Where leather hits the carpet

The secret to success on large, diverse projects is large amounts of verbal communication. Email is good, however we will most likely find success in picking up the phone or hitting the carpet with leather and walking around and listening to people. Notice I didn’t say talking to people, or talking-at people. Rather listening to their take.

On some projects, your customer is right there, right next to you, and you are likely to be aligned with them. You speak the same language, you have the same background, similar experiences, sometimes same religion, you even eat at the same restaurants.

Large global projects don’t have that luxury, so we need to forge relationships, build bridges and email is not the place where that will happen.

Personally I call people a lot, and not to tell them anything in particular, rather to let them talk.

Regular phone contact with the key players will be our best tool in building bridges and understanding what is really going on in our Projects.

People are mostly afraid to call someone if they don’t have anything to say. But actually it doesn’t matter what you say, it matters what they want to say to you.

I jump into conversations with tools like.

“Hey Bob,

• It seems like…”
• It feels like…”
• How can we do that?”
• What is the best way?”
• That’s right, I understand…”

For example, if I sent an email;

“Hi Bob, your Training Strategy Document is overdue and we can’t begin planning because of that, why haven’t you finished it yet?”

We can all see how that’s going to go…

What about rather pick up the phone and say;

e.g. “Hey Bob, it’s Andrew, great to talk to you. It seems like you’ve been really flat out lately. We all feel that you’re key to the project and I wanted to understand how I can get more of your time to work on the Training Strategy document. What’s the best way to do that?” and “That’s great, hey, why don’t we have an informal catchup now and then? I can give you the latest updates on the project, you can let me know how it’s going and if you need any help I can work on that with you.”

We are more likely to be successful in getting more of Bob’s time.

It’s very tempting to send emails, because in an email you can write what you want to say, however communication is nothing to do with what you want to say. It has everything to do with what you customer wants to say and our job is to extract it. We then graft our ideas onto theirs.

It’s a complete disappointment in life to understand that no one cares what we have to say, but if you can extract what others want to say, and work with that, anything is possible.

Next time you want to motivate someone, get a status update or simply know what’s going on, pick up the phone and use the three magic words. “How”, “What” and “Understand”.

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