Communication Salvation

October 14th, 2014:

Having nightmares while you sleep or even when you day dream?  Fighting fears of people clawing at you for information?  Feeling like you fell in shark infested waters … at night … while the cruise ship you were just on floats off into the distance blaring conga line music?  Now think about your project deliverables.  Does it bring on similar anxieties?  While difficult circumstances are part of life the key to ridding yourself of these stresses is communication.  This is the key that will open the door to your success or leave you wading in the cold water with dorsal fins circling in. 

So how does it start? For many of us we’re at work and we get assigned a new project.  As you start going through the deliverables and information provided, you generate emails of things you need assistance/clarification on.  You send off the first round of inquiries hoping for clear answers.  For whatever the reason; client is too busy, people are on vacation, factory is on a shutdown, or the vendors are not responding, the bottom line is you’re not getting solutions.  According to your Gantt chart, the deliverables will slip of course without these solutions.  The timeline for the project is SET and the client wants results, not excuses.  Why else would they come to your company?  Why else would your company choose you for this project? How are you going to make progress? Keep your wits about yourself for all is not lost.  In times like these communication and the way to productively communicate reigns supreme.

1. Who you’re communicating with.

First start with what you can control, you.  Get a clear understanding of the issues and admit to yourself if you need help.  If any of the concerns before you are confusing or hard to understand, how could you possibly be expected to convey those terms in a clear manner to someone else?  Only bad things happen when a person goes at a problem alone that they don’t completely comprehend.   Keep in mind strength IS admitting weakness.  You’ll save precious time and money if you apply that rule sooner rather than later.  Seek advice from senior members and/or experts within your company.  Majority of the time they have experienced the very same problem before or can reference something similar to it.  If your issues are risky enough to cause major problems in the project, contingency plans will be required.  Fully comprehend the issue, identify it completely so you fully understand it, and then create a plan you feel confident you can execute on.

Now onto the client.  Once a project is established assign a day and time of the week you can meet with your client. This can be once a week or more depending on the project.  To assure your meeting is meaningful invite key decision makers and stress the importance of these people to be there.  You do not want to spend time and money on a path assigned to you by the client’s junior member and find you’ve been given a different order from what senior members truly requested.  Be honest and concise in laying out the issues at hand and your plan to resolve each of them.  If assistance is required beyond your company’s capabilities be sure to advise the client of this and wait to verify approval.  The client should leave a meeting feeling confident you have a firm grip of the project and they will be thankful to know about issues ahead of time before they become a huge problem.  

2. Type of communication. 

There are so many ways to get in touch with someone but sometimes the method may not fit the situation.  It seems obvious smart phones are a blessing and curse, but if given a choice between texts, email, a phone call or in person meetings, my preference will always be in person with the client.  Reports and concerns can be relayed and explained with better clarity whereas other methods run the risk of being read out of context, misinterpreted or intentions misunderstood.  While these other mediums have their place make sure you choose wisely and you’re using the communication that will give you the most useful information for your interaction. Always try to limit confusion.

While there are many ways to try to refine your communication these are some of the main points that have helped me and my teams. Always remember you’re not on the metaphorical company ship alone.  There are other people there to help guide you and bounce ideas off of.  Most importantly having a firm understanding of the project, with all of its goals and especially its concerns, it will help convince your client that your company has what it take to get the job done, on time, on budget, and as efficiently as possible. Also, don’t forget to enjoy the moment and dance in the conga line from time to time especially for team victories.

- Sean Albert, President, Goddard Inc.