Top five communication skills for project managers

by Jo Ann Sweeney - 07:37 on 22 June 2010

Research among project managers globally identifies top communication skills for leading teams.

Leading people - the experiential side of project management – is as important as task-based skills according to project managers in Europe, the Middle East, India, America and Australasia.
In recent research they said that communication is a critical skill for project success, both for keeping team members up-to-date and for winning the support of key stakeholders.
But which skills make all the difference? Here are the top five respondents say have made all the difference to their careers.

Active Listening

 In first place is our ability to listen to and understand others. Listening to the words and the meaning behind their words, not interrupting or letting our minds wander, asking questions to check understanding, observing non-verbal signals.
According to Indian project manager Nirav Patel CAPM: “The benefits include getting people to open up and due to that lots of misunderstandings and conflicts can be resolved.”

Building Relationships based on Trust and Respect

 Trust and respect are the cornerstones of personal relationships. They are earned not a right and come from experience of our honesty, integrity and expertise.
Among the characteristics people used to determine our credibility are truthfulness, openness, willingness to share ideas and information freely, consistency, reliability, loyalty, capabilities and competence.
“Trust encourages people to propose ideas, suggest ways to enhance work, speak of their concerns and give advice,” says Dubai-based Kareem Shaker PMP.

Setting Clear Priorities

 In third spot is a project manager’s ability to convey the strategy for their team – by setting goals, planning and prioritising. This is the what, who, when, where, why and how of the project. Team members should understand both the big picture and the lower level technical priorities.
 “Essentially this is what a project manager does. If you can’t do it you won’t get everybody working on the same page,” says Australian Paul Ramussen.

Enabling Collaboration

 In a collaborative environment team members support and encourage each other rather than focusing solely on their own tasks and responsibilities. They are willing to cooperate and share information, ideas and assets to help each other. The result can be greater than the sum of its parts.
 “When we collaborate we get the 1x1=3 effect. Things happen that might not have if people had remained focused on their own work,” says American Adam Michaelson PMP.

Conveying the Organisation’s Vision

 Explaining the bigger picture helps team members understand where the project fits within the overall aims of your business unit and organization. Senior executives are focused on the triple bottom line – finances, environment, reputation – this is where they expect your project to make a difference.
American Jhaymee Wilson PMP says: “As project managers if we can’t convey the link between our project and the organization how can we show we are delivering value?”
This article is based on research among project managers from around the world and was originally published as Five Essential Rules for Project Leaders on the PMI Career Central website.
Over the coming weeks I’ll be looking in more detail at all 15 skills, asking how project managers can develop those they need in their roles.

Jo Ann Sweeney is a communications consultant who helps project teams win the support of their sponsors, senior executives and end users.

Comment by Andy Taylor at 19:02 on 02 July 2010.
I agree with the 'trust' conclusion. And the comments of where it comes from are familiar. Also familiar is that pms don't spot another and perhaps most powerful trust builder - courage. The courage to confront the real issue, and say what needs to be said involves risk, and from risk, respect and trust grows.


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