Do You Mean What You Are Saying?

You call someone like me with a nice piece of work. You need a “damn good project manager”, one who can start within ten days and devote six months to the assignment.

My first reaction is: I’ve got quite a few of those.

But experience stops me from simply suggesting one of my best project managers. I ask, “When this person is screamingly successful, what will he or she have done for you?”

You pause a moment to consider the question, then you explain. The more we talk, the more obvious it becomes to both of us that you meant something different than what your initial description suggested. You had in mind a savvy professional who would be looking forward like an airline pilot, making sure your project stayed on course. But most “project managers” look backwards and report what the team did today.

Before you hire a vendor or put a project out to bid, make sure that you fully understand your needs and expectations. Once you do, make these expectations crystal clear to everyone you hire, whether they be an employee or a vendor. This may sound obvious, but countless professionals skip this step and open themselves up to one problem after another.

Here are some clarifying questions you might ask yourself:

  • What exactly do you want this person to do?
  • What is the culture of your organization like, and what kind of people are successful within it?
  • What does “fast” mean in this situation?
  • How will you measure success?
  • What kind of status updates and reports will you be needing?
  • Do you have a detailed list of the project outcomes you are seeking?

Great entrepreneurs and account executives know how to both understand and manage client expectations. But many companies fail to do this well. To make certain you start each new initiative with both clarity and focus, let me offer one more simple example…

I love my gardener. For $50 a week, he mows my lawn and takes away the clippings. I recommended him to a neighbour, who loved the $50 price but called me to report that the gardener was sloppy and irresponsible. Baffled, I asked what went wrong. “He cut my grass but completely ignored my flower gardens.”

My neighbour assumed that a gardener would tend to both the lawn and the garden, and that the quoted price included both. He could have avoided this misunderstanding by simply outlining in advance the work he expected for $50.

Clarity saves both time and money. More importantly, it also builds trust by eliminating most disputes before they ever happen.