Project Manager Communication Skills

Effective Project Manager Communication Skills

Have you ever read a work-related book that you just loved? Not often – right? Well I just finished rereading Fierce Conversations by Susan Scott. It is mind breaker; both tough and emotionally impacting. Just what is needed for Project Management Professionals. The  forward of the book says “The notion that  our lives succeed or fail one conversation at a times at once commonsensical and revolutionary.”

Why is this book needed? I am interested in Organizational Project Management; aligning project work with the results that organizations need. So it would seem that some tough conversations are needed. Let me do a book review, of sorts, to see how this book relates to Project Management.  I’ll review some other communication books this week also.

The Preface immediately captures a critical competency needed in Organizational Project Management; leadership. It states “When you think of a fierce conversation, think passion, integrity, authenticity, collaboration. Think Cultural transformation. Think of Leadership.”  If we think of project management as an extended conversation about linking project results  with organizational needs, investment in communication skills is very important to building our leadership brand. So what does this book have to say about how to improve our communication and leadership skills?

Look at this list – what is the first thing that comes to mind?

  • Focus on results
  • Initiatives executive
  • Impetus for change
  • High-level of alignment
  • Clear Priorities
  • Timely resolution of leadership challenges
  • Shared enthusiasm  for (organizational) agility and shared standards of performance

You think that this is a list straight from business value benefits in the PMBOK Guide. No, it is from the list of results from reading this book. So how does this book get there? By having Fierce Conversations which is defined as “one in which we come out from behind ourselves into the conversation and make it real.” So it’s time to put down the PMO report, project schedule buzz words, always trying to show the dashboard as green and have some potentially risky discussion with executives, and project stakeholders.

Here are some key principle’s  from the book that are modified for  Senior Project Management professionals.

1) Master the courage to interrogate reality. No plan survives its collision with reality. Projects and environments have a habit of shifting. The observation is that we not only neglect share this change with others, especially executive leadership, we are skilled at masking it even to ourselves.

2) Come out from behind yourself into the conversation and make it real. Fear is real but unreal conversations about project health should scare us to death. Unreal conversations are expensive for the organization.

3) Be here, prepared to be nowhere else. Our work, our relationships, and our lives succeed or fail one conversation at a time. Listen carefully, even if they can’t see you on the other end of that core team project call. Do so intently as if it matters. It does.

4) Tackle your toughest challenge today. The book states that burnout doesn’t occur because we’re solving problems; it occurs because we’ve been trying to solve the same problem over and over.

5) Obey your instincts. Your body is an intelligence agent sending you messages all the time. Pay attention. What risks are brewing. How are we not providing honest information or being provided honest info?

6) Take responsibility for your emotion wake.  Learn to deliver project messages without a load that has a devastating impact. This allows you to speak with clarity, conviction and compassion.

7) Let silence to the heavy lifting. And the rest of the world is hoping that the US based project professional harkens to this one. Slow down the conversation to gain insight into what the organization really needs and that the executive conversation needs to be about.

This book has great examples, a great self assessment that even I who hate filling in the blanks in the back of a chapter liked. And more importantly, it will help give us insight on how to talk about real challenges in our project environments.

Here’s to your project success!


1 thought on “Project Manager Communication Skills”

  1. Project manager communication skills are only ever more important in today’s work world. I say this because of the recent surge in “cloud” technologies, particularly those work management platforms where all the work within a company is managed online. I think these are great tools for PM, and in fact I use them daily, yet I tend to agree with the statement that “everything that has a use has an abuse” (Zygmunt Bauman). The abuse in the case of work management software is when proper communication is taken for granted – where face to face conversations can be avoided for example. When it seems that most of the problems in project management are due to bad communication, these management technologies must be used all the more carefully.

    Great article. I’m definitely picking up Susan Scott’s book.

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