How to Derail a Project From A Manager’s Perspective Part 1: Failures of Communication

Over the next few months we will be releasing a six part mini-series on how to derail a project, looking at every part of the project development process, starting with communication and ending with responsibility. Exciting, right?!? If you’re thinking “YES!” then you have experienced the ups and downs, back and forth, and roundabouts of working on (and potentially leading) a project.

Regardless of the industry you are in, when your success depends on other people’s approval or support, there are certain moves that can quickly derail you and lead to your inevitable doom.

Part 1: Failures of Communication

Communication is difficult. Whether you are the person delivering the message or the receiver, according to psychologist Friedemann Schulz von Thun, there are 4 sides to every message. With intricacies of communication often overlooked even in everyday face-to-face interactions, it should be no surprise that the inherent nature of communicating about a project via multiple channels poses challenges that need to be addressed.

But don’t fret. Good communication is possible! In addition to setting up the correct channels, working with people you trust, and encouraging open conversation, here are a few ways to improve your communication for a successful project.

3 Ways to Improve Communication

1. Actively listen and ask questions: To uncover new or missing pieces of information, ask open-ended questions. Then listen. To regain control of a conversation or move the conversation through the agenda, try asking closed-ended questions (yes or no questions).

2. Say what is on your mind: This is particularly important with bad news and concerns. Deliver your message quickly and clearly. Don’t dance around the point you want to communicate, no matter how uncomfortable the situation may be.

In most situations, even if the reaction you receive is unpleasant, getting to your point is better than waiting until later or not addressing it at all. The sooner the issue is addressed, the sooner you can talk about actionable next steps to get back to the actual goal.

3. Think first, then email: First, decide if email is the best medium to deliver your message. Typically email is great for a quick answer, a brief update, or information for record keeping. However, if you need to give feedback or deliver important project information, a phone call or in-person meeting may be better.

For example, reviewing a visual design is (99.9% of the time) better to do while talking with someone via video, phone, or in person . If you find yourself in the situation where you need to communicate via email for something that is important, be sure you craft a clear and concise message and use action words like “Urgent” or “Review” to help the recipient prioritize their messages.

Was there a time when communication either saved a project for you or turned it into a nightmare? We want to hear about your experience! Send us an email, or get in touch with us on Facebook or Twitter!

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