How Many Languages Does a Project Manager Speak?
As a project manager, you need to be an effective communicator. You deal with all different personality types and in order to effectively communicate with all of them, you need to be able to adjust your messaging style, both outbound and inbound. Communicating with a business analyst will likely be a different experience than communicating with a developer which is also different than communicating with an executive-level project sponsor. This post is going to describe some of the ‘languages’ that a good project manager will know fluently.
This is a must for any good project manager. And not so much in being able to say the latest buzz words or fancy terms to razzle and dazzle. Executives usually get to the position they are in because they are smart and do not have a lot of time for extraneous, wordy individuals who dance around the point. Be direct, be assertive and be confident. With problems, present solutions. Remember – these are typically your project sponsors and not a group of problem-solvers – that’s what your team is for. The role of the executive (mainly) on projects is to make decisions. As a project manager it’s your job to arm them with the most concise and accurate information as possible so they can make informed decisions.
As a project manager on IT projects you are bound to have technical resources. For the sake of this post we will refer to them as ‘developers’ (even though they may not be crunching code but setting up and configuring solutions). While it is the job of the business analyst to effectively communicate what the system requirements are and what the system needs to do, it’s imperative that the project manager be able to effectively extract information from the developers in order to help solve issues (non-technical of course), remove roadblocks and report status. In my experience working with developers (and before you second-guess, I was a developer for over 10 years), they tend to over-explain or ‘design’ responses. A lot of times when a project manager is looking for an answer, it’s a yes/no or firm estimate (hours, dates) and as a project manager you need to be able to effectively extract that information from the developer.
This is the most wildcard-ish type ‘language’ that a project manager will have to speak. When working on a project where there is a third-party vendor involved, it adds another dynamic to the entire communication plan. Being able to decipher the vendor documents to correlate to your own project plan can be a challenge in and of itself. Often times you’ll have a counterpart vendor project manager that should help bridge the gap but as the project manager you are accountable for the delivery of what the vendor is on the hook for. You need to understand their contract, their deliverables and hold them accountable when you see fit. Again, being able to understand effectively what is being reported to you is crucial to being able to successfully navigate those waters.
The title of this post is a little tongue-in-cheek but it is intended to get the point across that as a project manager, you’re forced to adjust your communication style in several ways in order to be an effective leader and communicator.