This week I completed my second cohort of Contract Procurement Officer training for an international utility client. A communication error on the part of the organizer caused a late start. As the day progressed additional requests were made that challenged the established timeline within which the content was to be delivered and the end timeline shortened. Despite a very high favourable rating, the project manager could not find a positive comment in their own feedback and discovery of the day’s engagement.
Challenges: Observed issues that needed to be addressed and communicated to all stakeholders as the day’s events progressed were not made. Initial start time was mis-communicated, request for a compressed 60 into 30-minute working lunch was accommodated and an additional request to close out 2 hours early was made in anticipation of a pending storm.
What happened to the professional exchange we talk about in our best in class practices of engaging with colleagues and associates on the issues of the day? Where was the review of touchpoints that administrative personnel monitor with one another as espoused in our industry white papers? Why was there no constructive feedback, the process we discuss as practitioners in the adult learning community?
We express such virtuous and I say sanctimonious epithets, yet many ‘administrative personnel’, the behaviour is incongruent with their company expressed and written verse. As with any good project manager, closing out the engagement with a constructive conversation on how we, TEAM, can engage the client better next time would benefit all stakeholders and parties to the deliverables, Yes or is that No! Unfortunately, you will find yourself having to work with such ‘partners’ from time to time. What then is your takeaway? Better yet, what process do you have in place that will minimize this one occurrence and permit you to carry on developing constructive engagements and continue to deliver to the expectations of the client? After all, that is the primary concern of any business relationship. You can cry foul or you can have already created new opportunities and move on with your business.
Ah yes, the face of the business reflects the tenets of the leaders. The concern of the client-facing employee whose behaviour among different partners is not consistent must be addressed in real-time. Who then is the client and who is the partner/employee at what point in the delivery cycle of such engagements? Is an individual prime contracting employee permitted to run rough shots over contracted consultants? Do they have the silent arrogance to think they can express in a condescending manner how they communicate with subcontractors and suppliers? Perhaps their insecurity and lack of working with a diverse pool of contractors is a challenge…for them? It is a business, no? Since that is the point, if you fall prey to an individual comment then perhaps you should not be in this space. No, you say, we should have developed the fundamental interpersonal skills to engage one another in a constructive manner at this level of service…Yes?
Creating opportunities that will overshadow these occurrences is perhaps the best response. Knowing how to remind and engage the individual who is ‘getting excited’ is the most appropriate path to take. After all, they should not be a key factor as to future business nor measure how you are perceived in delivering for the current client. They are a unit of a TEAM. The arrogance of incompetence should not be tolerated. We all run across these individuals from time to time. Establishing a scripted response and documenting the day’s occurrence is the appropriate and sane way of deflecting such an encounter.
So what is my motto? Creating meaningful engagements that take into account the fundamentals of the human side of the business. My approach ensures my clients realize the value they paid for and I walk away with an increased awareness of my personal and professional capabilities under specific situations.
For those of us who strive to deliver value for our clients with meaningful engagement and effective communications, I offer this perspective. Address each and every engagement with the highest possible intent and execute with passion. Human engagement is the most difficult of the hard-soft skills as research on interpersonal communication shows and our own experiences validate. Anyone raising a child? The voice behind the conversation (in our heads) must be managed so each subsequent encounter is not filled with inappropriate and in many cases false constructs.