UCSC Extension Project Leadership and Communication Student
In Project Management, as in any management role, strong leadership and effective communication are key requirements for success. This applies to all types of organizations, from small, non-profit volunteer efforts to large and influential corporations. In fact, with the right leadership, a handful of people can bring about change and with the wrong leadership, even the biggest of companies can fail. The best practices for leadership and communication include: vision, teamwork, inclusiveness, listening and open communication.
What are some key observations about project work to improve your project leadership?
Vision: In some circumstances, you and your team will have a compelling vision or passion that you are working toward. This may exist in volunteer organizations, humanitarian ventures, or in an innovative startup.
However, if the shared vision is not apparent, the project manager has to articulate it. One method of creating a shared vision is to call the team members together and ask them to envision how they would like to be viewed by their clients or customers or what they would do to create an ideal working environment. Allow the team members to interact and respond to each other’s “dreams” and capture the ideas from the session. Enable the team to create a vision that it is theirs as well as yours. No one likes to feel that they are doing “busywork”, so use the shared vision to keep everyone aligned with the goals of the organization and ensure that all work being done is in support of the vision.
Teamwork: Although some people prefer to work in isolation, most tasks are defined as projects and require that staff members work as a team. Whenever teamwork is involved, inclusiveness, listening and open communication are mandatory. What are some ways to improve it?
- When speaking or writing, use “we” instead of “I” and, when appropriate, include everyone in meeting discussions and in decision-making processes.
- Instead of being the primary speaker in meetings, practice active listening and be sure you spend more time hearing what others are saying than in addressing the team.
- Be conscious of subtle forms of communication such as eye and head movements, body language and unexplained silences. These can signal lack of agreement with the direction of the meeting but an unwillingness to engage in conflict. Some body language can also show evidence of boredom, tiredness or lack of interest.
- Take cultural differences into account when interpreting body language since there are variations in how people express themselves.
- Follow up on unspoken communication to be sure that all of the team members are participating in the process.
- Accept and promote conflict as it can ultimately bring the team together, as long as the disagreement is constructive, polite and not personal.
- Most importantly, develop a spirit of openness and trust with the members of your team. Within an environment of trust, people will be more willing to respond and contribute.
- Support your team with appropriate information, training, encouragement and acknowledgment.
Finally, celebrate success and help your team to enjoy the company of their colleagues and to have fun on the job!