A great tip I picked up from my boss when I worked as a Project Coordinator at a small construction firm in Denver Colorado:

Getting overwhelmed with projects and dead lines?  A simple way to pause an entire project is to simple ask your client a question.

I know this sounds like I just told you how to avoid doing work, but it’s really not.  Here are some reasons why this works well for freeing you up and creating a better end result for everyone:

  • Clarification: Even if the question is small, it might make your client think about something in a different way
  • Relationship building: Start your question off with “I was hoping you could help me out with…”.  People like to feel helpful, and small conversations like this build a stronger relationship.
  • Constant communication:  Stay connected with your client over the course of a longer project.  If you’re working for days/weeks/months without communicating at all with the client, then they’re probably assuming you’re dead anyhow.  Don’t let them forget about your hard work.
  • It shows your working: Even though this is truly to pause the project a little so you can catch up, it shows that you’re actively trying to progress on the project.

How should you ask your question? Don’t ask anything over the phone, because you’ll get a instant reply and there won’t be a ‘paper trail’ later to show a record of communication.  Email the question so they have to see your name over and over in their email box.  Also, if you ask your question via email, they might not respond for a a few days.  This buys you time.

Don’t answer a Yes/No question; start a conversation.    Try to give options and reasons for each option.  This shows that you know what you’re talking about, and just want the best for the client.  This builds the relationship with your client, and also show’s you know your topic extremely well.

My boss might have done this a bit much, but it is a great technique when not over used.  A client would ask  “Where is the Blah Blah Blah report?”  and my boss would calmly respond:

“Did you get my email last week asking you about the specs on the flux handler?”

“Oh…yes…I’m sorry I didn’t get back to you on that…”

“That’s alright let me tell you about some of the differences in…”

Hope that helps you manage your projects better, and build a better relationship with your client in the process!

Post filed under Business.