Project Leadership Success: Responsibilities, Competencies and Behaviors That Produce Positive Results – Part 4 of 10

Competencies – Communicating Collaboratively


“The person who knows ‘how’ will always have a job. The person who knows ‘why’ will always be their boss.”  Diane Ravitch (author and former U.S. Assistant Secretary of Education)

In the first three blogs in the Project Leadership Success series, I focused on the Responsibilities of a successful project leader.  They are: 1) aligning vision and goals, 2) coaching, and 3) managing change.

Here, in Parts 4, 5, and 6, I will address Competencies. In practice, competencies are what leaders are good at: knowledge, skills, abilities, expertise, capacity, qualification, experience, and know-how. The following participative competencies are exhibited by successful leaders: 4) communicating collaboratively, 5) making effective decisions and 6) applying Emotional Intelligence (EI).

 Communicating Collaboratively –

Communication is hard work. The job of a successful leader is to become more analytical about planning communication and more objective about how it is likely to be received. This section covers Peter Drucker’s four fundamental communication principles that should be a conscious part of every leader’s communications planning and execution. (from Drucker, Peter F., Management: Tasks, Responsibilities, and Practices, Harper and Row, pgs. 481-488, 1974.)

 1. Communication is perception. “In communicating, whatever the medium, the first question has to be ‘Is this communication within the recipient’s range of perception? Can he receive it?’” (Ibid., pg. 484.) What is it about the receiver’s abilities—emotional state, perceptual filters, etc.—that enables him to decode the message? Only what has actually been understood by the receiver will have been communicated.

2. Communication is expectation. “A gradual change, [one] in which the mind is led by small, incremental steps to realize what it perceives is not what it expected to perceive, will not work.” (Ibid., pg. 486.)  In other words, getting people to see something from an entirely new perspective can be best achieved by “jumping in” as opposed to “wading in.” Of course, the leader has to supply the impetus but, to do that, he/she needs to know what preconceptions and expectations the audience has to begin with.

3. Communication makes demands. “[Communication] always demands that the recipient become somebody, do something, and believe something.” (Ibid., pg. 487.)  In other words, communication requires the recipient to give— as in, give attention, understanding, insight, support, information, and/or money.

4. Communication and information are different, and indeed largely opposite, yet interdependent.  Plenty of pieces of information are available. How does the leader identify them and sort the important from the unimportant? The answer can be simply to view the information from the perspective of the recipients, judging what is relevant to their needs and what is not.

To support these principles, leaders themselves can actively create communication opportunities by providing a forum where teams can—without fear—fully express their concerns and criticisms. Even if the issues cannot be resolved immediately, it is often enough for the team to know that the leader has listened and knows what the team is going through. The key is to have a safe place where teams can communicate in full voice. (from Autrey, James & Mitchell, S., Real Power, Riverhead Trade, pgs. 164-65, 1999.)

 Another facet of communication that promotes organizational well being and positive team morale is simply to congratulate, thank and acknowledge people, as often as possible, who are displaying the behaviors that support organizational values. In this same vein, leaders should speak positively about change efforts, privately and publicly, and avoid inadvertent statements that undermine the importance of the effort or that of organizational values. (from NASA Leadership Development Program,

In summary, a leader must be an honest broker of information. Leaders need to be willing to provide the information that team members need to hear. They need to explain the challenges the team faces, the decisions they need to make and the consequences associated with making those decisions. They must also be willing to remind the team of decisions they have already made and help them deal with the consequences.

Join me for my next post as we look at making effective decisions.

James L. Haner

To learn more, download the complete article  – Leadership Success: Behaviors, Competencies and Responsibilities That Produce Positive Results. – Competencies – written by James Haner documenting the responsibilities of a successful leader.

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