Project Practitioners > Back to The Future: Communication

Back to The Future: Communication

By Chris Cook, PMP

READ TIME: 5 minutes


In the modern workplace, much emphasis is placed on technical skills and knowledge. However, with the onset of advanced technologies, soft skills are becoming more and more critical to maintaining clear communication and positive human interaction on project teams and amongst stakeholders.

Project management is people management, and teamwork and motivation continue to prove vital to project success. While navigating complex projects and team dynamics, today’s project managers are often inundated with emails, texts, and all sorts of notifications, leading to information overload and interruptions.

In the spirit of returning to the fundamentals, this article will present an approach to Communication that project managers can use to be successful in the ever-evolving technological landscape.

Communication is always stressed in management. The word is a buzz word for a solution. A problem would not occur if only there were more communication. The issue would never have happened if more communication was had. The word has become a solution.

Communication is not a solution. Following up a phone call with an email to get approval is a solution that involves communication. Checking in on your team members throughout the day to get status updates is a solution involving communication. Communication in and of itself is not a solution.

Being better at communicating does not always require the latest information or fix. Tone, body language, and messaging all help communicate better.



Project managers deal with a lot of problem and issues. Whenever they reach out to somebody, it is usually a problem, and they need answers. When delivering the bad news, tone can be all of the difference.

Doctors must be aware of their bedside manner. If a family member is digressing, they cannot come into the room full of joy and chipper. There is a mood the doctor must match with the information he or she is delivering.

The same for project managers. You cannot be excited to deliver bad news, but in the delivery, there is a way to deliver it properly. Your tone must match the information. Also, easing into it helps. Going from “Hi” to “the project is dead” probably is not the best transition.

Also, the news is not always bad. When that is the case, bring energy. Use that information to uplift. If a team member comes through in the clutch, recognize the effort. Align your tone and message for maximum effectiveness.


Body Language

Slouching back when someone else is presenting. Arms across your chest during a conversation. Sitting at a table alone for lunch when team members are in the room.

All of these are indicators that you are disinterested and could care less. Make sure your body language is matching your messaging. If you preach team, do not sit alone or work with your office door closed all day. Be the change you want to see. Be the team member you encourage others to be.

Be present. Body language starts to shift when you stay in the moment. Instead of worrying about the vendor who is delayed or the water heater that is leaking, be in the moment with the person you are having a dialogue. Nothing is worse when someone is speaking, and he or she knows the message is not connecting. The receiver’s mind is elsewhere; therefore the message is never received.

It is a complete waste of time for all involved. Take the one to two extra minutes to be present and effectively answer questions. You create buy-in from that team member.



Whenever you are talking with your team, is it always negative? What they could be doing better or how to change their approach? Never complimenting or encouraging breaks a person down. Even though everyone knows it and sees it coming, the compliment sandwich is better than nothing.

The constant negativity leads to more negativity. That downward spiral never ceases. It needs more negativity to maintain its momentum. Try to go a day without saying a negative word about the project, a team member, an owner, and so on. See how your outlook starts to change as your messaging changes.

Being negative is easy. Issues find project managers. Finding that silver lining is difficult. How can the obstacle by the way? Answer that question with every issue that presents itself.



More communication is not always better. It is like saying practice makes perfect. The rewording of perfect practice makes perfect is necessary. People talk all of the time without getting anywhere. Numerous meetings, emails, and phone calls are placed while no progress is made. So much communication yet little results.

Better communication makes for better communication. Saying “Hey everybody! The project is dead, and we are laying people off!” is not appropriate. Being a downer about a successful project because of all the previous failures does not make sense either. Be conscious of tone is messaging.

Silent communication exists. Not words but also actions and stances have an impact on communication. Why do you think bosses make employees come into their office? It is like home-field advantage for the boss and takes the employee out of their comfort zone to send a message.

Streamline your communication to match your messaging. If you promote treating each other with respect yet always talk down, your message is to talk down even though your communication is to give respect. Communication and messaging should overlap and be repeatable.

Technology makes it easier never to see or know the person you are dealing with. Meeting face-to-face seems unnatural nowadays. Yet, that meeting can be so important to the future of that relationship. Communication is not everything, it is the only thing.

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