I have been involved in the implementation of many projects. I have learned from experience that if you want to make an impact on any project instantly, make an appointment with the top senior person/ team and spend a lot of time you can have with them at the start of the project.
Use that time well.
Try as much to ask questions and let them speak. Listening is not a sign of weakness. You may be thinking that as a consultant, you should be speaking, sharing insights right away to impress the team with your exposure and skills. Only fools speak before they understand the specific client needs. Many times, such requirements are not written down in the statement of requirements. No doctor speaks a lot immediately a patient walks in. They ask a few questions and let the patient talk. Once they have enough information to know what the cause of the problem could be, they ask for samples (data) to test in the sample and zero down on the problem. In strategy, we call it finding the bullseye – the main cause of the business challenges. Or the strategic problem definition.
Typical questions to ask are:
- What is the end game? What are the specific project outcomes do you intend?
- Why are they not being attained? What are the obstacles in the way?
- Why have they not been solved yet?
- If we solve the challenges, how will you measure progress? To say that the project has been well executed, what indicators or results will you see?
- Who are the other key stakeholders on this project I need to speak to?
- What is the key problem we must consider addressing early?
- What do I need to know for swift execution?
Always go to the top honcho with a pen and notebook. Take notes. Try to rephrase to show focus on the understanding of their message. You gain respect when the other person notices you have understood their point of view.
During project implementation, I usually say, “as guided by the Chief Executive, let’s focus on the xx-target market – what drives the buy decision.” Such a statement makes someone happy, that you have acknowledged their ideas.
The worst thing is to learn an insight or a quote or an idea from someone and then use it later in your work without acknowledging them. It is the fastest way to lose credibility and originality. It is professionally fine to acknowledge and attribute ideas. If you attribute it to your client, it is fantastic!
If you want to win with any leader, do not be afraid to request an appointment to meet them. When you do, let them talk. Always have a list of pre-written questions based on your research and understanding of their business to guide the discussion. Avoid the risk of not listening as you think about the next question to ask. Focus on their message and quickly analyze. Connect the dots and give strategic insight.
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Copyright Mustapha B Mugisa, 2020. All rights reserved.