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Project Communication: Walk the Talk

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The desire to have “Improved communication skills” emerges repeatedly on surveys and research as an ability critical to project success, and yet we all continue to feel challenged by it! Tons of published research and books provide great resource, but often leave us still struggling for how to effectively communicate.

This webinar will consider what gets in the way of effective communication and provide tips and techniques for project communication that works.

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Project Communication: Walk the Talk

  1. 1. 1 Your presenter is: Alison Sigmon, M.Ed., LPC, PMP Walk the Talk on Projects Effective communication that goes the distance http://www.nicabm.com/nicabmblog/building-a-brain-science-community/
  2. 2. What’s on tap for our time together today… 2  Change is all around us revisited  There’s function and then there’s form  Dialogue, active listening, being present, and defining the problem make the functional tools of communication work  Tips for riding the wave of discomfort when communicating  Wrap it up! Agenda The desire to have “Improved communication skills” emerges repeatedly on surveys and research as an ability critical to project success, and yet we all continue to feel challenged by it! Tons of published research and books provide great resource, but often leave us still struggling for how to effectively communicate. This webinar will consider what gets in the way of effective communication and provide tips and techniques for project communication that works.
  3. 3. 3 Project change – Revisited Impact on you and others
  4. 4. 4 From strategy to reports to documentation to relationships, project managers experience a bevy of challenges that require a wide range of skills.  Work through others to get work done  Get results in nearly impossible conditions and situations  Manage without authority  Spend 80 to 90 percent of time communicating  Navigate and leverage politics  Build and support project relationships  Facilitate stakeholder interaction and contributions  Analyze data  Sell ideas and solutions  Manage conflict Juggling never ends
  5. 5. 5 Things can get REALLY complicated! And when you think about the communication needed…
  6. 6. 6 Complication with communicating can be reduced when we consider functional aspects of it… Audience. Subject Matter Expert? Executive? Executives usually want the Cliff Notes. They care about the problem, opportunity, and benefits. SMEs like to go deep on details. Right person, right time. No one wants to waste time so making sure you’re talking to the right person is imperative. Appropriate cadence and content. Too much information and pacing of communication can kill progress. Relationship. What’s your relationship with the stakeholder? History – good or challenged? Best tool for the job. Pick a medium that is suitable for the communication. That’s it???...Um, nope. One side of the coin…
  7. 7. 7 Other side of the coin… Planning, picking tools, selecting the right person are all important to the mechanics of the communication process. What makes it effective is how you manage it. That’s where the magic happens, and it all starts with form – that is, the WAY you do it… http://www.geeky-gadgets.com/stress-ball-dlight-12-02-2010/
  8. 8. 8 If communication was easy, we wouldn’t need all the books, articles, coaching sessions, and webinars like this to do it! So what will help? Good form. That begins with… • Aiming for dialogue • Listening actively • Being present • Seeking to understand Being in the moment…
  9. 9. 9 Center not sides… Aim for dialogue We think much faster than the sender can speak which means we tend to jump ahead. This results in us focusing on how to respond rather than REALLY HEARING what the sender is actually saying. Dialogue is a conversation with a center not sides. So how can we effectively create that?
  10. 10. 10 We have to have a little understanding of ourselves and our buttons. We also have to appreciate others have them too. Feelings impact everyone, and people don’t stop having feelings when they get to work. Our emotional brain responds far faster than our logical self – 100 milliseconds as compared to 3.6 seconds for the rational brain. This is why we can respond to situations seemingly without thinking. While this can be helpful in a crisis situation, the reality is sometimes we’re reacting without enough information, responding to our anxious feeling, etc. Science is showing that 40 to 50 percent of the time we are correct in our assumptions about a situation, but you know what that means… Responding with awareness
  11. 11. 11 Get out of your own way In his book The Magic of Dialogue, Daniel Yankelovich includes a list titled “Potholes of the Mind” to highlight some of the things that can get in the way of effective dialogue. • Holding back – withholding information • Being locked in a box – stuck on a specific idea and can’t move beyond it • Prematurely moving to action – seeking solutions without fully understanding the problem • Listening without hearing – multi-tasking • Starting at different points – polarized thinking on the situation • Showboating – constantly trying to control • Scoring debate points – competitive style • Being contrary – sees only the negatives of a situation • Having a pet preoccupation – fixated on their interested to the exclusion of others
  12. 12. 12 Overcoming obstacles by listening actively Things get in the way. As a project manager your mission is to overcome obstacles by listening with intention. And this means participating. Project Managers spend up to 80 to 90 percent of their time communicating so resisting the lure of multi-tasking isn’t always easy, but it’s one of the most important skills a project manager. This means project managers and stakeholders need to be deliberate and efficient when communicating, and the best way to do that is to practice active listening.
  13. 13. 13 Mirror, mirror… When practicing active listening, the listener demonstrates genuine interest in understanding the sender’s message. • They ask clarifying questions that are objective, reflective, and interpretational in nature • They paraphrase what they’ve heard • They reflect like a mirror to the other person to demonstrate understanding and empathy
  14. 14. 14 Whole person approach… Active listening is a whole person experience • When face-to-face the listener faces the sender, sits up right, and maintains eye contact. • Nodding and using facial expressions when appropriate lets the sender know the listener is present. • When on the phone, the listener focuses on the speaker, responds with verbal acknowledgement as appropriate, and may take notes to create references as the conversation progresses. • Whether face-to-face or on the phone it’s important not to multi- tasking. With the many demands on a project manager’s time, she must be deliberate with putting them aside or risk losing the confidence and trust of the sender. • Give space. Some people assume to be active means one must be talking. While asking questions and seeking understanding is an aspect of active listening, sometimes just being present during pauses and silence is all the support they need.
  15. 15. 15 Be present and accounted for… Through active listening, we broaden our understanding and perspective of a situation. Present listening, on the other hand, takes it a step further by acknowledging the barriers and emotional challenges while looking for the things that can support them in moving beyond it. Assuming a balanced approach to the supports and barriers helps all involved feel less stuck and more empowered to get on with the business of focusing the issue, solving the problem, and negotiating for the project.
  16. 16. 16 Walk a mile in their shoes… Present listening happens when you are truly interested in perspective taking or “getting into the other person’s shoes.” It happens when you convey that you truly want to know what is going on with him or her regarding a particular issue. Present listening can help advance project management activities faster. • Set stakeholder expectations • Create a problem definition • Establish time, cost, and scope priorities • Facilitate team involvement • Problem solving and managing with conflict • Make agreements with virtual team members
  17. 17. 17 Path to solution is a solid definition Before we can solve the problem we need to know what it is. Problem definition requires we distinguish between causes and symptoms and separating fact from opinion. Problems may be internal, technical, managerial, or interpersonal and they may be multi-faceted.
  18. 18. 18 Big problems tend to have smaller problems associated with it. So better to fish them out than risk them growing larger. It’s important to understand: • What the issue is • Why it’s important now • Which aspect needs attention first It’s not uncommon for stakeholders to have different opinions on what is and is not a problem particularly when functional areas have different concerns. What might be a problem for product marketing might not be a problem at all for IT. So good form as noted in the previous slides can help us figure it out with our stakeholders. Bigger they are, harder they fall…
  19. 19. 19 The task is to get alignment on what the problem is relative to the project. To get a clear problem definition, it’s important to do the following: Recognize a problem exists. Always tie it back to the objectives of the project and what must be delivered. Ask objective questions. These are fact- focused questions used create context and build mutual understanding. They are the kind of questions an investigator asks – who, what, when, where, how. Give it a temporary definition. Sometimes problems are so complex and large they are hard to immediately define. Giving it a temporary definition acts as a placeholder further drill down through the information. Synch up
  20. 20. 20 Don’t “boil the ocean” because you can solve everything every time. Picking the right functional tools and practicing good form will go along way to effective communication on projects. There are a few other considerations as you move through the process… The ocean is big and deep
  21. 21. 21 Living in the moment Communication at it’s best is felt by everyone involved. But…it becomes a challenge when everyone is trying to POSSESS and CONTROL it. Remember that it’s not a competition. Everyone loses in a communication fail. Be in the moment by seeking to understand, asking questions, and demonstrating the other has been heard. It might feel like challenging communication moments will never end, but they do and they will. Just keep these tips in mind…
  22. 22. 22 Riding the wave It’s temporary. Every interaction we have with others is temporary. Knowing something will end can help us relax and maybe even find something positive in the shared time. Attitude can do wonders with making that glass seem a bit less empty. Take perspective. See them differently – not as a troublesome stakeholder, but rather as another human being doing the best they can with what they know. So are you. Your advantage is you know better because you’re bothering to participate in this webinar. As renowned poet Maya Angelou once said, “When you know better, you do better.”
  23. 23. 23 Be different. You CAN’T change others but you CAN change yourself and how you interact with others. In relationships where there’s poor or miscommunication there are NO innocent parties. Hello, Stranger. We tend to treat people we DON’T know well better than the people we DO know well. Talk with them as if you’re talking with a stranger waiting in line or at an airport. What you learn may just surprise you. Laugh. Life is short and that moment of challenging communication is a millisecond relative to your entire life. Take a step back and pull the big picture into focus. If you don’t look for the good, how can you find it? Take the long view
  24. 24. 24 Do no harm Take the high road. Don’t let it be personal even if it is. If you find yourself on the receiving end of criticisms and snide remarks about you or someone else, ignore it. We can only grow what we pay attention to. Lend support. If the situation is tough on you, chances are your stakeholder find it equally as hard. Talk to each other about it. Make a game plan. A gesture that tells them they need to step in. When you partner with stakeholders, you avoid creating the drama.
  25. 25. 25 Keep the big picture in mind It might be tempting to just “tell it like it is” when communicating with project stakeholders, but it’s not just about you so think before you leap. Stakeholders will be directly or indirectly affected so before you take that path, step back and consider the consequences. Final note…if the potential for conflict is too high in your communication, then it’s okay to take a break, reach out to a mentor or trusted peer, or recruit an objective third party to facilitate. At the end of the day it’s about acting with the bigger picture in mind relative to the project and the business.
  26. 26. 26 A PM’s work is never done… Project managers wear a lot of hats that require a variety of skills… Analysis Documentation Budgeting Communication Teamwork Intelligence Steadiness Time Management Functional tools and good form go a long way to your success with each of these.
  27. 27. Wrap up… 27 Questions??? What we discussed The desire to have “Improved communication skills” emerges repeatedly on surveys and research as an ability critical to project success, and yet we all continue to feel challenged by it! Tons of published research and books provide great resource, but often leave us still struggling for how to effectively communicate. This webinar will consider what gets in the way of effective communication and provide tips and techniques for project communication that works.  Change is all around us revisited  There’s function and then there’s form  Dialogue, active listening, being present, and defining the problem make the functional tools of communication work  Tips for riding the wave of discomfort when communicating  Wrap it up!
  28. 28. Thank you! www.systemation.com Alison Sigmon, M.Ed, LPC, PMP asigmon@systemation.com Twitter @alisonsigmon www.slideshare.net/ahsigmon www.mindscraping.com 28

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