I had a couple of great coaching calls last week where a common theme was raised. Hence, this message.
When you work on a project or engagement, what is the ultimate goal? The usual and standard mantra is to complete it on time, on budget and at the quality expected. While none of this is bad or wrong, it is certainly lacking. If this is the final outcome you’re working for, you will be disappointed and disheartened on a regular basis. Why?
Because your ultimate goal has to be related to your client; not you, your team or your firm. They are important, but not ultimate. In the end, your client must have their expectations met and they must have a positive experience working with you. Anything less and you have “engagement failure.” Too many of those incidents and you have a very vulnerable client willing to speak to your competition.
So let’s talk about how to avoid engagement failure. This is really difficult for one reason: no one wants to assume responsibility for the failure. It goes like this.
Whenever you are working with others and an engagement fails, it is rarely due to one person. The failure is a sum of everyone’s actions and behaviors. When you review what happened, you look at what everyone else did or didn’t do to cause the failure, ignoring your part. But the reality is that somehow, someway, you contributed because you’re part of the system that produced the failure. But since you are so focused on everyone else, you miss your own failure contribution.
It’s not uncommon for you and your team to blame everything on the client. “They didn’t get back to me. They were so unresponsive that I had to email them a SECOND time to remind them! What they gave me was crap. And they still expected me to meet the deadline. They are just a difficult client who doesn’t appreciate what we do. While the client can be a factor in the engagement failure, your individual behaviors have to account for it. You’re the professionals and should assume the responsibility to make it work. Yes, clients can be challenging, but it’s not an excuse for engagement failure.
This week, catch yourself minimizing, delaying or blaming others for a failed result and commit to doing something different. Ask yourself, “If there was one thing I could have done differently, what would it be?” Then do it next time.