15 quick tips on written communication for project leaders

As project managers and team leaders, effective communication is vitally important to provide instructions to team members, persuade stakeholders to take action, document decisions and requests, and provide informational updates.

Here are some quick tips for those of you in a leadership role on project teams, program management, or any business leadership role, really.

  1. Chat (Slack and Teams) are for getting immediate answers to easily worded (i.e. SHORT) questions.
  2. Chat is NOT for sending information you will need to refer back to weeks later.
  3. If a decision is reached in chat, copy it to email and send it everyone, or copy it to a decision log.
  4. Use team chats when everyone on the team needs to know about the topic. Otherwise, use direct messaging or create a smaller subgroup.
  5. Email is not chat. Questions and follow-up tasks get “lost” in long email chains. When a chain gets long, pick up the phone or call a quick meeting.
  6. Keep emails focused on one topic whenever possible, except for “recap” emails (see next point).
  7. When you are sending many emails asking for information or action from the same person/group, it is helpful to occasionally (weekly) send a recap of all outstanding requests so things don’t fall through the cracks.
  8. Use email subject lines to spur action from recipients. For example: “PLEASE REVIEW – Monthly stakeholder deck” or “ACTION REQUIRED – Update status today in weekly tracker”.
  9. When requesting action in an email, always give a deadline or expected date/time to respond. This helps the recipient to prioritize the request with their other tasks (and lends a sense of urgency to the request).
  10. Email attachments – if you have something important to communicate, put in the email body right up top. Don’t count on recipients to open an attachment to find it.
  11. Don’t attach drafts of files to email if you can use a shared document in Teams, Sharepoint or Google Docs instead – attach a link to the share.
  12. If you attach more than two files to an email, list the attachments and what each one contains in the body of the email.
  13. Screen captures are worth their weight in gold as communication tools. Get a good screen capture tool that lets you highlight and annotate your captures.
  14. Send out meeting notes via email within a day of a meeting.
  15. For action items in meeting notes, highlight (with a color background) each assigned person’s name so they can find it easily when scanning through the notes.

Bonus Tip for Teams users

I recently learned from a colleague that every team in Teams has it’s own email address. If you CC that address on important team emails, your email will show up as a post. This way you will have all your team-related information/decisions/reports in one repository. Email is still easier to search, but there is value in having a collection in one place for the full team to access.


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