by Dave Wakeman
Project managers, first and foremast, are often considered as communicators. Early on, when I first received my Project Management Professional (PMP®) certification, I remember someone telling me that 90 percent of a project manager’s job was communicating.
The thing about communicating is that in too many instances we consider it to be about talking at or to people. But how much time do we really spend listening—far and away the most important part.
Listening should be one of your strongest strategic allies. It enables you to get on-the-ground information, allows you to tap into experts, and helps you to see the real role and value that the project can play in your organization.
Here are a few ideas on how to make listening a bigger part of your communication strategy.
1. Be open and engaged to the feedback of your stakeholders. It’s easy to say that you are open to conversations and that feedback is something you want, but are you actually following through in a meaningful way with your stakeholders?
If we aren’t careful, it’s entirely possible that we say we want to hear from people. But in practice, we rush them, dismiss their concerns and quickly shuffle them off to something else.
You need to be present and open to conversations from your stakeholders and not attempt to end the conversations as quickly as possible. Your colleagues and stakeholders may not be able or willing to get to the point right away due to nerves, the need to come up with a new idea through conversation or some other underlying factor.
2. Ask questions. This goes along with being open and engaged. One of the key skills I have developed over the years as a consultant is the ability to use questions to uncover the real challenges at the heart of a situation.
As a project manager, people will come to you with a conversation that is often built around pain.
“Our project is delayed.”
“Our teams aren’t working well together.”
“We don’t have the budget to complete this task.”
The real issue lies with one question: “Why?”
You must ask the questions that uncover the root causes of the pain that aren’t being spelled out in the conversation.
3. Keep an open mind. As a modern day project manager, you aren’t going to have all the answers. The beauty of the modern project is that everyone has a specialty that they are handling. They have unique experiences that they bring to the project and their point of view is going to be different than anyone else’s.
Your job as a project manager is to harness that expertise and direct it in a manner that enables you and your project to receive the best possible benefit from all these experiences, experts and ideas.
To do that, you need to be open-minded, which means that you have to be careful not to allow your preconceptions overwhelm the information being presented in the conversation. You have to be open to the idea that new information will change the information you already have and the ideas that you have already formed.
If you keep these ideas in mind, you will be a better listener. If you are better at listening, you will likely be a better communicator—and this will make you a better project manager.
How have you developed your listening skills?
BTW, if you like this stuff and the stuff I usually post, I do a Sunday email that talks all about value, connection, and humans. You can get that for free by sending me an email at dave @ davewakeman.com