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Communicating for impact, influence and personal success

Communication forms a vital part of every project and can often make or break its success. We know that setting up and maintaining clear lines of communication is a critical role of a project manager. However, for those in leadership roles additional communication skills take on higher importance; the ability to speak confidently and present in front of large audiences being is also a key aspect. to those in a leadership role. This can often proves a stumbling block towards career progression.

At the joint Swindon branch WiPM event Communicating for impact, influence and personal success, Jean Gamester, of Semaphora Consulting, shared with delegates her own experiences in this area, and how she enhanced and increased her skills in this area through joining speakers club Toastmasters International to become an award-winning public speaker now helping others improve their own communication skills.

This interactive session started by exploring project communications and the challenges faced. Delegates began by considering their current projects and the elements that need the most attention and honest and timely communication came top. This concurs with the opinion piece by Ann Pilkington in issue 254 of Project magazine, which explored the difficulties of project communication. Delegates then discussed three key project relationships: sponsors, those who are impacted by the projects and the project team. As well as looking at the challenges these groups pose to project managers, the opportunities available were also brain-stormed, such as being in a position to motivate the project team to perform to their best and developing user champions to promote the benefits of the project.

The session concluded with tips from Jean about developing our personal communication skills for career development, whether by learning by doing, such as volunteering to speak in non-threatening environments, or learning with others, such as a coach or mentor. Jean also suggested some motivational reading for more details see the event presentation.

Do you have any tips for improving communication, or stories about how you have gained personal success through advancing your own communication style? If so wed love to hear from you.

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  1. Neil Walker
    Neil Walker 25 March 2013, 05:38 PM

    Good blog post Teri.I followed a not-dissimilar path many years ago.Back in the second half of 1980s I was a management trainee for NatWest Bank. Being on fast-track progression through numerous retail banking leadership roles meant that I needed to perfect my communication skills (regularly presenting in front of large (often unreceptive) audiences) especially with the broad range of ages, cultural backgrounds, etc.My mentor (a senior manager with 30+ years business experience) suggested stepping outside of my comfort zone and developing these skills in non-work environments. I opted for two ways, through:1) British Junior Chamber ("BJC") (Junior Chamber International (JCI) these days) a volunteer organisation dedicated to creating positive change in local communities. 2) Banking Information Service ("BiS") (part of the British Bankers Association). An education, information and careers service representing the whole banking industry.Both organisations facilitated the development of individuals communications skills, the BJC had a highly evolved debating network and the BiS required numerous seconded staff to provide public speaking engagements.The BiS sent me on an intensive two week communications skills course. All of the presentations where videod and critiqued by a panel. Graduation required presenting to around 50 peers and guests in an auditorium. Despite the many decades that have passed I still recall the core learnings; 1) Know your audience, 2) Plan, 3) Structure accordingly, 4) Deliver your message, and 5) Monitor feedback to ensure your message is understood (from body language to paper feedback).The BiS experience put me in good stead for my future BiS engagements. Fresh from my course, my first engagement was at a sixth form college in Yorkshire, supposedly an audience of twenty 16 year olds in a lecture room (Id spoken to the school to confirm the logistics, audience, etc). I turned up to discover I was now to present in a tiered auditorium to over one-hundred 16 18 year old delegates. Un-phased (thanks to the rigorous training and extensive preparation) I adapted accordingly and presented for my assigned hour and took forty-five minutes of questions. Though there was an element of the audience that were less than receptive, I dealt with them extraordinarily effectively (according to the schools lecturers who were impressed - probably as I was only a few years older than the audience).Every subsequent speaking engagement for BiS was easy in comparison.What I learnt fits in with Adrians simple approach; WHY, WHO, WHAT, WHEN.....and HOW. And ADAPT accordingly.Neilblog: http://www.ppmpractitioner.com/twitter: @ppmpractitioner

  2. Peter Parkes
    Peter Parkes 20 March 2013, 01:29 PM

    Great advice from the speaker to gain confidence through familiarity and practice, built on by Adrain to apply some structuring tools.  Try using techniques like moving to the second and third position in order to speak in terms of the recipient's map of the world, as it is only then that you can achieve rapport.  Fuller understanding of the recipient also allows you to tailor your message to their language and behaviour patterns so that less of it is filtered out.  (Yes, quite often you might have said it, but it does not mean that you were actually heard).  And of course reflect on how much of communication is non-verbal when you choose your channel.

  3. Patrick Weaver
    Patrick Weaver 15 March 2013, 08:21 AM

    Theres a very helpful book on the challenges of communicating with senior stakeholders published by Gower: http://www.gowerpublishing.com/isbn/9780566092497 Advising Upwards is a nice blend of procedural science and the art of influencing senior managers.

  4. Adrian Pyne
    Adrian Pyne 13 March 2013, 03:49 PM

    Good thoughts Teri.For me the biggest mistake made in this area is unstructured communication.In projects people often start at the delivery end, i.e. lets do so and so. As all politicians....and Twitter users now know, think before you communicate. Think about what you want to achieve through communication, who your audiences are (stakeholders), and what messages you need to get across to each audience to achieve the benefits.The project plan often suggests when you need to communicate, e.g. to support gaining approval. Only then should you think about the best way to communicate, including personal style.Yes it really can be as simple as; WHY, WHO, WHAT, WHEN.....and HOW. And it can be as complicated as it needs to be. so adapt, and adapt and adapt.cheersAdrianChair, ProgMCommittee members, Portfolio Management SIGSenior Consultant, Montydog Consulting