You’ve been hired as a consultant or outsourcer, and for reasons that may or may not be your fault, you start to have delivery issues. In response, you change your status reports, and talk about what you will deliver, and when – but never, ever talk about the true issue because the customer hired you so they wouldn’t have delivery issues! Right? Not really! It’s a common response but can cause major relationship issues. Buck the trend and share what is happening with your customer. It may seem risky, but in my experience, it will enhance your customer relationship. Here’s why…
Your customer likely knows anyway. Whether it’s in a big city or smaller community, networks are becoming more and more effective at sharing information. Unless you are working in a totally remote environment, news of the issues you are having are likely to be readily shared. Not fessing up to the problems only sews doubt in the mind of your customer and overcoming that doubt can be difficult. Being transparent, even though it makes you vulnerable, avoids crippling doubt in the mind of your customer.
It builds trust in the long term. Assuming you work to solve the issues, and update your customer frequently, the degree of trust built through transparency can be substantial. That trust reinforces your ability to push back with your customer, share opinions without the fear of having an ulterior motive, and be perceived as meaning what you say and acting in alignment with your words.
Together, you might come up with a better solution. While your customer has assigned delivery responsibility to you, they may still be able to assist. As a consultant or outsourcer, your job is to support your customer’s business. You aren’t doing so if you allow issues to persist. Your customer may have contacts, or expertise within their business that can help. While asking for help when you have been contracted to perform a job is far from ideal, it is better than failing to deliver, and impacting your client when they could have helped or shared contacts to help avoid difficulties.
It’s high integrity and allows your customer to act with integrity as well. I don’t ever want to be accused of hiding anything from my customer. I choose to take the high road and share if the potential for problems is significant enough. It is certainly uncomfortable, but not as uncomfortable as having to admit to a total failure downstream. In addition, if the problems might also impact your customer’s clients, you want to let them know so their integrity doesn’t come into question in the marketplace.
It takes courage to share your issues, but who would you want working for you – a person who hides things, or a person who has the courage to share what is happening with you, and keep you up to date, and involve you as appropriate, in working through issues? Share, be high integrity, especially when the news is bad, and you will succeed more readily in the long run because people will know you are someone they can trust.