Join Doug Rose for an in-depth discussion in this video Communicating with your supervisor, part of Project Management Foundations: Communication.
Sometimes, you'll finish your supervisor's sentences. You'll work in lockstep. They'll ask for a report that you already sent. They'll see your place in the organization the same way you see your place in the organization. You'll always be on the same page. But that level of communication is very rare. More often your supervisor is someone you like and respect, but still struggle to communicate with. After years of working together, they might still confuse and surprise you. That's why you should have a Supervisor Communication Strategy.
As part of this strategy, you should ask three questions. "Am I doing the role that my supervisor wants me to do?" "Do they understand my brand and career goals?" "And what do I have in common with my supervisor?" A lot of communication challenges stem from an Organizational Role Gap. This is the gap between what you think is your role and what your supervisor thinks is your role. There are a few warning signs you'll get with this communication challenge.
Look for feedback like you dropped the ball, or you were not on top of things. Sometimes you'll get this feedback when you forgot something. But often you'll get this feedback because you weren't aware that this was something you should be doing. Very often a project will start, and everyone's role will gel around their background. This common way of forming teams leads to confusion and role challenges. The most important person to sort out your role is your supervisor. So you might need to get clarification from them without having them question what you've been doing.
The best way is to set yourself up as a proxy for the question. So you can approach your supervisor and say, "Bill asked me to create the plan, "and I said that wasn't my role." Then ask, "is that right?" This way you can get the information without being too vulnerable to the "what have you been "doing all this time?" question. So if your supervisor says, "absolutely not, "you shouldn't be doing that at all," then you can respond, "oh yes, of course. I didn't think of that," then adjust your role accordingly. Another part of your communication strategy should be whether your supervisor understands your brand.
As a project manager, you should build your brand. This brand might be the same as your supervisor, but often you'll want your brand to be different. You might want your brand to be more friendly, but they might be all business. So one of your challenges will be communicating well with your supervisor, while maintaining your independent brand. A good way to sort this out is by giving your supervisor a one-liner about the brand you're building. If you don't explain what motivates you, then your supervisor will fill in the blanks.
The final part of your supervisor strategy is planning out what you have in common. Usually this involves fostering a good relationship. Relationship fostering is a natural part of being a project manager. It's an effective way to get many things done without authority. So for many project managers, it's a finely honed skill. The trick is to foster relationships with everybody. That way when you focus on your supervisor, it doesn't look inconsistent with your usual style of communication. I once took an Italian sauces course in an effort to improve my cooking skills.
An Italian woman taught the course. She'd been making the sauce for decades. She introduced me to anchovy paste. She said that the trick to anchovy paste is that no one should know that it's there. Then it works wonders. If you use too much, then something smells fishy. It's the same with fostering a good relationship with your supervisor. You should add a little relationship fostering to your communication. Then it'll work wonders. If you focus completely on just fostering a good relationship with your supervisor, then everyone will smell something's fishy.
The difference between getting in good with the boss and being overly friendly is tricky. So spread the love, and be seen as friendly by everyone.
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- Using formal and informal means to communicate
- Prioritizing stakeholder needs
- Listening actively
- Planning project communication
- Understanding leadership language
- Writing clear and concise project reports
- Learning how and when to say "no"<br><br>
- The PMI Registered Education Provider logo is a registered mark of the Project Management Institute, Inc.