I’ve long talked about the need for the project manager to be an effective communicator.  I’ve professed that I believe it is the single most important characteristic of the project manager – their #1 skill.  If a person is not an effective communicator, I simply don’t see how they could possibly hope to make it as a project manager.

As I read further in Mr. Heerkens’ book “Project Management,” I came across his list of the communication skills of the project manager.  It’s an all-encompassing list.  It’s his list for of the abilities – in terms of communication – that all of the successful project managers have possessed that he’s come across in his career.

As Mr. Heerkens states, developing the skills needed to effectively communicate takes time, practice, and feedback.  Here is his list for those abilities he’s witnessed in successful project managers:

- Ability to express themselves effectively in conversations with organizational management

- Ability to express themselves effectively in conversations with peers and team members

- Ability to express themselves effectively in conversations with subordinates and support personnel

- Ability to speak naturally in front of a large group

- Ability to prepare and deliver formal presentations

- Ability to speak “off the cuff” effectively

- Ability to negotiate

- Ability to write clear and concise notes and memos

- Ability to write technical reports and other technical material

- Ability to listen effectively

- Ability to know when to talk and when to be quiet

- Ability to provide constructive feedback

- Ability to foster open communication

- Ability to correct others tactfully

- Ability to gauge whether a receiver understands a message or not

- Ability to use vocabulary appropriate to the audience

- Ability to interpret nonverbal communication

- Ability to project poise and self-confidence

One of the most important ways to improve your skills is to get into the habit of monitoring and critiquing your communication style continuously, asking yourself key questions, such as the following:

In interactive conversations:

- Do I speak clearly and at the right speed?

- Do I enunciate?

- Do I project my voice appropriately (not too loud or too soft)?

- Do I offer others a sufficient opportunity to respond?

In oral presentations:

- Do I speak with confidence?

- Do I have any distracting mannerisms?

- Do I offer sufficient opportunity for reactions or questions?

- Do I use media appropriately?

In written correspondence:

- Is my choice of words clear and unambiguous?

- Does the message flow in a way that others can easily follow my train of thought?

- Do I avoid the use of slang and colloquialisms?

- Do I use correct grammar?