~ By Brad Egeland
Are you a glass half empty or glass half full type of person? Do you consider yourself to be a good reader of character of those individuals you interact with? Are you good at reading situations and anticipating a likely outcome?
I always think I am good at all of those things, but I've learned some hard lessons by not taking in all the information possible or by reading my own thoughts and interpretations into the information I am sometimes given. My wife has pointed this out on several occasions and she has always been right. She, in fact, IS very good at correctly seeing a situation for what it is and pretty good at predicting a likely outcome. That's why I run professional situations by her from time to time when she seems to have some interest and time to deal with it.
I'm bringing this up because I've learned that it is usually not in my best interest - or my client's - for me to perform too much interpretation of information and situations before passing info on to my project client. It is usually best for me to give my client the full picture - the real picture and full disclosure of information - and discuss it with them. By doing so you are never at risk of causing them to misinterpret and respond inappropriately because you may have just given them what you 'thought' was right or 'thought' they needed to hear. Often we just need to let them see the full picture and make decisions accordingly. Being the PM or main consultant doesn't mean we need to take away their ability to absorb all information possible about a given situation. That may cause them to act in such away that would actually be unfavourable for their business or the project we are managing for them.
With all of this said, it's ok to 'help' your client with your interpretation of the information at hand…based on your experience. But explain it as such. We just had our own non-PM related incident in our personal lives where a realtor we had been working with on a property we were very interested in indicated that the buyers who jumped in ahead of us on a short sale purchase had lost interest and now that the bank had come back with a counter-offer, it was ours to act on. As we got excited and prepared our offer and made tentative moving plans, she called back the next day and apologised that she had made an incorrect assumption. The original buyers were only hesitant, not disinterested, and had now accepted the banks counter-offer and were moving forward. It left us frustrated and somewhat upset that we had wasted a couple of days of our lives planning for something that wasn’t ours to plan for. We were out any money, but it was still upsetting. Now, transpose that into a project scenario where you may have caused a project client to act on this type of information and some serious time and money may have been 'lost' in the process.
I think most of us can see where you could easily lose a project and a customer over simply presenting our own interpretation of the situation rather than the entire picture. It's ok to help, but make sure that the client understands that you are only giving them some of your own 'best guess' information based on what you know. Then let them decide how to act, react, and plan accordingly.