Merit Career Development Blog | Entries from December 2021

Minimizing Communication Breakdowns in Project Management

Business Team Coaching Prevent communication breakdowns from derailing or delaying project management efforts. To do this, focus on the three specific areas that are responsible for the majority of miscommunications in project management.

Successful project management cannot be achieved when team members do not understand or retain material being presented. Project managers face their greatest challenges when dealing with poorly defined requirements and communication. When critical information gets misconstrued during the course of an assignment, significant errors can occur. If found too late, these can result in diminishing productivity, wasting resources and very expensive mistakes that are difficult to correct.

To ensure that project management requirements are met in the initiation and development phases, effective communication techniques are needed.

Managers may face three distinct types of problems during the course of a project: offsets in experience, English as a second language environments and varying employee backgrounds.

1. Experience Offset


Communication difficulties can arise when the project’s participants have varying levels and types of experience relevant to the business world. Entry-level employees may experience challenges when working alongside senior leadership executives and high-ranking associates. And vice versa.

“Communication is more than just the transmission of messages, words and ideas; it embodies the creation of meaning between individuals,” says John Juzbasich, CEO of Merit Career Development. “To do that we rely upon our experience to create and construct meaning from the words we hear.”

Often, new employees and veterans engage in conversations that appear beneficial and productive initially, but they may walk away with different understandings of what transpired.

What to do. Leaders should assess - and address - this risk upfront during the planning stage of the project. Finding ways to cross-train team members ensures that information is being delivered adequately and concisely throughout the assignment.

2. ESL environments


Every project management team can encounter English-skill level discrepancies, especially within companies working in a global environment. When employees are unable to understand one another at a basic level, communication becomes futile.

What to do. Rather than attempt to navigate vocal challenges, leaders should utilize chat technologies that allow for translations. This can facilitate ESL environments and prevent any breakdowns in communications that might interfere with the success of the project.

3. Varying backgrounds


Some of the biggest communication problems arise when team members are trained in different areas of the business. This happens frequently when cross-functional teams are tasked with company-wide initiatives and represent IT, HR, Finance and Customer Relations, for example. Employees within these different niches may struggle to communicate, since they may have language or jargon that is unique to their work.

Project managers have to be sure that nothing gets lost in translation between disparate functions. They must seek to understand the meaning of the communications presented by each team member and develop effective language skills that will be understood and relevant to all.

What to do. Kick-off the team initiatives on the right foot by providing insight into the objectives, backgrounds and contributions made by each area represented. Visuals may help clarify this important step in the communication process.

Other Important Tips to Assure Better Communications


Through techniques such as open-ended and clarifying questions, restatement, reflecting and paraphrasing the project manager’s instructions, team members can develop a clear understanding of the message and project requirements.

The end-users should be the focal point of the message, not the sender. The manager should be looking at the big picture in addition to the minute details. Too many project leaders put communication at the bottom of their priorities, which can lead to short messages that are difficult to interpret.

Merit Career Development provides a range of project management workshops that are managed by experts to yield the greatest results possible. Each one delves into its specific topics with in-depth tools and techniques to ensure that communication flows freely between participants. Every workshop can also be customized to meet the training needs of companies and tailored to specific environments. Review a course list or contact Merit to speak with a professional today.

Overcome Training Obstacles in the Virtual Workplace

Communicating with your virtual team In today's age of electronic interaction, new technologies can be mechanisms for better leadership and training - or they can create serious obstacles.

The Digital Age has given rise to numerous information technologies that have had both positive and negative effects on leadership. Because of this, there has been a fundamental change in the relationship between business leaders and their followers - both employees and clients.

The original dynamic of the leader-follower connection has been forever altered by the advent of communication technologies, according to John Juzbasich, CEO of Merit Career Development. As a result, leaders face different challenges when conducting training in the virtual workplace...mainly fluid communication.

The Challenge of Communication

In today's age of electronic interaction, new technologies are mechanisms for leadership and management. Social platforms such as Facebook and LinkedIn can reduce the remoteness of followers and allow for more instantaneous communication, but they can lead to breakdowns in communications as well. Although oratory interaction can convey a clearer, message, between 60 and 80 percent of communications are non-verbal, Juzbasich explained.

When the voice is taken out of the equation, all that is left are words on a screen. At this point, messages can become misinterpreted, which is one of the biggest challenges in leading in the Digital Age. Because of this, leaders have to be more cognizant of how they speak and present themselves.

In order to avoid being misunderstood, Juzbasich suggests utilizing video technology to both communicate on a daily basis, and to create effective training. Video not only leverages digital technology in a popular way that people relate to, but it regains the visual and audio components of conversation.

Leading in the Digital Age

Juzbasich recently represented Merit at Penn State Great Valley on a panel that discussed e-leadership with other leading industry experts called "Leading in the Digital Age: Are You Connected For Success?" The event featured insight into cutting-edge research and best practices for leveraging rising technologies to be an effective leader in today’s business environment. Topics ranged from using avatars and emotion-reading technologies to advanced uses of social media. "We have come a long way over the past decade in understanding what works and what does not in a virtual teaching/learning environment. It is critical to redesign training to take advantage of today’s technologies and educational research on Best Practices," Juzbasich added.

Merit Career Development offers a wide array of learning methodologies that enhance professional education in today’s virtual workplace, including Virtual Instructor-Led Training, online self-paced courses, webinars and web-based assessment tools. To learn more about what Merit can do to enhance your leadership and employee training, please contact us.

Improve Your Decision-Making, Improve Your Leadership

Decision-Making Did you know that we make about 35,000 decisions a day? Learn about the many factors, conscious and sub-conscious, that affect our choices, and how we can control the ones that will help us make the best decisions.

The brain is a powerful machine constantly working behind the scenes, absorbing and dissecting information at an unimaginable rate. Without even realizing it, most people make thousands of decisions every day, from choosing a snack to making swift decisions while driving. Of course, there are the tougher decisions that we really contemplate, too.

Making the best decision is critical to success in most fields and disciplines. Our lack of understanding of how our minds work has profound consequences. Modern psychologists are studying the processes in our complex and sophisticated brain and have identified common errors in thinking, shortcuts used in the decision-making process, and cognitive biases that influence our decisions without our knowledge.

We know that good decision-making is critical to business success and will impact the bottom line. Daniel Kahneman, PhD, a Nobel-prize winning psychologist and author, explains how the brain functions in making decisions. In his book, “Thinking, Fast and Slow,” he breaks down the decision-making process into two systems: System 1 and System 2.

System 1 works quickly and deals with automatic, unconscious thinking, such as finishing thoughts and sentences. It’s deeply rooted in our intuition and emotional mechanism. System 2 works more slowly, focusing on logic and problem solving. It is associated with deliberative thinking and complex computations, while System 1 is more reactive and creates impressions and feelings. Leveraging these two aspects of decision-making can be enormously beneficial.

One of the most significant of the biases that affect our decisions Kahneman calls “pervasive optimistic bias” which gives us the feeling of having control. That is also referred to as "illusion of control," the tendency for people to overestimate their ability to control events in their lives. Other biases that need to be understood and considered include: "framing", where familiar numbers form the context for our decisions, although there may not be any reason for them to be relevant or accurate, and "loss aversion," a tendency to fear losses more than value gains.

Professional Assistance and Career Development

At Merit Career Development, we stay on top of the latest proven research and integrate these findings into our unique and engaging programs. As a result, participants can learn about many different features that are integral to the decision-making process. We help our clients understand how the two primary systems generate actions for quick thinking and more thought-requiring decisions.

Participants in our "Better Decision Making" program will learn about traps like biases and blind spots that can unconsciously and negatively affect best decision-making practices. Merit teaches the tools to develop effective listening techniques and how to adapt and apply this knowledge to different types of situations.

Like most Merit programs, this highly engaging and interactive workshop is ideal for optimizing learning retention of valuable information. Numerous rational tools and practical techniques ensure that the lessons taught will be carried over into real-life workplace scenarios.

Interested leaders can review the course outline for Merit's "Strategic Thinking and Decision-Making" to discover why it is the one-stop for dynamic workforce training.