Your presentation was great fun, and our audience gained valuable insights on good, clear communication skills. I'm happy to lend my voice to let other PMI chapters know what an engaging and informative speaker you are.
Chris Shankar, Westchester PMI Professional Development Day Organizer
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Issue #26 July 2010

SWaynePow'Rful Presentations Newsletter
July 2010 - Watch your Language!
Pow'Rful Presentations is a relatively monthly investigation of ideas, strategies and techniques to assist readers be more present in life, better project managers and make effective presentations (in all senses of the word).
Disclaimer - depending on your background, and my South African origins, you may find some of my spelling and grammar to be "imaginative".
© Wayne Botha 2010
With the migration to my new website (, I have a new newsletter provider. I will migrate this newsletter to the new platform in the coming months after testing is complete and you will notice minor changes in the format after the migration. Newsletter content will continue improving and your privacy remains as important as ever.
Language - the hidden project management tool
"It's not what you tell's what they hear." (Red Auerbach) 
I was in a meeting last week where we discussed a high-visibility project that may be in trouble. I say "may be", because sub-teams on the project are reporting conflicting status. A development sub-team is raising red flags and reporting progress is behind schedule. A testing team is concerned at slow progress and the current project plan is not available for review. However, the project manager confirmed that progress is on track and is concerned that reports of schedule slippage cause unwarranted rumors.
The project and the status is not important. I use this example to point out that you need to pay attention to the words you use and the only way to fully appreciate what someone else hears is to get feedback from an unbiased observer, such as your professional coach. It is not what you tell them that is important, it's what they hear.
In the meeting, language such as the following was used and shows that project managers have the ability to choose language that can ignite a bonfire or quell a storm.
1. "You should never have sent that email with unconfirmed status". What people on the call heard was "I am hiding something and don't want anyone to know about it".
2. "You should have told me as soon as you heard that this project is at risk". People on the call heard "I am a control freak and don't have faith in my project team."
3. "I want to be on copy for all correspondence going forward". People on the call heard "I have nothing better to do with my time than review your emails, and watch you."
4. "You did the right thing by voicing your concerns about this status". People heard "I consider myself to be the judge of you and determine what is right and wrong."
Personal attacks and finger pointing throughout the call inflamed tempers and did nothing to find a solution. In contrast, if the words had been focused on the problem and a solution, no-one would have felt angry or resentful for raising concerns about project status.
The rule of thumb for project managers is "Stick to the business. As soon as you make it personal and say things like "You should not ... " or "Joe always does X..." then you are losing focus and probably making enemies.
A second learning point is the ratio of statements made versus questions asked. When you ask open ended questions such as "How did you hear about this status?", instead of statements "You should not report this status", you will make more progress towards a solution. Take note of how many statements you make in conversation, versus the number of questions you ask. Ask more questions to become wiser.
I observe that most project managers are not aware of their language choices and cannot understand why every encounter becomes hostile. The fastest way to see your shortcoming in oral communications is to invest some money in your career and hire a professional coach to listen in on a few calls and point out the inflammatory language. This is one area where you can't hear what others hear and you need an outsider's perspective.
Viewpoint from the Avatar of organizational email efficiency.
"It is not what you write... it is what they delete" (Wayne Botha) 
In the world of corporate email, I receive hundreds of emails every day. I have published tips and articles to help readers avoid the common mistakes that most email creators make, such as burying the action item in the narrative in paragraph five and hitting "Reply All" every time they have a nervous twitch. Unfortunately, educating corporate users to maximize email efficiency is an ongoing battle and for every time saving tip that I publish, another time-draining ritual is developed. 
To help yourself stand out from the crowd in organizational behavior, think of it like this when crafting and sending emails. Think about how the user will perceive the email when they read it. Will your receiver scan the email and take action? Are you expecting him to print it out, digest it and then respond with a similar thesis?
Although the many tips available for email usage are helpful, the simple rule of thumb to follow is "How will the reader perceive this email, at first glance?" Will she read it, or delete it faster than you can click "Reply all?" If you are unsure on how your emails are perceived, then solicit feedback from someone that you trust.
My embarrassing moment of the week. 
Although this is a relatively monthly newsletter, I seem to generate enough embarrassing moments to fill a daily journal. 
Recently, while working under more than normal project pressure, I scheduled a variety of meetings with multiple stakeholders. As I met with the stakeholders and conducted one meeting after another we made very good progress on identifying requirements and addressing the issues at hand. Although tired, my project team and stakeholders kept to the gruelling schedule until we came together and following the agenda realized that we had already met with the same group of people and discussed the same topic. I had lost track of which meetings I had scheduled and inadvertently scheduled a meeting with the same stakeholders to discuss the same topic on two separate occasions. The moral of the story "Even a project manager can benefit from a simple plan and checklist, otherwise you will wear egg on your face."
Do you need a speaker for your IT or Project Management association chapter meeting? Contact me and lets see if we can work together for a win/win/win outcome.
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More next time!

Wayne Botha

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