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Mastering Remote Communication Is Critical For Project Managers!

If you're a project manager, the odds are you don't work in the same location as some of your team. In fact, judging from the groups I've worked with lately, you're statistically more likely to see pandas mate than you are to see a whole project team together in one room. (Sorry for that visual). This is why one of the most critical skills a project manager needs has nothing to do with Gantt charts or fluency in Microsoft Project. It's the ageless skill of communication.

It might seem obvious that communication is critical, but especially in the world of big time project management most practitioners got there through technical expertise,rather than for management or leadership skills. It's also ironic that even though most projects are heavily dependent on technology, those tools don't always make crucial communication any easier.

Why is communication so critical?

  • Time wasted on ramp-up is money wasted There is a protocol to starting up a project, and good project managers can create a charter, define KPIs (key performance indicators) and specify milestones. None of that planning matters if people aren't clear on what their role is or, more importantly, don't know the nuts and bolts of how your company works. It's astounding how much time is wasted on just helping people learn the paperwork to get paid or invoice for their time. The better you can communicate using every tool at your disposal the sooner you can get down to the critical work of the project.
  • Clarity means $$$ It's a long-accepted statistic that 1/3 of the work we do every day is rework. Most of that failure is due to bad timing, not understanding the purpose, addressing the wrong audience or just plain not receiving the message clearly. The more clearly you communicate (and that's both speaking AND listening) the greater the chances work will get done right the first time.
  • Isolation can mean disconnection Working remotely, no matter how efficiently, is hard on working relationships. The day to day chatter, smiles and (harmless) gossip people indulge in help forge the trust and loyalty to the team and organization that get us through the frustrating times. If I have no loyalty to my team or my boss, I'm easy pickings for headhunters and the chance at other opportunities. Turnover can make or break a project.
  • Good relationships impact future projects The very nature of project teams is that they come together, work like crazy, and break apart. The disparate pieces then look for more work. A project manager who inspires loyalty can reduce the amount of time wasted and develop shorthand that makes for more efficient and effective teams. It's always easier to work with people you know and trust than to start at zero with the next project.
As project management becomes more critical to companies, building the communication skills that help those teams excel will be as important as the ability to set good milestones. Project managers who neglect those skills in favor of technial expertise will be in for a rude shock.

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photo by flickr user popofatticus CC 2.0