Hi again. Ready to get back into it? Let's go. Time estimation, effort estimation, and capacity planning are all helpful techniques for creating your project schedule. At the center of all this planning is your team. Throughout the schedule-planning process, you're working with teammates to gather estimates, and you're taking into account each person's capacity when building the project schedule. It makes sense to involve your teammates at this stage. After all, the person assigned to the given task is likely to have the best sense of how long it will take to complete that task. They'll also have the best sense of their own capacity for taking on the work. But these conversations are a two-way discussion, and you'll need to tap into your soft skills to get the most accurate estimate from your team. Soft skills are personal characteristics that help people work effectively with others. These include crucial communication and interpersonal skills we've discussed over the course of this program. Soft skills can be important when trying to understand what might be blocking someone's ability to do their best work. Let's go over three ways to use soft skills and gather accurate estimates from your teammates. These are asking the right questions, negotiating effectively, and practicing empathy. Let's start with asking the right questions. Think of conversations around the time estimation as a kind of interview. You're connecting with your teammates to learn more about how they work on specific tasks, and you'll use this information to build your schedule. To aim to get the most relevant information from these conversations, you'll want to be certain that you're asking effective, open-ended questions that lead to the answers you're seeking. An open-ended question is a question that cannot be answered with a yes or a no. The answer provides the relevant details of what you need to know. Let's imagine this in the context of your project at Office Green. You've discussed the design of the new website with your web designer, and you'd like to know how long it will take them to mock up designs for your review. Now let's say you start the conversation by asking a question like, can you complete the mock-ups in one week? This is a closed-ended question and might elicit a simple yes or no answer, which doesn't tell you much about the task of designing a website or about your teammate's working style. Now, imagine if you had started this conversation with an open-ended question. For example, you might ask the web designer something like, how long does it typically take you to mock up a website design like this one? This is an open-ended question and is more likely to elicit a more detailed response. From there, you can ask follow up questions like, how complex are the steps to complete this task? What are the risks associated with this task? And, when do you think you can have this ready? By asking your teammates effective, open-ended questions about their assigned tasks, you can learn more about how they work and what they do. As you have more of these conversations, you will develop a better sense of your teammates roles and their tasks, and you will be able to rely less on your team to make accurate estimates. Another way to use soft skills to gather estimates from teammates is to negotiate effectively. Part of your job as the project manager is to bridge the gap between high-level goals of the project and the day-to-day perspective of your team. While your project might be your number one priority, it's possible that people on your project team have competing priorities on other teams to keep track of, as well. Negotiating effectively can help you influence a team member to make your project their priority, by collaborating to find an outcome that works for everyone. For example, let's imagine that the website designer estimates it will take them two weeks to mock up the website design for review. But perhaps you were hoping that the estimate might be closer to one week. To arrive at an estimate that works for both you and the designer, you might gently challenge the estimate by asking follow-up questions. Perhaps you'd ask if their estimate includes mocking up designs for multiple pages. If so, you might ask if the designer is able to share one or two pages with you sooner than their proposed deadline. By asking questions, you can determine if their estimate is flexible, or if you need to bring in an additional designer to support the schedule. By negotiating effectively with your teammates, you can create a sense of shared ownership over the project outcomes and create a schedule that aligns with everyone's workload. Now let's discuss the value of practicing empathy. Empathy refers to a person's ability to relate to the thoughts and feelings of others. Practicing empathy at work can be a very effective way to build trust with your team. Your teammates are humans, and each person can only do so much. When you're discussing estimates with the team, you might practice empathy by asking each person about their workload, including work outside of your project and the overall work-life balance. You might also ask if they've scheduled vacation or leave during the duration of the project, or if there are crucial holidays in which they won't be working. This can help you avoid assigning tasks when teammates are unable to complete them on time. For example, the web designer might tell you that they're also designing a website for another team at Office Green, and that the timeline for both projects overlap. So, to avoid overloading your designer with work, you might work with the other project manager to balance workloads across the teams. People like to feel their work is valued, so part of empathy is remembering to always be appreciative of the work, collaboration, and support that you're getting from the team. So, to recap, asking the right questions, negotiating effectively, and practicing empathy can help you get viable, accurate estimates from your teammates about project tasks. Coming up, we will discuss putting these estimates to good use in the project plan.