Communication for project managers-teaching skills

Communication major dimensions scheme

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Part two -Get your point accross

Read Part one

Basic teaching skills

I use the word teaching because there is really no difference between teaching/learning and communication of any other sort.  Your role is to help people understand the concepts you are communicating and to see the world in the same way that you want them to and to learn to see it the way they do in order to improve your ability to communicate with them.

People develop immunity to certain words and phrases and styles of communication.  E.G. ” Closing down sale” is unlikely to conjure up images of a shop about to close and selling premium stock very cheap.  If you are hoping to convince wealthy shoppers to read your message, this is probably not the way to go.
Much like a spammer who avoids certain words that get picked up by spam filters, you need to carefully craft your messages so that they are not rejected instantly as a result of being associated with boring messages that never are interesting or official stuff that nobody ever reads.

Communication styles

 Try to aim your communication style so that it appeals to everyone. Your readers or listeners will use different styles to deal with your messages. Some imagine pictures, other listen to the message and yet others concentrate on the feelings it engenders. You need to try and ensure that it meets the needs of each type of recipient.

Use analogy to simplify complex messages

Finally you must make maximum use of analogy as a way of explaining complexity to a lay audience.
Compare your ideas to parallel ideas that people will already understand. E.G.  “A DNS server is just like a dictionary where you can put in a name and get back the correct number. We do this because remembering the names is easier for people, but the numbers are easier for machines.” An example added to this makes it easy to understand and memorable. The more colourful  the example the more memorable.

Use comparison to establish a position

A position means a way you relate me, or my project  to others. I would like you to see me as the Bentley of Project managers. That way I am assuming that you rate the Bentley very highly as a Moto car and by association you would then rate me very highly.

 By taking some time to understand your audience and to plan your communication style and content, you can achieve a great deal more with your communications and make life easier for yourself on all fronts.

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Negotiation skills for project managers


An absolutely key skill that no project manager can go out without is basic negotiation skills.
From achieving consensus among stakeholders to getting the right procurement contract and managing exceptions, the one thing you absolutely MUST HAVE is the ability to negotiate effectively.

Here’s a few golden rules to help you negotiate more effectively whatever your position may be:

  • 1. Always aim to start and end your negotiation procedure on a high note. Be positive going in and be positive when you walk away from it, whether it is an adjournment for another day or the final handshake time. What I mean by leaving on a high note is that everyone should feel that they have achieved something, even if they worked hard for it and that they could comfortably return to do business with you again.
  • 2. Create a terms of reference at the outset. This will often be a fairly low key statement that frames the negotiations as opposed to a formal written invitation, but one way or another it is important that everyone knows what is at stake and why they are doing it.
  • 3. Decide in advance what your walk away scenario is, and what you want out of it and make sure the negotiating team are all clear on this. Place nobody on the team who might have any reservations about your goals.
  • 4. Research the other side and gather every scrap of useful information that might help you to understand their goals and to predict their walk away positions.
  • 5. Decide your beginning position and bear in mind that this will have a substantial impact on the outcome. E.G. In a sale negotiation it is proven that the higher price at which you begin the higher price you will reach agreement at. It is also useful to recognise that too high a starting point may prevent the negotiations beginning.
  • 6. If possible retain a refer to authority that allows you to take time out before deciding.
  • 7. Drink water twenty minutes before beginning, it is believed to make you concentrate better.
  • 8. Listen attentively to the other side, question every point and every request until it is crystal clear before making any attempt to respond to it.
  • 9. If you reach a situation at any point where you are not able to get agreement, set that point aside to return to later and move on with matters that are easier to agree.
  • a. Return to the set aside points when the negotiations are in a positive mood after a number of easy agreements and a lot of progress has been made, it should be easier then to reach agreement.
  • 10. Aim to reach a final situation where both sides feel that have won. If you can’t do that then keep on negotiating till you reach a position that fits your starting criteria.
  • 11. Be wary of making it personal, stick to your stated goals and avoid being baited, or finding yourself in competition with other individuals, it’s all about reaching an acceptable agreement.


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Persuasion for project managers

Tiger Woods, champion golfer, drives the ball ...

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 This blog is intended to give a simple no nonsense overview of persuasion based on a single universally accepted theory that can be adapted to any set of circumstances, but I have presented it in a way that is focused more closely on the needs of the project manager.

Six laws of persuasion

Cialdini‘s six laws of persuasion goes like this:

Law of Reciprocity

People tend to help those who have helped them or shown willingness to help.  Marketing departments give small unsolicited gifts in the expectation that a sense of duty will result in the recipient reciprocating. It works.

The project manager can use this law by getting to understand the needs of his/her stakeholders and staff and helping them when he gets an opportunity. The result will be reciprocation when in need of help or goodwill.

Law of Commitment and Consistency

People don’t like to be seen to change their stance on things once they have gone public. They believe that it is a sign of weakness. They will often stick to their guns even when it is costing them money or reputation.

Don’t under any circumstance place key people in a position to oppose your goals early on, because you will face an enormous uphill struggle to affect any sort of change.  Create a situation whereby you are in agreement about something and become allies early on, then respect that relationship by providing a robust rationale for everything you ask of them.

Law of Liking

People do business with people they like and the best deal gets refused when the salesman is someone they dislike or mistrust. We tend to like and trust people who are like us and share experiences.

It’s not necessary to become like someone to get on with them, only to find and focus on the areas you genuinely share interests in ,or experiences you have shared. This is easier than it sounds. You may not play golf, if you are a parent, you have something you can share passionately with Tiger Woods.

Law of Scarcity

Nobody is highly motivated to buy something when there’s plenty of it around, but when it’s the only one in the shop, suddenly it takes on a whole new dimension and you can become obsessed with acquiring it. Don’t make your deal, your proposition or even you too unattractive by making it too readily available.
Be approachable, but decisive and in possession of other options when you present an opportunity to someone to come on board with you. It’s down to you to make sure those options exist and that they are real and believable.

Law of Authority

Marketers and sales-people use testimonials to lend authority to their products.  In management you gain authority by supporting highly cherished beliefs and  goals, by working towards important KPIs, by demonstrating the support of your superiors and that of other important stakeholders.

Law of social proof

Social proof is the idea that everyone is on board with this idea and that to reject it would mean being left out.  One on one persuasion sufficient to get attendance a t a group event is often the best starting point, once they are all in the room you have produced the first element of social proof, now you have to maintain their interest.

 A simple process that may help

This is a process I learned in my marketing days and is widely used for things like writing copy or creating presentations.  It’s easy to remember  AIDA  pronounced “ayeeda” and it goes like this:


First get their attention any way you can.


Now maintain their interest enough to keep reading or listening. This usually requires well presented arguments and rationale.


Make them really want to do this, buy this, be part of this.  This is where your colourful pictures, happy sounds and warm fuzzy feelings come in useful. Once they see themselves in that picture, they are yours.


Don;t wate it all, call for action. It could be enquire now, download this paper, sign here, or a simple question like “what’s the next step?”, but you must conclude the conversation.


That’s it.  Watch the adverts this evening and start noticing how they do this,  especially the lenghts they go to to get your attention and to get you seeing the pictures that will convince you.




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