Communication is a cornerstone of success in project management. Though asking clear questions and receiving straightforward answers is key to successful communication, subtleties of communication style can often impede the transmission of ideas and information. As visionary auto tycoon Lee Iacocca said, “You can have brilliant ideas, but if you can’t get them across, your ideas won’t get you anywhere.” So, when it comes to project management, is there a ‘best’ way to get your ideas across? A good starting point toward making sure your ideas land according to your intentions is understanding the different types of communicators and how to communicate with them effectively.

What’s Your Style?

Leadership expert and best-selling author Mark Murphy spent decades researching interpersonal communication and distilled his findings into four broad categories of communication styles: analytical, intuitive, functional, and personal. Understanding your communication style and those of your teammates can help facilitate smoother collaboration and improve project outcomes.

  1. Analytical Communicators: Driven by Data

Analytical communicators focus on facts over feelings. They rely on numbers to make their points, and typically bristle at ambiguity.

Tell-tale signs you have an analytical communication style:

  • You tend to make decisions based on data.
  • You keep a metric in mind when setting goals.
  • You’re more likely to say ‘I know’ or ‘I’m sure’ than ‘I feel.’

Highlights: Analytical communicators are often logical problem-solvers who are perceived as competent and reliable

Potential pitfalls: People with this communication style may convey an impression of coldness or detachment which other team members may find off-putting.

How to talk their talk: If you’re working with an analytical communicator, be sure to back up your suggestions with hard evidence, or you may lose their trust. Be clear and concise and respect their need to take their time to make decisions.

2. Intuitive Communicators: Painting the Big Picture

Intuitive communicators may be innovative thinkers who prefer to see the forest instead of the trees. They are often action-oriented ‘do-ers’ who emphasize results over process.

Tell-tale signs you have an intuitive communication style:

  • You tend to ‘go with your gut’ when making decisions.
  • You may get frustrated if you feel you are not progressing fast enough towards a goal.
  • You like to ‘cut to the chase’.

Highlights: Intuitive communicators like to seize opportunities and don’t shy away from challenges. They’re goal-oriented and motivated by the ‘why’ of a project, rather than the ‘how.’

Potential pitfalls: People with this style may lose patience easily with their more methodical colleagues and may be perceived as impractical.

How to talk their talk: Keep communication concise, check in frequently to make sure they’re staying on-task, and provide visual aids where the meaning can be captured immediately. When trying to persuade them, focus on the end-goal and omit any unnecessary details.

3. Functional Communicators: Digging into Details

Functional communicators look at the facets of a project from different angles and like to proceed task-by-task according to a well-defined timeline.

Tell-tale signs you have a functional communication style:

  • An unexpected change may throw you for a loop.
  • You take comfort that your goals are achievable if you have a clear roadmap.
  • If something is missing, no matter how small, you’re likely to point it out.

Highlights: Functional communicators tens to shine at breaking down projects into manageable chunks. They thrive on process and implementation and tend to be perceived as trustworthy.

Potential pitfalls: Sometimes functional communicators can frustrate their colleagues with their focus on the nitty-gritty details, and they may be perceived as dragging their feet as they consider all sides of an issue.

How to talk their talk: It’s helpful to provide context when making your pitch, and bullet-points might be a good persuasive tool. Try to connect conversations directly to plans and procedures.

4. Personal Communicators: Prioritizing People

Personal communicators value relationship-building and discovering how others think and feel. Natural diplomats, personal communicators often help smooth over conflicts that may arise within the team.

Tell-tale signs you have a personal communication style:

  • You easily sense the ‘vibe’ through verbal and nonverbal cues.
  • Before making a decision, you often consult others.
  • You tend to seek out collaborators to achieve goals.

Highlights: Personal communicators are often highly motivated team leaders because they tend to measure their own successes by the team’s success. They are attuned to early warnings that things may be heading off track and tend to have the ‘soft’ skills to re-energize a team. Usually, they are also skilled listeners.

Potential pitfalls: Personal communicators may be perceived as overly ‘touchy-feely’ which might alienate team members with a different style. As ‘people-pleasers’, personal communicators might also be reluctant to hold others accountable when necessary.

How to talk their talk: Be responsive and show genuine interest. Try to interact one-on-one to understand their motivations. When trying to persuade them to your point of view, emphasize how outcomes will personally affect the people involved.

  Why Communication Matters

According to a 2020 study (link to https://saaslist.com/blog/project-management-statistics/), poor communication costs small businesses with under 100 employees $420,000 and companies with over 100,000 employees over $62 million. The Project Management Institute (PMI)’s 2013 Pulse of the Profession report found that $135million is at risk for every US$1 billion spent on a project. Further research on the importance of effective communication showed that a staggering 56 percent ($75 million of that$135 million) is at risk due to ineffective communication PMI’s Pulse communications research further demonstrated that effective communication leads to more successful projects, allowing organizations to complete an average of 80 percent of projects on time, on budget and meeting original goals. These organizations risk 14 times fewer dollars than their low-performing counterparts.

 The Management Solutions Approach to Communication

 Management Solutions understands there is no ‘best’ communication style. We optimize communication with planning and procedures that accommodate all styles of communication.

Our communication plans consist of:

  • Compliance: What approvals are needed? Should stakeholders simply be informed or are they to be involved in the decision-making process? This shapes the communication procedure.
  • The goal: What is needed from stakeholders? 
  • Stakeholder analysis: Who does what during each phase of the project? 
  • Frequency of communication: How often will stakeholders receive updates? 
  • Communications manager: Who will talk to the stakeholders? One liaison is ideal to prevent miscommunications and missing information.
  • Success metrics: What does success look like?

 These communication plans are client-specific and tailored to meet unique project needs. No matter the style of communication, Management Solutions understands that listening is just as important to project success as conveying ideas.