Project managers help plan new projects, assign work to project teams, secure project resources, and supervise project completion. These professionals may use a variety of skills for their work, including budget, project, and team management. If you’re interested in building your project management skill set, one useful tool to consider is communication.
In this article, we explain why communication skills are important, list eight communication skills for project managers, and describe how to improve communication skills as a project manager.
Why are communication skills important for project managers?
Communication is an important skill for project managers because it can help them manage their team and projects successfully. Project managers may use communication to express the project goals and expectations to team members clearly. Open communication between team members and a project manager can also facilitate a workplace environment in which team members feel supported and comfortable asking questions. This can lead to more productive and successful projects.
Communication skills can also help project managers express project needs to individuals outside their teams. This might include creating effective written project descriptions for stakeholders, communicating budgetary needs to management, or communicating directly with clients. Upon completing a project, the ability to communicate the project’s strengths, weaknesses, and results can help a project manager earn support from management for future work.
8 Communication skills for project managers
If you’re interested in improving your communication skill set, here are eight communication skills for project managers to consider:
Project managers with strong listening skills give their full focus and attention to a conversation. This involves pausing on other tasks and directing your body and eyes toward the person. You can also practice active listening, which involves thinking about what the person is saying and asking questions to better understand their points. Good listening skills can help project managers understand team members’ questions or concerns quickly. It can also help establish mutual respect between everyone involved in the project.
2. Written communication
Written communication can include emails, memos, reports, discussion board posts, or project plans. Each of these communication methods may benefit from a distinct style of written communication, and each may be most useful in particular situations.
For example, email is a highly versatile communication option. When writing to a coworker, you might include a brief greeting, followed by the vital information you’d like to express. When writing to a shareholder, you might use a more formal greeting and professional language throughout. This style differs greatly from a memo, which can include concise messages that relay information to coworkers.
A project manager familiar with different types of written communication and the most effective style for each might successfully select which form to use and how to craft their message effectively.
3. Verbal communication
Project managers might communicate instructions, updates, or encouragement to their team verbally throughout the project. They might also use verbal communication to present project progress reports or updates to managers or shareholders. Effective verbal communication can include clear speech, a confident tone, and thoughtful language. The pace at which you speak is also important. It can be helpful to speak slowly enough for listeners to understand and quickly enough to maintain energy and listener attention.
4. Nonverbal communication
Individuals can communicate nonverbally through body posture, gestures, and facial expressions. For example, sitting up straight in a chair hands folded on your lap may communicate that you’re listening and ready to engage in a conversation. This might be useful for a project manager when listening to team reports. Nodding your head can indicate agreement and a furrowed brow can communicate confusion. You can also use eye contact and gaze for nonverbal communication. A project manager might use eye contact when presenting to shareholders to communicate confidence in their project.
5. Public speaking
Public speaking skills can help project managers give effective presentations to team members, shareholders, and other industry peers. These skills can also help them lead meetings and facilitate feedback sessions. You may improve your public speaking skills by knowing your audience, organizing your presentation effectively, focusing on your key message, and engaging with your listeners. You can improve your public speaking by practicing in front of friends and colleagues or by participating in a public speaking seminar.
Empathy is the ability to understand another individual’s feelings and points of view. Project managers who practice communication with empathy may improve their ability to understand the challenges that their team members are working to overcome. This can help them facilitate a solution and enable productivity. By communicating with empathy, project managers can also establish an environment of trust and support, which may encourage team members to put more care into their work.
7. Leadership communication
Leadership communication is a communication style that leaders use to inform team members about the goals and values of a particular company or project. This skill can help leaders develop a common understanding of the key mission and culture that informs the project or organization, which may help create a clear set of expectations involving work and attitude for team members. This communication strategy can also help establish a common vision of success that team members can work toward.
Project managers might communicate with a wide variety of people in a day. This makes organization a key communication skill. It can help project managers prioritize which emails to respond to quickly or how best to contact certain individuals. Project managers can also organize the content of presentations, meeting agendas, and written communications to express key points and project details effectively.
How to improve communication skills as a project manager
If you’d like to improve your communication skills as a project manager, here are some steps you can follow:
The first step in improving your communication skills is to reflect on your own goals, experiences, and tools. It might be helpful to use a journal or a conversation with a colleague to think deeply about these ideas. Consider what your communication goals are as a project manager. You might ask yourself who you communicate with well already and with whom you’d like to improve your communication. You can also think about the experiences you’ve had communicating and leading in the past and make a list of skills that were effective in those situations.
Consider adding other tools to your list of communication skills that you’ve observed in other project managers or leaders that you respect. You can then work to incorporate skills from this list into your project management style.
2. Ask for feedback
Another good way to improve your project manager’s communication skills is to ask for feedback from team members. You might send out a feedback survey to team members after a project and include questions about your communication. Consider asking what communication techniques they feel were effective and which they feel might benefit from improvement. You can also ask these questions in group project feedback meetings or one-on-one sessions. Team members may appreciate your efforts to improve your communication and the opportunity to share their experiences.
3. Seek new knowledge
Finally, you can seek new communication tips and advice. Consider asking other project managers or professional mentors what communication tools they use most frequently. If you’ve identified a particular area in which you’d like to improve, you can ask them for specific advice relating to that area.
You can also seek new knowledge through the media. Consider reading a book or subscribing to a podcast on business communication. You can also sign up for a communication course or an educational opportunity that focuses on a subsection of communication like public speaking.