The difference between being a professional and someone who just makes excuses is communicating problems on the project in a timely manner.
– Don Cooper
20 years ago, I had a senior manager. I was a junior manager at the time, and he worked in another part of the country. But we’d have management meetings and he talked about this idea of expertise, and professionalism and transparency. All in the context of operations.
If you’re in the field and a job is going to go poorly, the definition of being an expert or making excuses is about communication.
And what my manager said to me was this:
“If you’re on a project, and you can see that three or four things are going wrong, or will cause the job to escalate in price or cause a delay in schedule, all the things that can happen when you go to execute work in the field – the difference between the expert and the one who makes excuses is the timing on communicating those issues.”
If you see three or four problems on a job or in a business, and you bring them forward with transparency and you communicate them and say, “Mr. Customer, here’s a few things I’m seeing. If we don’t address them, here’s what’s likely going to happen.”
“If we don’t fix the air supply while we’re doing this project, we’re going to have a two day delay in being able to execute because we’re going to have equipment failures.”
“If we don’t get the scaffolding or work permits addressed, or if we can’t get your engineering team to sign off on our engineers packages, we’re going to have a delay in shipping and in manufacturing. That’s going to cause a problem later in the project.”
Now, if you communicate that all upfront in a proactive transparent way, and then it happens, you’re an expert. They might choose not to do anything about it, but you told them about it.
You were transparent. You are now indemnified because you’re the expert and they actually trust you. If you take a different route, and you identify three or four problems while keeping them close to your chest and you don’t tell the customer, then the bad result happens.
Then you go back and use the things that they didn’t do that you knew about and make them responsible.
“Hey, Mr. Customer, yes, we had a bad result. But I saw these things happening and you didn’t fix them. You didn’t change the scaffolding or the work permits or it was your engineering’s fault that they didn’t sign off on the drawings.”
And the bad result happens.
Transparency Over Excuses
You might legally and contractually be correct if you say that to the customer. But all you’re doing really is making excuses. And it takes away from trust and it degrades the relationship. It’s not your expertise that makes the difference. It’s not that you’re an expert or not an expert.
It’s the transparent way in which you communicate it. And transparency is so key for building relationships, that it transcends all things. It transcends family, it transcends your internal business. It transcends how you work with your customers. It even transcends how you how you work with your vendors.
This transparency creates higher levels of trust and collaboration. You see the misalignments and you fix them. This builds long lasting relationships. And I prefer to have long lasting relationships with my clients.
It doesn’t mean we agree on everything. It doesn’t mean there aren’t problems to fix, but transparency brings all of that to the surface so we can resolve it.
You wouldn’t decide to get married or to have a kid for just one year, would you?
So, why do that with clients?