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Communication is Key!

5 min read

A Project Manager’s (PM) ability to communicate clearly, consistently, and strategically can make or break a project’s success. The role of communication for project managers is vital and can play a crucial role in client satisfaction and team collaboration.

One person can accomplish a lot, but when people come together as an organised, well-tooled team, great feats are produced. Whether it’s in construction, cleaning, healthcare, or tech, teams of individuals can accomplish the greatest by combining their diverse skills, personalities, and problem-solving methods.

The one skill that ties this all together is communication! Fundamentally, it’s the ability to relay information, set expectations, provide concise instructions, and express thoughts and emotions. When used effectively, it leaves everyone involved on the same page, feeling heard, and moving in the same direction.

In the fast-paced world of Startup and Scaleups, we know that communication is a key factor for the success of projects. Here is how we do it at Zeal!

Project Work & Ad-Hoc Tasks

As a project manager at Zeal, our job is to be the conductor of this intricate orchestra, ensuring that everything harmonises beautifully. Our clients might have a vision, but it’s our job to turn that into a reality.

The first trick is to establish clear lines of communication. We’re talking regular meetings, whether in person or over video call. Emails and the occasional phone call are also important. It’s not just about delivering updates; it’s about making our clients feel involved and, most importantly, heard. Transparency is key. 

One of our values is full transparency, which is key. It’s crucial not to hide problems but address them. Zeal is honest with our clients and presents solutions, not just issues. Clients are more likely to appreciate your honesty than to be kept in the dark. The sooner we tackle problems, the quicker the project can get back on track.

For project work, we agree with our clients on key milestones, timing plans, and delivery dates.  Throughout the process we provide progress reports to keep everyone in the loop. This is a tried and tested process that works for ongoing-project work and ad-hoc work. 

Briefs – The Holy Grail

The brief is like the treasure map in this adventurous journey. It’s where you find the “X” that marks the spot. It’s crucial to ensure that we have a crystal-clear understanding of what the client wants. Some requirements are straightforward, allowing project managers to put a brief together after a single client discussion, otherwise, when the request is more complex we require further discussions. Zeal runs tech and/or brand discovery days depending on our client’s needs. Discovery days enable us the opportunity to really dig into what the client wants and the expected outcome, when we are thorough at this stage we are able to more accurately create briefs that ultimately lead to projects that meet (and often exceed) expectations. 

Once created, the brief is documented and shared with the client. It serves as the roadmap that guides the team’s efforts and helps the PM know when they need to book internally for the project to be delivered on time. A well-written and detailed brief saves us from a thousand questions, misunderstandings, and countless headaches down the road.

Building Relationships and Trust – The Secret Sauce

Ah, trust! It’s the magical potion that keeps your client relationships alive and thriving. It’s not something that magically appears; it’s something you nurture. And guess what? Communication is the fertiliser that helps it grow!

Stay professional, but don’t be a robot. Our clients appreciate it when you show empathy and genuine interest. Engage in small talk during meetings, remember their birthdays, and ask about their vacations. These seemingly insignificant gestures can go a long way in building a robust, trust-based relationship. Basically, we live by the rule ‘Don’t be a d*ck’.

Tools of the Trade:

Active listening 

A skill we often overlook, but is essential to master is listening. To truly listen, we must consciously make an effort to not only hear people’s words but to absorb and understand them from their perspective. We’re listening to understand not listening to respond.  

As PMs, our responsibility is to get things done. Active listening allows us to gather the crucial information needed to take action. This includes understanding the concerns and challenges of development teams as well as addressing client worries. Sometimes, simply listening attentively can help solve problems, as individuals often just want to feel heard.

By allowing others to speak and asking open-ended questions, the true problems and potential solutions will naturally arise. Aim to listen 80% of the time and speak 20%. This approach not only builds trust but also fosters better understanding among all stakeholders involved.

Translating Requirements

Turning visions and dreams into a reality can often look different from how an individual expected, or we might encounter a problem. When the Developer, Artist, CFO, and Client examine it independently, there is a good chance that we will receive multiple solutions, along with additional requirements.

Each person perceives the world through a unique lens shaped by their own thoughts, experiences, and emotions, resulting in diverse communication styles. As a PM, an important skill is the ability to translate everything into a set of requirements that everyone can understand.

It is our responsibility to provide each team member with the specific information they need. This ensures clarity and facilitates smooth collaboration within the team.

The Documentation Process:

The Project Board serves as a visual tool that allows everyone involved to see the project deliverables, objectives, and the progress of the project team. A well-maintained project board keeps everyone informed and ensures seamless communication.

User Stories are an excellent way to translate what we have gathered through active listening into a simplified format that everyone can understand. By stating, “I am from X point of view and I need Y, so I can achieve Z,” we can capture requirements concisely and effectively.

The Sprint Board, an internal tool, plays a critical role in enabling smooth internal communication. As a Project Manager, anything that requires development will be documented on the sprint board. It helps me maintain control over the team, stay focused, and allocate resources effectively. Want to know more about Sprints? Have a look at our blog post here