Have you ever heard of email ping pong? It’s a situation where people keep asking following questions or making comments on an email thread. In most cases, this is a frustrating situation. Fortunately, there’s an alternative – picking up the phone. If you are accustomed to putting all of your project management communications into SharePoint or Microsoft Project, you will be impressed by what you can achieve by picking up the phone.
Here are three project management situations where you can get ahead by using the phone instead of email. If you attempt to address these questions by email instead, you will only make the situation worse.

1. Handling Perceived (or Actual) Conflict
The presence of multiple stakeholders – even if they work at the same company – increases the potential for conflict. For example, a legal stakeholder may focus on risk management while a technology stakeholder may be more interested in increasing productivity.
By calling an upset stakeholder and speaking with them for a few minutes, you can solve or significantly reduce many project management conflicts.

2. Addressing Multiple Questions
Oh no! You just received an email filled with half a dozen complex questions about your project. You may even think to yourself, “I don’t even know what some of these acronyms mean!” Don’t worry – complicated and confusing emails are part and parcel of many projects.
Before you sit down to write a three page response, take five minutes to call the person. You may discover that they simply wanted reassurance about the project. In many cases, a five minute phone call can eliminate the need for writing a 500 word email

3. Ambiguous Comments From Management or Project Sponsors
Unfortunately, project sponsors are often unable to focus exclusively on your project. In fact, some executives are involved in numerous projects in addition to managing their own staff.

Given this reality, executives and project sponsors occasionally give unclear feedback and suggestions. When this occurs, make a note to talk to (or call) the projects sponsor at the earlier opportunity and ask for clarification. Remember to show understanding for their time and attention.
Improving communication skills is an investment that you can make today. While you may be able to succeed solely based on technical skills early in your career, communication rapidly becomes more important as your career develops further.

Bio: Bruce Harpham is the author of Project Management Hacks (http://www.projectmanagementhacks.com), a resource that provides ideas you can use in the office tomorrow.

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