emails I flagged earlier
Continue to repeat steps 1-7 until the end
This may sound familiar to you. It’s no surprise that communication is so important in project success. We spend so much time communicating with our team. We are constantly looking for new and better ways to communicate our opinions, preferences, and recommendations to clients, colleagues, and bosses. These are the three things I have been working on to improve my communication skills.
It is easy to assume that your audience understands industry jargon. This is one of the most common communication errors we make. When someone asks me what I do, I always answer that I translate between my team, my managers and my clients. I can speak both industry jargon as well as understand business goals. Although I say that this is what my job is, I don’t always live up to my own expectations.
My team and I just released a new version of a website project. During the design process, and again during testing, we received comments stating that the website’s copy did not match the designs. This frustrates both the development and design teams. I tried to explain the concept of “for placing only” but the same comments came through this month from the same client.
My reaction was not admirable. I became frustrated and gave up on the client. I blamed others for not getting it. I should have tried harder for a way to explain placeholder texts. Perhaps my initial explanation wasn’t clear enough or contained too much industry jargon.
Even if you have explained a concept 50 times before, it is possible to need to remind people to refresh their memories. You will always run into someone who hasn’t heard of “for placing only” and you won’t either. This is part of your job. It’s one of the most important roles that you can play.
Be aware of your emotions
Communication is necessary for human society to communicate needs. The basic needs of the body are obvious. “I am hungry” and “I’m cold.”
Emotional needs can be complicated. We communicate emotions to other social beings in order to get their attention. We are constantly looking for approval from others. Sometimes, we seek out emotional responses from people who are not rational. This irrationality can have a significant impact on our work behavior.
Be more aware of the emotional needs of others in the workplace. If you have to make a contrary statement, do so in a way that doesn’t make other people feel guilty. If you need to point out a mistake made by a member of your team, do it privately. Encourage someone who is having trouble with their work and offer encouragement.
I am always striving to improve my ability to be proactive in meeting the emotional needs of my colleagues. I always include a personal note when I give feedback or accept a deliverable.