Traffic Light Communication Tool


Communication – at times – can be as simple as a traffic light.

Think of the number of times you have asked a colleague, an employee, a coworker, a family member — “How’s everything coming along?” “What’s the status of things?” “Are we still on target?”

First, let’s start with the fact those are very vague questions even if it pertains to a specific project, task, or decision that involves you and the people or person you’ve queried.

Typical answers;

  • “Everything’s fine.”
  • “Moving along nicely.”
  • “I’m comfortable with the progress.”
  • “Still trying to get a handle on it.”
  • “Run into a few obstacles.”
  • “Could use a little bit more time.”
  • “No problem.”

Think about it. It’s unlikely that you were any better informed than before you asked the question. Why?

Be more specific.

When you ask specific questions looking for specific information the answers can dramatically improve. That is, of course, if the listener was paying attention and heard the question. Even then it wouldn’t be unusual for you to receive answers similar to those on the preceding list.

I was introduced to the traffic light formula by a biopharma project manager who uses the formula to keep up-to-date on several different projects under his management. The formula I’m about to share with you is commonly used by project managers.

The formula can work as well at all levels and means of communication.

Using the traffic light communication tool.

The three different colored lights on the traffic light become the metaphors for very specific answers on the condition of a project. The metaphors are common knowledge and agreed to by everyone on a project – including the executives.

  • The green light means everything is on schedule on target and on budget.
  • The yellow light means there are issues being addressed to get back on target.
  • The red light means the project is not going well at all and is in danger of failing.

Those traffic light answers effectively lead to specific next questions to be asked and answered. Stay better informed with less stress with your own traffic light communication solution.

Blumsack Brown BackgroundAs a coach, trainer and consultant, Larry Blumsack partners with people and organizations on the move and those already there to accelerate their communication, presentation and speaking skills to be on par with their ambition. Through one-on-one coaching and group training Larry helps leaders and aspiring leaders elevate their presence and communication skills to influence more people, sell more products-services-ideas and inspire others more successfully than they ever imagined.

Larry is the bestselling author of Face-to-Face is The Ultimate Social Media and founder of Zoka Institute and Zoka Training®. Zoka Training® — Mind/Voice/Body/Mindfulness in sync — is the result of Larry’s 45 years as a coach, acting teacher, actor, voice-over artist, theater and TV director/producer, radio & TV commentator and show host, speaker, trainer, serial entrepreneur, and syndicated columnist. Larry was a founding member of the theater department at Northeastern University.

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