To proactively scan for risks you need to be present.

Are you paying attention? I mean really paying attention? 

Studies have shown that most people cannot effectively multi-task, which for many means doing two things at once.  One task is subconscious and one is a conscious task.  Think walking & talking or listening to music while writing a paper.  One activity takes your attention while the other is in the background.  You may be able to remember which songs were playing, but if you were listening to a talk show, would you remember the questions asked and answered?  Probably not.

I’m often surprised to find how many people think they can multi-task successfully, especially in the age of virtual teams.  We are all on conference call after conference call and many times we try to get other work done while facilitating a conference call.  The worst situation is where the project manager thinks that he/she can multi-task and still manage a project well.  If you think you are able to, let me ask you these questions:

-        Are you ever surprised that you didn’t pick up on a customer’s frustration?

-        Has anyone on the call asked the customer to repeat themselves because they were “multi-tasking”? If so, did you consider that embarrassing?

When you do not pay attention, you put your project at risk.  We all know that body language is an important component to communication.  When we don’t pay attention, we miss out on those extended pauses by the client, or the subtle deep breath that can truly be the key to project success or failure.  When working in a virtual environment, it is even more important to pay attention because we don’t have the luxury of seeing body language.  Project managers need to learn ways to see that body language in new and different ways.  One way to do that is to be overly attentive to the remote conversation taking place.

Learn more about best practices in managing communication on projects with our best-selling book Achieve PMP Exam Success; A Concise Study Guide for the busy project manager”.

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