What are the major communication skills a project manager needs to know in order to manage projects successfully?

As we've talked for some time about various communication schemes, ways for improving communications, communication barriers, and personality types, we can summarize the major aspects of what a good project manager has to know in order to be efficient communicating with the team.

First of all, it is important to remember that communication skills are either given at birth or are the result of long, hard work. Probably they are the hardest of all the skills a good project manager has to be able to develop in him- or herself. Don't let yourself be misled by the fact that this part of our book does not include many statistical and other scientific-based tools and techniques. It is rather unfortunate that it does not since it makes the process of learning the needed skills much more difficult. In the area of psychology there are no set rules that work in any given situation, no formulas, and no strict instructions. All of them are dependent on the situation, the type of manager, the people involved with a project team, etc.

The primary skills of a project manager with regard to communications involve:

Talking and presentation skills. Knowing how to get your idea or a task through to a person or group of people in order for the information to be perceived most accurately.

Listening skills. Being able to gain information from a person even if the person does not really want to give you the information or has problems opening up. This skill has another very important aspect: giving your team members a chance to be adequately heard. You increase people's self-esteem and their willingness and ability to involve themselves fully with the project work.

The ability to choose the right communication channel. Since any project has many external and internal stakeholders, all of which need to be able to deliver different types of information in different ways, it is important to realize that you can plan and use various communication channels depending on the situation, the type of information transferred, the type of person receiving information, and the type of feedback you need. It is also good if you are able to use



The more winners work, the more time they have available.

Losers never have time to do something important.

Winners get deeply inside the problem.

Losers try to "work around" the problem but are always running against it.

Winners take responsibilities.

Losers give promises.

Winners know where to fight and where to step back.

Losers step back when they need to fight and fight when it does not make sense.

Winners feel strong enough to be friendly with other people.

Losers rarely feel friendly toward other people. They either feel their weaknesses or behave as small tyrants.

Winners can listen to others.

Losers do not listen, they wait when their turn to talk comes.

Winners respect people who are more able than they are and try to learn from them.

Losers do not recognize that other people can have abilities; losers always look for others' weaknesses.

Winners are convincing and explain.

Losers make excuses.

Winners feel responsibility not only for their part of the work but for the whole task.

Losers say: I am a small person, I do not matter.

Winners set up their own speed of work.

Losers have only two speeds: hysterical and apathetic.

Winners use time in order to improve themselves.

Losers waste time in order to avoid criticism.

Winners are not afraid to make mistakes when trying to reach a result.

Losers refuse to do anything. They are afraid to make mistakes or be criticized by others.

Winners concentrate on opportunities.

Losers concentrate on problems.

Winners look for answers.

Losers look for excuses.

Table 11-1

many of the informal channels existing in the organization in case you need them.

The ability to distinguish among different personality types and address them properly in various situations.

The ability to open up closed personalities and discipline the ones who behave too informally. In other words, you need to be able to manage people's behavior based on the knowledge of their personalities. The ability to manage meetings. As lots of a manager's time is normally spent in meetings and many important project functions are carried out through meetings, it is very important that the project manager can manage meetings professionally and increase their efficiency by being able to set people's attention on the theme to be discussed and get the people who need to be involved to speak out.

In Chapter 6, ''Human Resources Management,'' we discussed the fact that project managers often have to use informal types of power in order to manage people on their project team. This is an important reason for you to always remember that you are being watched by your people day and night, and it is your responsibility that the project team members retain the vision of the overall goals of the project and believe in its successful results even in times of major problems. It is therefore important that you show a special attitude that can distinguish a loser from a winner, as shown in Table 11-1 on the preceding page.

Even if you are NOT a winner, you have to make it look as if you are and lead your team with a certainty that they may lack from time to time.

To summarize, it is not necessary for you to be a good natural-born communicator. In some types of projects, especially internal ones such as organizational change, it is preferable to choose such a person for a project manager, but if you spend time and effort developing such skills in yourself, both using your own experience and insight and looking for it outside by observing other project managers, you can be successful.

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