In a recent project management engagement, I had a customer send me this note:
Thank you for translating “IT” for me. I appreciate your business perspective and the transparency you provide on the project. We are lucky to have you at ********! Thanks! (Senior VP of Sales & Marketing)
I don’t post this to brag… well, maybe just a little. But my objective here is just as I’ve said before… ‘Speak your customer's language’ whether you're project management or in any other discipline.
Make sure that your customer knows what the heck is going on. Make sure that you break down all the technical jargon into terms they can relate to.
Understand and know your customer
Understand and know their point of view
Understand and know those things that they get impatient about
Understand their moods, likes, and dislikes
And most of all…
UNDERSTAND WHAT THEY DO NOT SAY. Their facial expressions and body language will reveal tons!
Ok, so let’s say you work remotely. How do you do this?
By taking the time in the beginning and periodically to give ‘face time.’ And I’m not talking about the app on your phone. I mean, real life, breathing, communicating, sitting down and talking, time.
There is nothing more valuable than the ‘old fashioned’ face to face. It doesn’t have to be every day and it doesn’t have to be for a long duration. I like to do what I call drive-by’s. These are quick drop-in’s to say hi, check in, give a quick status, tell about an accomplishment, or just ask about their weekend.
And YES, you can do this at any level.
You have to build that relationship. Your projects and work life is all about building relationships and nurturing them as well as your personal brand. (Side note: I read a post a few weeks back where someone went into great detail about how they HATE talking to people and hated using the phone in their business. Huh? Help me to understand.
Is this generational? How do you connect with people on a personal level? How well do you 'business'? More on that another time.)
My note made me smile.
It made me smile because I am working on a very technical initiative. One in which you can get lost in the details. But I try to always bring the conversation up a level and put it into plain English as much as possible.
I also make it a point to be very transparent; as transparent as possible. No, every minute detail about the normal ins and outs of managing my team and their work is not shared.
But when there is a potential for an issue, I state that. And when there is definitely an issue, I don’t sugarcoat it. I always present possible solutions or the fact that we’re working on options and/or possible alternatives. I don’t yell that the sky is falling and walk away. I talk through it, make sure they understand, and listen to their concerns.
After all, the customer is the customer. They need to know what you’re doing or going to do to get them the results they are anticipating.