Do you want to be a better project manager today? Listen better.
Start by making time to have conversations with people affected by the work you are doing on the project. Anyone who is affected by the project, or who can have some impact on the project results should be on a list of people to talk to. To listen to people, you need to:
- Set aside time to have the conversation
- Structure the conversation so that you are only doing 30% of the talking.
The key to being a good listener is to make it easy for other people to talk. Making people comfortable is a skill for you to hone. First, you have to find out what people are most comfortable talking about. Then you have to continue to feed the fire of the conversation so that they are willing to continue.
Being a good listener doesn’t simply mean that you ask questions and leave room for a response. Although, if you aren’t prone to leaving room for a response, this is the first skill you should work on. You have to create a space where it is safe and interesting enough for people to respond. Sometimes this means sharing something yourself, or it might require you to go first.
Listening is a gift for both the person you are listening to and yourself. If people are willing to talk, you can gain experience and information that you would never have before. Listening to people shows that they have significance in your view. We are always better when we collectively work on something, and the only way to do that is by hearing what others have to say.
Listening Is Active
Just because you are listening doesn’t mean that you aren’t controlling the conversation. Make sure that you shape the conversation to talk about the project and work that you are doing. You don’t have to listen to 45 minutes about the stakeholder’s grandmother’s cat. But you can use that willingness to talk as a springboard to talk about what is important in the project. You also can set boundaries on the time and topics covered.
The key is that as you listen, you are hearing and responding to what is being said.
Listen, learn, grow, improve. Your project will be better when you do.