Posts Tagged ‘deliver’
This scene appears in a wide range of movies (pick from Brazil, the Fifth Element, Hudsucker Proxy, Secret of My Success or a dozen more).
The scene it shows is of alpha-boss type character walking down a (normally grey and dim) corridor. Running behind them, trying to keep up are 3 to 12 YES MEN – all waving pieces of paper. Whatever the boss wants, whatever the question, whatever the need – the answer is YES. (The photo shown as an illustration is Rudy Rhods ‘yes men’ waiting for Korban Dallas to give an answer from the movie, the Fifth Element).
So what’s the point of this movie scene, and how does it relate to freelancing?
Permies are Afraid to Give Bad News
When you are a permanent employee, the perception is that the boss is asking for confirmation. They are asking for you to confirm their decision, agree with their strategies, underline their thinking. In a nutshell, they are asking you to say Yes. After all, the boss is the person who can grant you pay rises or can turn your working day into a living hell.
But as a Freelancer or Contractor, we are brought in to give expert advice. Sometimes, this means saying No. Sometimes it means giving bad news.
The Art of Giving Bad News
But, there is an art to giving bad news. Even when somebody is paying you to review a system or help make an executive decision, bad news and No is not an answer that they will want to hear. At least, not only bad news.
I have years of experience of delivering bad news to customers and senior managers. For whatever reason, the last 2 or 3 months for me has seen a major increase of review projects, where the news was not going to make the manager a happy person.
So I present my suggested steps for delivering bad news to anyone who is paying you to deliver good news:
- Nobody likes surprises. Before delivering the No or bad news, hint in a side chat that the news may not be so good (but you need some more time to review). Allow them some time to adjust to the idea.
- Be specific on your reasons. Don’t just deliver the bad news – say why you have come to your decision – but don’t go overboard either. One or two strong reasons will be sufficient
- Don’t deliver a problem – nobody likes the bearer of bad news. Give the bad news, but follow up immediately with suggestions to change the situation (“I have reviewed your processes and they don’t work. BUT, we can turn this around by…..”)
- When you make suggestions – give 2 or 3 options, and make a recommendation on which you would select. Don’t go overboard on the number of suggestions, this will just add confusion.
- If possible, deliver the bad news in person, but have a supporting document with the recommendations to leave behind for them to think about.
- Don’t be afraid to charge to make the suggested improvements. If you were being paid for a review, it’s just the review and suggestions you are being paid to deliver. Give them ways out with a price tag.
- Don’t go overboard on the selling of the turn-around options – otherwise it could appear as you are delivering bad news just to up-sell. Sometimes, it is prudent to deliver possible solutions on the basis that “Anybody could make these improvements – but if you would like, I would be happy to quote for them, or you could make the changes yourself”
- If it’s down to an individual in the company, don’t name names or point fingers (unless explicitly asked to do so). Normally, just highlighting the problem allows managers to see the department or person responsible.
- Keep to the facts, and don’t turn into a doom sayer. Using big disaster type words (catastrophe, calamity, cataclysm, disaster, worthless, etc) will just make people throw up defences.
- If it’s your fault (something you have done in the past), admit it. Don’t try to hide the fact or blame others. Offer to make the suggested corrections or improvements at your own cost.