You scoped the work. You delivered on your commitments. You exceeded expectations when you look at what you had originally set out to do. Every “i” dotted, every “t” crossed. Attaboy.
Your Customer’s needs are still unsatisfied.
How did this happen? You busted your tail. You really, really hit the issues hard to try and get a good read on the needs. And damnit, you delivered. This should have been a fantastic addition to your portfolio.
Why did your customer (or manager, or who ever should have benefited from your work) just give you the “Uh, ok, thanks.” Insult to injury – getting a “Oh yeah, nice job” as you drag your tail out the door.
Odds are good that we’ve been misled by the obvious. We saw the issues presented, we heard the complaints, but maybe we didn’t do a good job ferreting out the issue behind the issues. Lazy bugger.
I’m guilty. A painful admission. I was thinking on my portfolio, and the useful feedback I should have gotten a few pieces had I solicited it on a deliverable by deliverable basis. In all fairness, it well could have been:
- Toby did what I asked. He missed the opportunity to dazzle because he was eager to solve the problem he was given.
- Toby delivered on time and on budget. I think he could have reframed the issues, and moved us further forward.
- Toby is a smart-ass and likes to use big words. I don’t know what he said, but was almost too embarassed to ask him to explain his findings (true story, this one). He may have been very precise in his use of industry terms and language, but the message got lost in the delivery.
I hope you’re not nodding your head. Shame on you (especially if it the “big words” – bad habit). The thing that strikes me with the list above is that each is an example of where I was *drifting from being client focused, and became deliverable focused*. So while I get might get credit for exhibiting “discipline” on the career risk management rules, I totally blew the deal by not taking the risks I was capable of, and not effectively communicating.
Do you want to differentiate yourself? Do you want to be viewed as the asset you aspire to be, and not simply the title you carry in your current role? Try these familiar little tricks:
Hold your tongue and Listen. What might have sounded straight forward could have just been a few questions away from your next biggest, greatest challenge, but in your eagerness, you let it slip away. Remember, we work with people (not all of which realize they are fallible too), and can all use a bit of sounding board from time to time.
Help your client dig around in their needs to hit the issue and not just the obvious symptom. Obviously not in every setting (can you just make the damn copies already?), but when you are thinking about work that moves a company – and hopefully your career – forward, be sure you are really hitting the nerve ending squarely. Think about your customers’ context and visibility to the issue, and apply your observations of the situation to consider unseen cause-and-effect relationships at play.
Be open to refinement (gasp! – changes) as the work progresses. Some things are really so simple as getting it done on time and on budget (I can’t think of any off hand, but I’m sure they are out there). Understanding that changes happen as time elapses and details are revealed, be on the lookout for refinements that will render a higher quality outcome than was originally envisions. Seek to be a dazzler.
Shining stars listen, they challenge, they adapt. It’s not easy to be one in a million, but I think it’s worth it to keep trying.
Too soft-side for you? Too much push back when you (as a customer) just want the work completed? I’d love to hear your thoughts.