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Forming Good Dialogue Habits
By Michelle Symonds

Forming good dialogue habits is crucial to project management and the skills you learn forming these habits will enable you to achieve success in forming and managing relationships within your team, as well as winning the project in the first place.

Here are several good dialogue habits to have:

  • Self Development

    This is the way you are able to maintain a skill, and learn new ones. Learning to educate yourself, grow and renew your abilities. Practice your dialogue skills in all areas of your life so that you have a sharpened tool ready to use when the stakes are high. Think about training, shadowing and self learning using either books or online resources. Being able to push your limits and learn how to handle yourself in challenging scenarios means that a habit will be formed that will come to your mind naturally when you need it the most.

  • Utilize

    Rather than seeing different opinions and perspectives as problems and allowing your ego to take over – leaning you towards persuasion – think about how you can utilize all differing opinions to create a common goal. Alternative views are opportunities not roadblocks and recognizing this is key to successful dialogue.

  • Start by listening

    Often ego can get in the way of listening, leading to a rather difficult ‘clashing of horns’ scenario rather than one of understanding. Gaining an insight into the other person or peoples perspectives means you can then respond with strength and understanding rather than with raw emotion or blind opinion. Try to begin dialogue with true curiosity, genuinely listening to the other person’s feelings and perspectives.

  • Focus on the priorities

    Often dialogue can become distracted and difficult because both parties have digressed from the true matter at hand. Keep the real issue at the forefront of the conversation at all times and steer away from any petty problems or minor irritations that bare no significance to the overall problem.

  • Don’t avoid the situation

    You must never avoid a difficult situation and always face it head on, approaching it with care and consideration. Avoiding difficult dialogue will only prolong the problem and potentially allow it to get worse. During your project management training you should have learnt about the importance of being proactive with difficult situations and working towards a solution as quickly as possible. Utilize these skills and never assume a solution is impossible, always thinking positive and working towards a common goal.

  • Think about the end result – without ego

    Entering into dialogue remaining completely focused on ‘winning’ and changing the opinion of the other person is the worst way you can approach a difficult conversation. You should envision the end result but steer away from persuasion and opinion changing techniques. Instead think about maintaining a good relationship or creating a good relationship with that person, moving forward and improving overall morale in the team. You should envision leaving the dialogue feeling positive about the outcome, with both people or all people feeling happy that a conclusion has been met that satisfies all parties; using soft skills in project management is just as important as understanding how to plan, mitigate risks and manage change. At the very least you can encourage open dialogue and communication which is good advice for any project manager.

Michelle Symonds is a qualified PRINCE2 Project Manager and believes that the right project management training can transform a good project manager into a great project manager and is essential for a successful outcome to any project.

There is a wide range of formal and informal training courses now available that include online learning and podcasts as well as more traditional classroom courses from organizations such as Parallel Project Training.

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