I recently took over the team lead position at my current project, as the existing person was being rotated to another project. In terms of the client, the interaction with them has never been the best. Personally, I think that personalities between the client and the the previous team lead clashed a lot, which caused a break down in trust, and therefore their relationship, over time. The reason I'm telling you this is that we have a deadline in a few months time that is not achievable. No matter how much the previous team lead told the client that it wasn't possible, they just didn't listen.
Just Trust Me!
While I was getting a hand over from the previous lead, I went to a few of the meetings where I saw first hand the discussions around the deadline and how the client didn't really believe them. This really irritated the old team lead.
From an outsiders perspective, I too could see that the deadline was not achievable. However, there was no trust between the client and team lead, so putting myself in the clients shoes, I could see how they just shrugged it off.
Show Me The Facts
When I took over the team completely, one of my first tasks that I wanted to get done was to convince the client about the unachievable deadline. From the first interactions with the client I wanted to build trust between the them. Without trust, I knew that would not be able to achieve anything and probably land up in the same situation as the previous lead.
So in order to build trust, what I decided to do was create an Excel spreadsheet which showed the effective capacity of the team members. This took into account leave, other commitments that the team had, support queries etc. When I presented this to the client, they could see the hard facts right in front of their eyes. By doing this I was showing the client the evidence instead of just telling them. The proof was right there in front of them. However, what surprised me the most out the whole conversation was how open the client was as to what we could be done in order to make the goal achievable.
Empower The Client
A while after I was thinking about the situation above, I realized that if the client was to tell the CEO etc of the company that they project wouldn't meet it's deadline, or that we needed to adjust some things in order to achieve it, they would ask the question why?Up until now, the client just had "words" to present and couldn't show them anything concrete. Heck, if I was a CEO in that situation, I would want to know the reasons why.
By providing the client with the information above, they could go back to the exec's and show they why we weren't going to make it. Essentially, I empowered him to explain the situation to his exec's.
Looking back at the whole situation, I can see how the information I provided help show the client the facts, and in doing so built a tiny slither of trust with them. Over time this trust will build and it will reach the point where you have built up enough that they will no longer require you to prove things to you...they'll just trust you.
Until next time...keep learning!