Good communication skills are a prerequisite for any project manager and thus are critical to the success of any communication process. Organisations can only achieve their goals and objectives by the coordinated efforts of their members and it is the task of the management to get work done through other people. Information systems such as meeting structures, communication systems such as Sharepoint and other methods are one way but this is strengthened with effective and strong management or communication principles.
This should be anything new to project management professionals but the question is how well do we do it? Some of the peculiarities that affect project managers when it comes to team communication are as follows:
- Imprecise Words: – Often the experiences we want to express do not fit into words and are not easily communicated. We are not able to say precisely what we mean. Continual listening and feedback allows enhanced communication as any barriers or misunderstandings to be minimised.
- Guesswork is Involved: – Often times, communication is done with ‘codes’ and we are very ambivalent about the desire to express ourselves accurately. Indirect communication can become a stable diet for projects. With this type of communication comes a phase of message decoding that leads to information guesswork and interpretation. As with thoughts, the only clue to an individual’s true intent is the behaviour. Direct communication is a prerequisite in understanding the emotions and thoughts of any individual. This has the added benefits that it minimises misunderstanding from the receiver’s side.
- Presentation of the Problem: – Project managers rarely begin a conversation by communicating the things that are of major importance. Hence, minor problems may be addressed and the real problem or information be concealed. Coming up with good solutions to the minor problems is one of the biggest sources of inefficiency in industry.
- Emotion-Driven Communication: – Often times when we communicate, we are unaware of the emotions that are tied to what is said. On the other hand, emotion fuels the communication that may lead to misdirection with information. Emotions are a fundamental part of our composition, as they drive, motivate and shape our values. However when in the mode of communication, emotions need to be balanced to ensure that the information is unbiased and reflective.
- Filters Distort what is been Communicated: – There are two types of filters that may be present in conversation, firstly attention filters are when there is a programming by years of experience and conditioning to handle the principle impressions which the brain is fed. Secondly there are emotional filters that block and distort understanding. This is less systematic and may be associated with insecurities about the discussion topic, personal prejudices, or simply the communication environment or system.
- Listeners are easily Distracted: – While speaking with intent and real meaning is not easy, at the other end of the conversation or communication, the receiver is best by the problem of distraction. While emotional filters may be present that may distort meaning, the receiver is often processing thoughts before they are heard and thus can be distracted easily. This leads to the receivers mind growing bored with what is been said and the slow pace of communication. There are many times where the receiver will go off on mental tangents which still concentrating on the conversation.
Communication skills can be thought of the mechanics of communicating or the methods that individuals adopt. Irrespective, we (as project managers) are challenged with the balance of information available and getting the communication right. Very often we can over-compensate on the data without evaluating what communication is really about. The question / challenge I put to you … think of your audience rather than thinking of yourself.