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How to cre­ate ace inter­ac­tions with stake­hold­ers, with examples

Project man­agers are mas­ter com­mu­ni­ca­tors. Whether it be through writ­ten, spo­ken, or con­tex­tu­al means, the aver­age PM role involves jump­ing through con­stant com­mu­ni­ca­tion hoops. How­ev­er, no mat­ter how grace­ful your leap, it’s nat­ur­al for even the most sil­ver-tongued of us to hit a wall with our com­mu­ni­ca­tion skills. Let’s take a step back to look at the basics. 

Push and pull com­mu­ni­ca­tion and inter­ac­tive com­mu­ni­ca­tion are cen­tral to project man­age­ment. It’s time to dive into what makes these com­mu­ni­ca­tion meth­ods spe­cial, includ­ing what push and pull com­mu­ni­ca­tion the­o­ry is, and how inter­ac­tive com­mu­ni­ca­tion can be a cat­a­lyst to cre­at­ing a stronger team.

Push communication

In push communication, a sender pushes out information to a receiver (one direction). It is most often used to communicate expected, non-urgent information. Push communication does not expect an immediate response from the receiver and is usually delivered in writing. If the sender requires confirmation that the receiver has seen and understood the message, they should specify that.

Push communication examples

  • You do all the talking or sharing in the meeting
  • You send regular reports or updates to project team and stakeholders
  • Formats:
    • Lectures
    • Memos
    • Email updates
    • Voicemails
    • Reports
    • Contracts
    • Documents

Tips

  • Keep emails short: Follow the Five Sentence Rule
  • Create consistent channels for feedback and clarify available times to chat
  • Stick to lean documentation: plain language, simple headers, and friendly, practical phrases
  • Make sure to cover the 5Ws: who, what, when, where, why (and throw in how)

Advantages

  • Great for quick, regular communication
  • Can be automated (e.g. weekly check-ins or updates)
  • Can send to a wide audience and control stakeholder interactions

Disadvantages

  • Can’t tell if receiver understands meaning
  • Doesn’t promote empathy and critical thinking, mutual understanding
  • Not good for communicating urgent or upsetting information or major changes
  • Can mean delayed communication
  • Folks might misinterpret message or folks might not read or consume it at all

Pull communication

In pull communication, the sender creates content that receivers can passively access at any time, rather than the sender directly channeling it to receivers. Unlike its name would suggest, pull communication doesn’t involve pulling in your audience. It comes from the fact that pull communication represents documentation and information that a receiver will “pull” out when they need to.

Given that pull communication encourages engagement, it can be the most important form of communication in your toolkit—if you know how to use it. You can make pull communication more effective by using a Wiki or other documentation software.

Note: project management applications that send notifications are technically push communication.

Pull communication examples

  • Websites
  • Wikis
  • Google docs
  • Bulletins
  • Dashboards
  • Webinars
  • Social media

Tips

  • Symbols or categories are easy to scan and help provide a visual communication cue: use them wisely
  • Create a glossary for industry or technical language so it’s easy to parse
  • Go through any complex or important information verbally with stakeholders to check for understanding (turn into interactive communication)

Advantages

  • Great for continuous communication and updates
  • Quick to create and automate
  • Creates transparency and alignment (all parties can see what’s said/created)
  • Can be shared with a large audience simultaneously

Disadvantages

  • Can’t tell if receiver understands meaning
  • Doesn’t promote empathy and critical thinking, mutual understanding
  • Not good for communicating urgent or upsetting information
  • Folks might misinterpret message or folks might not read or consume it at all
  • Can limit discussion and interaction

Interactive communication

Interactive communication involves the sharing of information back and forth between sender and receiver in real time. It’s used in cases where an immediate response is required, and in other areas where push and pull communication methods seem insufficient. Interactive communication can be performed virtually or in person.

One of the main benefits of interactive communication is that it allows space for body language or other physical cues (at least if it is delivered in person or via video conference). Interactive communication may also be best when relaying sensitive or serious information as it tends to be more personal.

Interactive communication examples

  • Slack or instant messaging
  • Meetings
  • Phone calls
  • Video or audio calls

Tips

  • Share and live edit a document on-screen during your meeting (multiple formats make better communication for multiple learning styles)
  • Assign a separate person to gather up any red flags or internal discussion points you want to chat about as a team internally after a meeting
  • Make all serious or urgent communication interactive to help manage expectations—it’s not about replacing other forms of communication, it’s about making the best of your push and pull communication strategy

Advantages

  • Great for continuous communication and updates
  • Creates transparency and alignment (all parties can see what’s said/created)
  • Parties can check that recipients understand messages
  • Can be shared with a large audience simultaneously
  • Good for sensitive, serious, or urgent information

Disadvantages

  • Can set an expectation for instant replies or answers
  • Takes time and can be distracting
  • Smaller (more effective) groups leave out important stakeholders
  • Can lead to scope creep (slippage in language that sets a new outcome/request)

Ace interactive communication

Here’s how to gather important information from your teams and create safety during collaborative interactions.

Sharing new information

  1. The sender summarizes the high-level information in under a minute (highlighting the who/what/where/when/why/how) and then turns it over to your captive audience.
  2. The sender gives attendees time to write down questions—time to think about what’s important to them within their own experience and context. It helps uncover questions that they’d miss if others did all the talking.
  3. Each person asks a question as the speaker alternates around the table and sender answers each question. The meeting is done when there are no more questions.
  4. One person documents all answers (question askers should take useful notes for themselves). Notes can also be shared in real time.

Psst: Checking for understanding is a handy active listening qualifier that ties back to teaching in the classroom, but it’s just as useful for you as a project lead to gather that info in a safe and explorative learning environment with your meeting participants so you can check to see what they’ve retained. Otherwise, running a meeting is like reading a book in the dark: pretty forgettable. Here are some helpful ways to check for understanding at work (feel to adapt and modify these to work for your team.

  • “What do you think are the biggest reasons for doing ‘X’ that we talked about today?”
  • “Alright, everyone summarize your next steps now that we’ve finished here.”
  • “Bailey, can you fill Morgan in on some of that context just to catch them up? Morgan, can you help Bailey re: what you know?”
  • “What should we make sure to include before we start?” [then summarize] “Now, to refresh: what did we decide to include? Does this still make sense? Anything to adjust?”

Checking for Understanding: Formative Assessment Techniques for Your Classroom, 2nd Edition

Communicating ongoing information

  1. Decide how frequently to share this information.
  2. Choose the format for sharing communication, and determine who needs to get it; short and simple is best.
  3. Make pathways and spaces for regular feedback (e.g a regular check-in meeting to discuss reports).
  4. Refine the format and approach if it’s not working—different stakeholder need different communication.

Reviewing past information

  1. Determine how to gather up the information you’ll review: is it accurate? How do you know?
  2. Predetermine who needs be involved and when.
  3. Record the session so you can have a good convo and still get the notes transcribed.
  4. Revisit the outcomes you want to improve or change and apply a clear timeline and priority.

Related resources

Illustration of quotes inside a speech bubble

Scripts for tough conversations

Say this when you don’t know what to say.

What the heck is a RACI?

A RACI chart is a damn good way to keep track of the roles and responsibilities related to your projects

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