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How to Talk to Developers: A Project Manager’s Manual

The role of a Project Manager in the software development field varies from one company to another. Depending on the management structure, it may include different duties or responsibilities. In addition, each project and each client is different and the Project Manager must adapt to the environment. However, one thing is sure, as a PM, you will have to rely heavily on your communication skills to be able to plan and coordinate the working process successfully.

What Does Effective Communication Mean?

The primary aim of any type of communication is delivering a message from one party to another. But the simple delivery of a message doesn’t count as effective communication if other criteria aren’t met. For example, was the message clear? Was the message understood? Did it complete its purpose?

Effective communication is an exchange of information where there is mutual understanding and shared interaction. It is more about listening and engagement rather than speaking. It is about the intention and the aims behind the communication.

What Does Effective Communication Mean

Why Productive Communication Is Important for Business Growth

In the business environment, communication primarily aims to convey the company’s values and goals, and organize the work process. In this context, however effective communication contributes on many other levels. It promotes organizational growth, team building, a trusting environment, as well as creativity and innovation. It also boosts morale.

Effective communication is the basis of strong company structure and efficient management. It builds lasting relationships between the employees, ensures better decision making, and ultimately leads to a more productive and inspiring working environment.

The Role of the PM the IT Development World

As the Project Manager of an IT development team, you are the connection between all those involved – the team, the team leader, the senior management, the client, and any third party involved. You need to be flexible and adaptable, and to be able to process a lot of information. You will need to take on different roles and remember that everyone you work with is unique, has a different background, skills and experiences.

While communicating with your team, you should not only aim to organize the work process and reach certain objectives, but also be aware of the team dynamics, motivate, understand, and promote growth. You should aim to become an efficient communicator as much as someone who teaches your team to communicate efficiently as well. Project delivery is a team effort and you should ensure everyone understands this. Effective communication is the tool that helps you make sure that everyone knows their role, takes ownership for their work and assumes responsibility.

The 5 Principles of Effective Communication with Developers

The 5 Principles of Effective Communication with Developers

Everyone has their own way of communicating, but there are some fundamental principles that will help you achieve better results in a working environment:

  1. Keep it simple – As per the famous Einstein quote, “If you can’t explain it to a six year old, you don’t understand it yourself.” Don’t forget that your first aim is to convey a clear message. Leave the corporate language aside and talk simply and to the point. After all, you and your team should be on the same page in order to achieve your goals.
  2. Say what you mean, and mean what you say – This is maybe the most important principle in communicating effectively. Words, no matter how beautiful or inspiring, on their own mean nothing if not backed-up with actions. You should stay true to what you say and serve as an example to your team.
  3. Give advice, but don’t limit – As a PM your role includes guidance and support. You are the focal point of your team and they will often seek advice from you. This is your chance to not only give direction, but promote independent thinking and self-belief. Take the opportunity to discuss the issue, listen to different opinions, give advice, but leave the team to take the initiative.
  4. Don’t let emotions get involved – The IT development work is very dynamic with all of the things happening simultaneously – both success and failures. It is easy to get carried away and let emotions take over. Never allow your emotions to cloud your judgment, and try not to transfer feelings from one situation to another. Don’t rush communication when angry, upset, disappointed, or when you are excited or overjoyed.
  5. Document everything – Very often we assume that the exchange of information means mutual understanding. However, we never know how what we said was received, nor can we be sure that we completely understood the other party. To avoid miscommunication, always document important interactions – share minutes from important meetings, send follow-up emails to confirm key decisions, publish goals, plans and outcomes, and most of all – insist your team to do the same. Promoting visibility creates trust within the team.

3 Communication Mistakes to Avoid

Why Productive Communication Is Important for Business Growth

There are many factors that can affect and hinder the process of communication. Sometimes these could be external factors such as language barriers, lack of common experience, or different perspectives. Other times though it could be things we do unconsciously that undermine our best efforts to communicate effectively.

These are three mistakes to avoid in order to communicate better:

When Everyone Is Responsible, No One Is Responsible

When communicating, make sure everyone in your team understands their role and functions. Many Project Managers are tempted to use plural personal pronouns like “we” and “our” to strengthen the team spirit, but this can be tricky.

Imagine that your team has completed an important task, and you then send them the following message:

“Good job, team. We now have to update the client on the latest development here”,

or

“Good job, team. Let’s update the client on the latest development here.”

In either case, it is not clear who will perform the task. In both verbal and written communication, you should be mindful of the way you express requests.

Not Paying Attention to Non-Verbal Aspects of Communication

While gestures, expressions and body language are important parts of communication, many people make the mistake to ignore or even notice them. When talking face-to-face with your team, you should stay observant of any non-verbal messages that the team may be sending you. Are they distracted or maybe tired, do they agree with what you say? If you work from a distance, you should insist on video chat for important meetings. And, in written communication, the use of punctuation, emojis or certain words and expressions can signal the tone of the message.

Avoiding Difficult Conversations

Not always will the communication with your team flow easily. People sometimes disagree and argue. It’s important to never leave a situation unresolved. Even if the emotions have cooled off and everything seems okay, find the time for a retrospective discussion that is open and honest to make sure everyone feels heard and comfortable.

In Conclusion

Communication is the core of any business process. As a Project Manager, you should always strive to improve your communication skills and lead others to do the same. Investing time and effort in this will pay off with stronger teams, more effective processes and business growth.

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