Hacks & Tips
16. 09. 2020
“Occupation? Mediator.” — How to “talk” with your team and clients
A few words about myself so you get to know me better and thus understand why am I even writing this.
I graduated in logistics and management in the maritime industry and had one single course related to project management and 2 basic IT courses that barely touched on what’s programming. I was extremely lucky to have 2 roommates who studied computer science, so I’ve learned quite a bit from them and started to comprehend what can be done and how it can be done on an understandable basis.
Considering I had zero experience and (almost) zero-knowledge, the main reason I got hired as a project manager was because I have shown motivation and eagerness for learning.
The company I’ve been working for, Lloyds Design, is a digital agency specialized in web and mobile apps design and development. When I started there were 15 people and now we have 20 full-time employees and a few students.
In the year and a half I’m here, my colleagues and I, have successfully delivered over 70 projects.
“Listen to be heard” — Internal Communication Psychology
Internal communication is the key to a successful project. Doesn’t sound difficult at first, but rest assured it’s not as easy as it seems. From my experience, I can tell you it’s a process like everything else in both your career and life.
The best way to improve the communication that you, as a project manager, have with your team is to build their trust in you and to listen to them and get to know them on a personal level.
No one will listen to you if you’re a jerk and brush off everything they say. You have to listen to how they feel, their problems, and what they’re proud of.
Know, this sounds like you’re faking it, and to be frank, that’s up to you. Whatever you decide, whether to fake it or not, make sure to not take everything to your heart. You can’t fix and make everything better. In any kind of a relationship, there are two people and it’s up to the other person as well to make themselves better and take care of themselves.
You don’t want to hold a grudge against someone because that means they won’t like to talk with you and some people don’t know how to separate their private and work life, which hurts the communication that’s required for a successful project realization.
“Less is more” — Meeting Moderation
There are three questions you have to ask yourself when you are setting up a meeting and these are:
1. What’s the purpose of the meeting?
2. Who needs to be at this meeting?
3. Are there any documents that people need to read beforehand?
The last two are easy, but the first one is the question everyone has to ask themselves before they schedule a meeting. No one wants to waste their time just to discuss a couple of straightforward questions. A simple way to resolve this dilemma is to ask yourself “How complex can the answer be?” and if the answer is along the lines of “Yes” and a couple more comments, there’s no need for a meeting. The first and most important thing is to be honest with the client. If they want a meeting ask them beforehand what they want to discuss. If they say they want an update and if there’s no visible change since the last meeting, tell them straight away that most of the work was, as we like to call it, “under the hood” and you’d like to skip the next meeting in order to focus on the task at hand.
Another important thing that a project manager should do during a meeting is to moderate it.
If the meeting consists of clients and your team, let them talk, they know better what they want to say or ask. Make sure the meeting is on the right track and doesn’t sidetrack too much. You should be like a translator if needed, some developers and designers might not know how to properly explain themselves so you should make it more simple and vice versa.
“Just because you don’t understand something, doesn’t make it wrong” — Client Communication“
When communicating with the clients make sure you are explaining in a way they will understand you. One thing I found very useful is using analogies. When the client says, or you assumed, they didn’t seem to understand you, the best way is to use simple analogies that are understandable for everyone. Basically write an “explain like I’m 5” and, if possible, use analogies from the client’s field of work, but don’t be condescending.
When sending an update make sure you properly explain everything that has been done since the last update. When you are sending a website design update explain to them that you are sending them static images (basically a picture of the website) so they won’t be able to click on everything and that the animations are just basic and will be better once the developer starts coding the website.
Client communication is the key to the project realization and success. As a project manager, you have to properly mediate the clients’ requests, needs, and feedback to your team so they know what they have to do. The same thing goes the other way around, make sure that the client is aware of (possible) problems that (might) occur during the project lifetime.