The Practical Project: Effective Communication
Managing projects can be tough, even for a trained Project Manager. Without a process, tools, or training, teams sometimes just “wing it.” But in doing so, individuals and teams to run the risk of failing in the process. Some estimates indicate that 37% of corporate projects ($74M in investment) are at risk of failure at any given time – for early stage companies, the numbers are likely higher.
Entrepreneurs often find themselves in the role of managing projects without much training or experience. But creating a clear plan and managing effectively isn’t rocket science, and with a basic understanding and tools, entrepreneurial teams can get farther, do more.
Our series “The Practical Project” is intended to help you increase a basic understanding of project management and the basic tools you need get your startup from point A to point B. As part of our effort to contribute to the community of entrepreneurs, we’ll cover the basics – no PhD required!
How to Lead Your Team With Effective Communication
When it comes to good communication, it’s rather easy to understand the basics: maintin eye contact, be mindful of your body language, practice good listening skills, etc. But what about communicating with a team? As an entrepreneur, it’s your responsibility to make sure that everyone’s on board and focused, a task that can become even more complicated when you’re working remotely, oftentimes with people whom you’ve just met. Luckily, there’s no need to worry- there are simple things that you can do to manage your project and lead your team, with simple steps towards effective communication.
First, let’s identify exactly what we mean by ‘effective’ communication. There’s a very clear difference between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ communication, and on the subject of your project, bad communication can lead to anything from making people unhappy, to delivering sub-par quality, or even going over budget. If you want to avoid those nuances, be sure to persue communication that is meangingful, and an efficient use of time; communication which is effective, and is mindful of the following:
- Body Language
- Active Listening
Step One: Four Things to Identify Up-Front
It can be difficult to determine what steps to take in order to get started. We’ve listed four below that can have your team communicating better in no time.
- What Kind of People Are on Your Team?
Not everyone shares the same working style. It’s important to talk with your team about what preferences they have and what types of communication are most comfortable for them. Are team members unsure about what works best? Check out the Keirsey Temperament Sorter. You’ll have the insight that you need to understand each member of your team.
- What’s the Point?
Everyone has their own goals when it comes to the work that they’re doing. However, part of the magic of working with a team, is the journey to a shared goal. As a leader, be sure to make it clear to everyone that there is a mission to work towards. In the same spirit, be sure to set some basic ground rules defining the culture of the company.
Forget the employee handbook. In a recent Inc.com article, writer Abram Brown compiled 9 Etiquette Rules That the Boss Shouldn’t Break. It’s important to understand that as a leader, people are going to be looking to you in order determine standards for what’s okay and what’s not.
- Take Inventory, Plan Accordingly.
Think about what you already do to communicate with your team, are these methods providing the results that you hoped for? Make a list of the ways that your team communicates, and begin to think of improvements that are based off of what works.
- Talk ‘With’, Not ‘At’ Your Team.
Effective communication is a two-way street. Collecting feedback and being an active listener are fundamental components that are absolutely necessary for encouraging others to contribute to a conversation. Be open to hearing what others have to say, even if you don’t agree.
Keep in mind that determining all of these factors may take some time, and can change rather drastically according to how your start-up progresses.
Step Two: Determine Your Team’s Communication Profile
In order to implement a strategy for effective communication, be mindful of who is on wither side of each set of dialogue. For example, if a team member is updating a client on the status of their project, he or she would need to use an entirely different method of communication vs. an instance where they would be sending the same message to a fellow co-worker.
Groups to Consider for Your Communication Profile Include the Following:
- Clients/ Customers
- Employees/ Interns/ New Hires
- Vendors (Service Providers, Building Manager, etc.)
Step Three: Select Your Optimal Communication Channels
There are millions of ways to communicate with someone, but not all of them can easily adapt to every situation and deliver the same impact. Your team is unique, so you may be able to use tools that other teams would normally have no need for. Also, with technology developing faster than anyone can keep track of, there are always new ways to work – are they the best for you and your team? Below, we’ve listed 5 of today’s most popular forms of communication, along with their pros and cons.
- Skype (Chat)
Pros: Instant delivery. Receiver can decide when to respond. Can communicate at a distance.
Cons: Informal. Difficult to express emotion. Can be distracting for some.
- Text Message
Pros: Quick. Convenient. Instant
Cons: Very informal. Difficult to ensure that the receiver is aware of the message. Can seem intrusive.
Pros: Relatively quick. Easy to organize and keep track of. Appropriate in most situations.
Cons: Emails can easily get buried among other emails. Some emails could accidentally be flagged as spam. Unsecure.
Pros: Ability to convey emotion through facial expressions, tone, and body language. The quick exchange means that the entire dialogue can happen in less time and more efficiently than with technology.
Cons: Can be uncomfortable for some people in intense situations. It’s a hassle for people who are distant.
- Phone Call
Pros: Professional. Secure. Fast.
Cons: Lack of visual connection makes it difficult to convey emotion. Dependability is an issue with cell phone service.
Over to You
It’s important to remember that good communication can happen naturally, but effective communication takes planning. What are the biggest challenges that you face when communicating with your team? Also, feel free to share any additional communication channels that you share with your team in the comment section below!