The Importance of Communicating

Communicating with Stakeholders, the Client and the Team

Keep your communication simple, free of buzzwords. Say, “yes” when you mean “yes,” say, “no” when you mean “no.” Be honest with people, be real. Don’t wait to give feedback, find the person and talk to them face-toface. Get to know your team, and have them get to know you. 

If you are starting with a new team, it is certainly important to set the rules of how you are going to work and communicate with each other from the very start. Project management in the innovative world comes in all sorts of shapes and sizes, so it’s important to set the way you are going to work and collaborate at the very start.

Stakeholders (the people who have a say and approval in your project) may not always be in one location. You may work with multiple teams, partners and vendors that are scattered across the world.

One way of communicating with all these different groups may or may not work. In some large projects, how you communicate for certain needs can even be a deliverable on its own in the scope-of-work.

How you choose to communicate is also important. You may not always be able to work face-to-face with everyone. As a project manger, you are the information giver and receiver for the team. If you don’t do your best in communicating not only with your team, but with your client, your boss and outside partners your project is going to go down hill fast.

Beyond face-to-face talks, email, and smoke-signals, there are hundreds of different tools that you can use to communicate with your team.

As a project manager you are going to have to give (push) communications and get (pull) communications. Push is what it sounds like, your sending out a message. Pull means that you have to go after it. In this role you are going to do both.

Keep you methods and tools for communicating as simple as you can. Find a tool that your team is going to be okay with using culturally. Set the rules up front for how you are going to use the tool and the expectations the team has around the use of the tool. Try and use tools and reports that can be shared with your internal team as well as outside stakeholders (like clients and vendors).

Communication with the team.

How to seek real communication for team collaboration.

Communication at the team level, is not about having meetings. It’s about having enough respect for each other that we actual engage with each other in meaningful ways.

In the creative world, we talk a lot about how we communicate with our audience. But when it comes to communicating with each other, we can do a lot better. It’s more than just closing the tops of our laptops, or keeping our phones in our pockets during a meeting. It’s more than sending an email or a text dictating next steps. It’s more than status reports, or a list of next steps and tasks.

You want to collaborate and innovate?
Then we have to make something clear.

You are not the sole reason a great team kicks ass.

Team success is more than just one person’s contribution or reasoning.

It takes work, it takes quality communication, people who are engaged when they communicate, and people who share what they learned outside of the team environment, working together to reach a common goal. It’s not about over-sharing either. Quality communication isn’t about quantity. Have you ever been to so many meetings during the day that you never get to actually work during the day? You know what I’m talking about. But you can’t use this type of disfunction as an excuse, it doesn’t give you an out. Real connections, are where you are actually talking to someone, face-to-face, making eye contact and having an equal exchange of ideas.

You want to collaborate and build on each other? Listen to each other — give and take in equal ways. Keep it short and concise. Don’t lie, don’t tell garbage to each other, don’t drain the energy out of someone else, and don’t monopolize the conversation.

Having real conversation is a two-way connection. Talk, listen, absorb, repeat back understanding, building a meeting of minds. Get your idea across, make sure there is understanding and that goes both ways.

Build something out of the conversation — this is what it means to be engaged, this is what is going to move the project forward.

Here’s my gift to you. It’s ok to talk to each other. It’s ok to have one-on-one conversations that don’t involve everyone all the time. It’s ok for you to talk to someone else without all your team mates.

However, with that permission, comes the importance that everyone should be connecting on the team in the same and equal manner. And everyone needs to be contributing in semi-equal ways. That includes seeking out fresh perspectives beyond the team, new learnings or sharing their work or alternate solutions and bringing it back to the team.

Let’s think about this for a second. As innovative firms what do we do as our process? We have discovery, we learn something, we share what we learn, we build on all the new sources of information in order to solve creative projects. This same process happens at the team level. We go back and forth with each other, sharing new information that we discovered, we engaged with each other to integrated multiple points of view into new ideas, and then the pattern repeats till we get something freaking cool.

That’s what great teams do. That’s what you want to work on.

In the movie “Oblivion,” with Tom Cruise, him and his partner are constantly asked by control if they are “still an effective team?”I don’t have to ask you if you are in an effective team, you are well aware of when youare or not.

For example,

Do people cut each other off when they try and contribute?

Are certain team members ignored?

Do people discourage others from seeking help or opinions?

Is the team leader a jackass, doing most of the talking all the time?

If you answered, yes, to any of these questions, then you aren’t an effective team.

Unless you are the team leader, it can be hard to be a part of an unbalanced team where you feel you don’t have control over making the team better. You can have all the energy in the world but we’re human, and a bad team experience can zap the energy right out of you. You can be engaged as a team all you want, but if no one has the energy because they aren’t valued, or they are just not a good team fit, it can be hard on you and everyone else.

Here is something very important to learn. A team leader can be just as bad a fit as a team member and that agency “culture” and proper “team culture” in an agency doesn’t always map out the same. However, culture and fit are indispensable to a team’s success. As a consultant, it is easier, perhaps, for me to see what strategies can be employed to help the team get back on track. But as a team member, you can do some similar things. You can give feedback to your team-mates. You can ask for people to meet face-to-face and connect with them eye-to-eye. You can practice active listening. You can help others practice it too. You can forge new team connections, get people to be comfortable and open the door for them (and you) to contribute (or the chance to contribute) to the team.

Not everyone is an extrovert or needs to be to help adjust things in a team setting. Heck, we want diversity of thought and personality, it’s all these different views that make a team great.

What we can’t do is always rely on the hope that a team leader is going to change or a certain team member that is not pulling their weight is going to be replaced. While that may be what happens in the end, your energy level, your communication ability, engagement and discovery process shouldn’t go down with it.

As a producer your role is not only to communicate information and support collaboration, but do so in ways that it supports the project’s goal. Nothing can kill a project faster then poor communication.

Earlier we talked about how communication is two-way. As a project manager, you have to be a good listener. You also have to actively be engaged with the individual so that you understand what’s not being said. What is the person really trying to tell you? Does the person understand what you are trying to say? And do you get them?

Misunderstandings and conflicts can be avoided by listening to the meanings behind the words, and creating mutual understanding between you and others. It’s about watching body language and observing non-verbal signals and asking the proper follow-up questions.

The Importance of Technical Communications

A major part of every job is an employee’s ability to communicate. As someone that is going to coordinate a wide range of both internal and external individuals, you are going to be called upon to write and speak effectively to others — constantly. You need to not only be able to convey information, but you will need to convey some very abstract ideas and project objectives at times. As a team lead you also need to be a great presenter, negotiator, debater and conflict resolution specialist.

Expectations Rule - Set the Stage Right!

The Team Expects the Project Manager will:

• Assist in the problem-solving process by coming up with ideas.

• Provide proper direction and leadership.

• Provide a relaxed environment.

• Interact informally with team members.

• Stimulate the group process.

• Facilitate adoption of new members.

• Reduce conflicts.

• Defend the team against outside pressure.

• Resist unnecessary changes.

• Act as the group spokesperson.

• Provide representation with higher management.

The Project Manager Expects the Team will:

• Demonstrate membership self-development.

• Demonstrate the potential for innovative and creative behavior.

• Communicate effectively.

• Be committed to the project.

• Demonstrate the capacity for conflict resolution.

• Be results oriented.

• Be change oriented.

• Interface effectively and with high morale.