Communication skills in project management

Communication skills in project management: include this in your CV

To run successful projects from start to finish, you need certain key skills. Timing, time management and the ability to negotiate with internal and external parties are all essential competencies. Leadership, risk management and critical thinking are also high on the list. But most important of all, communication.  

In this article we will now look at how: 

  • Why is effective communication important in project management?
  • What types of communication can be used in projects?
  • How to make communication more effective?
  • What are the most important communication skills for project managers?
Excellent communication skills are an important competence for effective project management.

Why are good communication skills important in project management?

Without effective communication, it is incredibly difficult - if not impossible - for project managers to manage teams and coordinate work effectively. It is the only way to achieve common goals.

The main purpose of the communication activities of project managers is to coordinate efforts. However, to be successful, they need to gather and deliver a lot of information to the project participants.

In the absence of:

  • the efforts of teams can be multiplied
  •  important targets and milestones may be missed due to poor allocation of resources and information
  • the scope of the project may start to diverge from what was originally planned

This can result in the project being stalled or failing completely.

Project managers should continuously monitor and review project and resource metrics to ensure that they are in line with project objectives. And in case of discrepancies, they should use different communication methods to understand the obstacles and find the best way to overcome them.

Types of communication in projects

In project management, as in any other business process, there are many different forms of information transfer and communication styles that can affect a project. 

Project approach

Communication from a project perspective can generally be divided into two categories: 

  • internal communication
  • external communication

Internal communication

Internal communication is typically the exchange of information between the people actively working on the project - the project leader and their team. It often involves discussions that are important in the planning or problem-solving process. 

External communication

External communication, on the other hand, refers to the flow of information between members of the project team and key people not directly involved in the project. These are the various stakeholders in the project, such as the management team, staff from other departments or members of other project teams, the press or customers. 

Because this communication is directed towards people who are not involved in the project on a day-to-day level, it is often more formal and sophisticated than internal communication.

The approach to formality

If we look at communication from the point of view of formality, we can distinguish between two types:

  • Informal communication
  • Formal communication

Informal communication

This is mostly synonymous with internal communication. It is made up of daily emails, contacts and unscheduled meetings, which are usually more casual in tone and not tied up.

Formal communication

Formal communication includes reports, press releases and serious presentations. These forms of communication are planned, elaborate and use more formal language.

Organisational perspective

From an organisational point of view, three categories can be distinguished, which take into account the different ways in which the organisation is structured: 

  • Vertical
  • horizontal
  • diagonal 

When communicating vertically, horizontally or diagonally, it is critical that project team members understand the company policy and are able to communicate along it.

Vertical communication

Vertical communication takes place within an organisation, between individuals or teams at different hierarchical levels, and is also referred to as upward or downward communication.

Upward communication may involve a member of the project team informing the project manager of a particular problem that is preventing the task from being completed, or the project manager communicating with his or her supervisor about the progress of the project. 

Downward communication works the opposite way, for example, a project manager assigns tasks to people in his team.

Horizontal communication

Horizontal communication takes place between individuals at the same level within an organisation. This communication can take place between colleagues, for example when the team gets together for the daily scrum meetingen to coordinate what tasks will be carried out. 

Diagonal communication

Diagonal communication is typical of larger and more complex organisations and refers to discussions between departments and divisions.

For example, a project manager in charge of overseeing the development of a mobile app might contact a member of the software team to understand how they have dealt with similar problems or challenges.

Developing communication skills is essential for success.

The perspective of the channel

This refers to the channel or medium through which the communication is transmitted.
They can be general communication channels:

  • verbal or non-verbal communication
  • personal, remote or virtual communication
  • written or oral communication

Each of these communication channels has its own advantages and disadvantages, which the project manager should be aware of and use accordingly. 

For example, face-to-face communication allows parties to observe body language and behaviour, which can influence the message sent. However, this is difficult to achieve in a corporate environment where remote, virtual communication is the most established. 

Tips for effective project communication

1. Technology can work wonders

Today, technology is so advanced that even if project team members live on another continent, there is no need to communicate in writing. Face-to-face meetings are of enormous value and technology greatly facilitates these interactions, which have a positive impact on the progress of the project. Virtual meetings and video conferencing are extremely useful tools in this respect.

2. Understand who the information needs to reach 

The project manager is the gateway to information, i.e. responsible for ensuring that all the necessary information is available to the stakeholders. He or she must also ensure that irrelevant information does not overload each team. 

It is also important to ensure that communication is always delivered to stakeholders through the best and most effective channels. The priorities of the other party should also be taken into account, for example, if someone prefers analysis, it is most effective to produce reports with figures to support them.

3. Addressing cultural and linguistic barriers

Companies and organisations are increasingly diverse, which increases the possibility that project team members may not share the same mother tongue. This can increase the risk of misunderstandings in project communication. 

It is therefore crucial to keep in mind cultural differences or language barriers within the team. For example, it is worth avoiding the use of specific phrases, puns or sarcasm, which can be difficult to translate between languages and cultures.

Communication skills on a CV - these are worth to use!

Communication skills are also worth mentioning in CVs, as the more detailed the picture you paint of yourself in your CV, the more you can stand out in your career as a project manager. Many people make the mistake of simply including trite phrases such as good communication skills, good team player, etc. in their CVs.

Now let's look at some of the important competences to focus on when writing a CV.

1. Active listening

Project managers can achieve significant results and change if they are attentive listeners. Active listening is not just about using our ears to take in information; it is much more than that. It means listening carefully to what the other person is saying and reading non-verbal cues. These can take many forms, but the easiest to identify are facial expressions, speech sounds, eye contact and body language.

2. Building relationships based on trust and respect

Trust and respect are the cornerstones of personal relationships. Importantly, they can only be earned, not acquired. 

How can we earn trust?

  • Honesty
  • Integrity
  • Expertise
  • Openness
  • Willingness to share ideas and information freely
  • Consistency
  • Reliability
  • Loyalty

Trust encourages people to be more open, to dare to come up with new ideas, to voice their concerns or ask for advice.

3. Clear definition of priorities

In all cases, project managers need to be able to communicate the strategy to their team, by setting goals, planning and prioritising. That means knowing exactly who, when, what, where and why to do it. They need to understand both the big picture and the smaller technical details. This is the only way to get everyone on the same page, working towards a common goal.

4. Supporting cooperation

In a collaborative environment, team members support and encourage each other, rather than focusing solely on their own tasks and responsibilities. They are willing to collaborate and share information, ideas and tools to help each other. 

5. Assessing opposing opinions

As a project leader, you should encourage all members of the team to express their thoughts and opinions, even if they may not agree with those of others. Organisational diversity always brings different perspectives and new approaches can open up new avenues for solutions not previously used.

It is important to provide a platform for everyone to express their ideas and opinions and feel valued.

At the same time, we should always strive to have a healthy dialogue.


So we have seen the importance of good communication in project management. It is no longer enough to coordinate the work, in most cases, in addition to industry knowledge, strong management and methodological skills and communication skills are needed. If you want to deepen your knowledge even more, choose from our training courses for professional project managers!