Q: “In my current role, I’m not allowed to speak directly to my customer about the project I’m working on for them. All communication with the customer is managed by a project leader. From the directives and responses we receive back from the customer, it’s clear that they aren’t getting all the necessary details. I’ve pointed that out to the project leader; yet, he just tells me the customer doesn’t need all the details. I’m worried that the final product is not going to meet the customer’s needs and expectations. How can I best get the right info to the customer?”


A:  That is certainly a difficult situation.  You mentioned that you have tried to speak to the project leader and he dismissed you.  I will assume that you have shared your concerns directly with the project lead about the customer not getting what they need.  Anyone in that situation would be frustrated as you are trying to do the right thing, but feel like you are not empowered to do so.

You may want to approach the project lead one more time with some questions about his concern if the customer gets “extra” information.  Perhaps ask him what he is concerned will happen if the additional details are shared with the customer.

It could be that sharing this information somehow feels threatening to the project lead.  If you have an opportunity to understand why there is hesitation, you may be able to get past the objection.  For instance, perhaps the project lead feels embarrassed that the information wasn’t conveyed earlier and feels it will reflect badly on him to share it now.  Perhaps he isn’t quite sure who should get the information or how it should be delivered.  If either of those things are the case, you could help shape a message that would not leave the lead feeling embarrassed.

If that approach with the project lead fails, you may want to look at what your options are for preparing for your concerns to be realized.  How will you respond if the customer is not happy?  Is there anything you can do to have an alternative ready to go or outlined so that you can respond quickly if the customer is disappointed?  It is likely not feasible to do double work and/or guess correctly to fill in the blanks the way the customer would, but what options do you have available to anticipate the worst and prepare a good response for it?

It is certainly a difficult place to be in where you see a potential issue and a way to avert it, but are not able to address it head on.  In those situations, sometimes the best you can do is focus on what is in your control and give that your very best.

What are your thoughts on this topic?  Do you have a question for Ask A Coach?  Submit it in the comments or write to Nikki@RidgelineCoaching.com

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