Communication skills are important for everyone, but this is much truer for a project manager. Whether you’re dealing with a team, clients, service providers or sponsors, much of a project manager and his team’s work rely on communication.
Considering this, it’s not only necessary for you as a project manager to have good written and oral communication skills; you must demand the same of your team. Much of the work in project management is about liaising with different parties in order to implement your clients’ projects in time and according to specifications.
Your team will typically be made up of diverse individuals, with different proficiencies, all of which contribute to the success of the project. This diversity may be geographical, professional, organizations, cultural and/or age-related among others. Even at the best of times, communication can be challenging when dealing with such a diverse group.
Project management experts have recommended adopting the 80/20 rule for project success i.e. 20% of your total time should be spent on transaction-based activities required for project control while the remaining 80% should be devoted to transformational-type tasks for effective leadership and project delivery. Written communication is at the top of the latter group.
In project management, the entire success of the project is pegged on the entire team’s ability to communicate with each other to get the job done. Given that written and oral communication is inseparable from your success, it’s important to ensure that anyone who comes into your team can effectively communicate in writing as well as orally.
Your team is a reflection of yourself
The first lesson in leadership is that you are only as good as your team, and that team’s failure is your failure. In a career that is so strongly reliant on trust and credibility, you need to ensure that everything you write, and everything written on your behalf sends the appropriate message about your company.
Written communication is the anchor that holds your project together. Even the things that are said orally will need to be written for posterity. Imagine being a client who’s hiring a project manager for a task in your company and the first letter or email you receive from the project manager’s team is riddled with typos and bad grammar. Wouldn’t you be skeptical about that team’s ability to deliver?
It has been said before that credibility on the Internet heavily relies on good writing skills i.e. proper spellings, correct word usage and good grammar. Whether sending out emails, drawing up memos for intra-team communication or writing to clients, suppliers and external service providers, you words mean everything.
If the person managing your website cannot communicate effectively, prospective clients visiting your site will immediately be put off, which means you actually stand to lose for having a team with poor writing skills.
Every form of communication is important in project management; from reports and presentations to simple emails and text messages. A simple omission or addition can completely alter your message, resulting in misunderstandings.
Project management is client-oriented
Even in professional circles, with teams made up of people with undergraduate as well as graduate degrees we see emails and memos where “your” has been mistaken for “you’re”. And that’s not all; punctuation marks are misused and words are used wrongly, sometimes affecting perception and interpretation of the message.
As a business that heavily relies on goodwill and referrals from past clients for future success, having a team that cannot communicate effectively with your clients not only hurts you in the present, it affects your chances of succeeding in the long run. Even if you invest in PR and marketing, you could be undoing all the good work those teams are doing if your internal and external communication is less than perfect. Your business is only as good as your writing.
Good writing skills mean good oral skills
Regardless of the position you’re looking to fill, the candidate’s cover letters will tell you just as much about the person as their resume. Many recruiters skip the cover letter or just skim through it, spending more time on the resume.
Now, you may give some leeway to those for whom English is a second language. However, many employers will automatically dismiss a person whose writing skills are less than satisfactory.
Seldom will you find a person who writes well but cannot do the same in oral communication. People who have good writing skills will also have great oral communication skills. These are the second most important factors to consider when hiring a member of your team, second only to the level of proficiency for the job.
Some recruiters may overlook writing skills, but this typically happens where the job doesn’t include extensive communication. Imagine what the outcome might be if one of your team members sent a poorly written report to the client. It will make your entire team look sloppy; the client doesn’t care that the report was written by just one person.
Bad writing is a sign of sloppiness or laziness
In today’s world where there is an option for grammar and spell-checking in word processing programs both online and offline, it’s unforgivable to submit text with typos and poor language use.
As you’re hiring, read the candidates’ cover letters carefully; typos indicate that the candidate was in a hurry and couldn’t spare just one minute to run the spell-checker and read through their copy before submitting it to a potential employer – someone they are trying to impress.
Is that someone you want on your team? Will that person take time to read through their reports before submitting them to the client?
A potential employee who takes time to draft a well-written cover letter for a prospective employment position will also pay the same attention when dealing with your clients, and at the end of the day, that is all that matters.
Good written communication is a vital part of every business, but more so in project management. It starts with you setting a good example by having near-perfect written communication skills. Then your team members will find it easy following your cue.
Image: Eduardo Quagliato