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Ideas, suggestions and general thoughts about project management for development.

Communications Management

Tips to improve your communication skills

If project managers have poor interpersonal communications skills, their productivity will suffer simply because they do not have the tools needed to influence, persuade and negotiate, all necessary for project success. Lines of communications must be open between people who rely on one another to get work done. Project managers must be able to listen attentively if they are to perform to expectations, avoid conflicts and misunderstandings. Here are a few short tips to help enhance the communications skills.

  • Understanding your Communication Style - Good communication skills require a high level of self-awareness. Understanding your personal style of communicating will go a long way toward helping you to create good and lasting impressions on others. By becoming more aware of how others perceive you, you can adapt more readily to their styles of communicating. One way to do this is by making the other person more comfortable with you by selecting and emphasizing certain behaviors that fit within your personality and resonate with another. In doing this, you will prepare yourself to become an active listener.
     
  • Be an Active Listener - People speak at 100 to 175 words per minute, but they can listen intelligently at up to 300 words per minute. Since only a part of our mind is paying attention, it is easy to go into mind drift - thinking about other things while listening to someone. The cure for this is active listening - which involves listening with a purpose. It may be to gain information, obtain directions, understand others, solve problems, share an interest, see how another person feels, show support, etc. If you're finding it particularly difficult to concentrate on what someone is saying, try asking them to explain in more detail what they are saying, this will reinforce their message in your mind and help you control mind drift.
     
  • Use Nonverbal Communication - Nonverbal behaviors help raise the channel of interpersonal communication. Nonverbal communication is facial expressions like smiles, gestures, eye contact, and even posture. This shows the person you are communicating with that you are indeed listening actively and will prompt further communications while keeping costly, time-consuming misunderstandings at a minimum.
     
  • Give Feedback - What someone says and what we hear can be amazingly different! Personal filters, assumptions, judgments, bias, and beliefs can distort what we hear. Repeat back or summarize to ensure that you understand. Restate what you think you heard and ask, "Have I understood you correctly?" If you find having difficulties understanding the message, ask for more information. Feedback is a verbal communications means used to clearly demonstrate you are actively listening and to confirm the communications between you and others.
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How to Develop Effective Communications

b2ap3_thumbnail_effective-communications.pngOne of the biggest factors for low performance of project managers is poor communication skills. Project managers are too often promoted for their technical accomplishments, without any assessment of their communication skills. If the project manager is not a good communicator, then he or she shouldn’t be a project manager. Otherwise, the organization increases the risks to the project and increases the work that senior supervisors need to do in order fill in for this gap.

Essentially, communication means transferring ideas, but communication is more than speaking, the spoken words are only 7% of communication and that body language, facial expressions, tonality, and style constitute the rest of the 93%. To be a good communicator is not difficult, but requires practice and good coaching, here are some basic tips that will help any project manager improve these skills:

1. Listen, listen, and listen. Spend time to learn to listen, hear what your staff and stakeholders are saying before sending any communications, listening will give opportunities for clues about what the intended audience is prepared to hear from the project. Communication is a two-way street, so it is important to listen carefully when the team members, beneficiaries or other key stakeholders are speaking

2. Ask questions and ask for questions –When hearing something that it is not clear, then people should ask about it. It is important that everyone understands exactly the message. Equally important is to let a team member asks questions to clarify a point and it should be answered in a timely manner. The team member may be bringing up a crucial detail that could make or break the project’s plans.

3. Don’t delay key messages. Make the effort to ensure that those who should know about any project changes know about it as soon as possible. Not sending the communication to the right people at the right time may result in work may not get done; or worse, work done in an area that has been cancelled.

4. Be consistent with your key messages. Nothing confuses more than sending inconsistent messages about the project. If one communication tells a message that the project is on track, but another says there are delays, the project manager w
ill be seen as not having a clue on what is going on and that deteriorates the image of the project. Revise the communication for inconsistencies before sending the to their intended audiences

5. Know your audience. It is a great mistake to assume that one message can fit all the project audiences. The project lives in an environment that is made up of people from different backgrounds and levels of understanding about the project. Even cultural differences call for a need to customize the communication. Make an effort to communicate by expressing the message from the point of view of the audience.

6. Make the message simple, concise and to the point. Nothing breaks down communications than sending long and complex messages. Long speeches or long documents filled with information that is not relevant will cause the audience to lose its focus and concentration on the message. Make sure that your message is easy to read, calls for action or informs without using a lot of explanations.

 

7. Pay attention to nonverbal communications. As much as 93 percent of the meaning transmitted between two people in face-to-face communication is nonverbal. Nonverbal communications include gestures, body language, facial expressions and eye contact. Project managers need to take into account their nonverbal cues when communication verbally, ensuring a good posture, good eye contact and the right tone of voice is used that do not contradict the words that are being spoken.

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