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Do you speak leadership?

Guest blogon behalf of thePeople SIG by Sarah Coleman, chair of the Derby Chapterand a director at Business Evolution.

I was recently invited to speak at a conference for business change and transformation. Two main issues in particular kept surfacing: how can project managers engage and maintain the attention of senior leaders in their organisations, and how can they demonstrate the value of project management to organisations that do not have a tradition of using it?

To put this in context, three particular issues typically facing businesses at this time are:

a)We have spent the last 4 years working under some of the most challenging economic times many of us have seen. How are we going to grow the business?

b)We are anticipating significant business change and transformation to help meet business growth. How do we ensure we bring everyone with us?

c)Matrix management, virtual teams and geographic spread are the norm for us. How do we ensure we touch everyone to make it easy to share the vision and the strategy?

Know your audience and make it relevant to them
One of the most effective ways of securing the attention of a senior level audience is to understand their issues, targets, objectives and challenges. Identify what is important to them, what else is competing for their attention and how they have chosen to prioritise it. Clarify how the project you are working on can positively impact their initiatives. Not all organisations recognise the need or the value of project management, especially when skilled project managers make it look boringly successful.

Language and style
Are you comfortable with the language of business? Can you speak it confidently, or do you find it too full of jargon? The phraseology and wordsmithing typical of business speak is often dry and stark; it can lack depth, expression and emotion. Which language sets do your leaders use, and can you improve your rapport with them by mirroring the type, pitch, volume and pace of language they are using?

Getting the buy-in and continued support of business leaders is now an integral part of project management: we need to be able to demonstrate how it contributes to the strategic aims of the business, and how it delivers clear and persistent value to the business.

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  1. Sheilina Somani
    Sheilina Somani 20 June 2012, 02:56 PM

    I also believe it's important to understand the sponsor's 'appetite' for communication ... particularly whether they prefer volume over succinct responses, visual images over text, style and time limits. Having had a really successful meeting with a significant project sponsor yesterday, it was with a huge (inward) sigh of joy that I responded to his utterance 'this is great, exactly what I need'. I was momentarily speechless!