Handling difficult conversations
November 27, 2011 | In: Project management
Project management can sometimes be a truly rewarding job but you must at all times be prepared for having difficult conversations with your clients. Like for instance when your customer is not satisfied with your deliverables. And he wants to share that feeling with you.
What to do when ushered into an empty office like a cow waiting for the slaughter..
- Shut up – Your client has a problem and wants to share that with you. He is not interested in anything else but his problem. Don’t try to change the subject, don’t try to shift the focus to something else. Just be quiet and let the customer unburden his chest. Even if there is something more important to talk about that moment, don’t try to raise that subject. As long as your customer is bothered with his particular problem, he won’t have the capacity to deal exclusively with your subject.
- Listen actively and show empathy – Show your customer that you care and that you’re truly interested in his problem. Listen actively, ask questions, tease out all the information you can get.
- Try walking in his shoes – Although some might not agree, it’s a reasonable premise to say that your customer is a rational person. If he says he has a problem, and you can’t see it, don’t dismiss the possibility that the problem really exists. Try to see the situation from his point of view. Depeche Mode got it right…try walking in his shoes and you’ll understand what the problem is.
- Never say to your customer that he is wrong – If you still believe that your customer is wrong, don’t blunder it out loud. Even if he knows he is wrong, he will rarely admit it, it’s in human nature. Pride will kick in. Don’t forget that your conversation needs to end up with an agreement and it’s difficult to reach a favorable agreement with somebody whose pride is at stake.
- If you’re wrong, admit it – Be different than others. If you’re wrong, admit it openly. This always numbs further attacks. You can’t argue with somebody who shares your opinion. And if there’s no argument, a space opens for constructive thinking.
Leaving the office you are thrilled that you have survived yet another difficult conversation. Now what?
- Devise a plan – You survived this time but if you don’t do something about it you may not be that lucky next time. It’s time to devise a plan to resolve the problem. Based on the agreement with the customer, devise a concrete plan, share it with the customer and execute it.
- Follow up – don’t forget that the problem is a big deal to your customer. Keep him in the loop with the plan progress. It will make you look responsible and professional.