This is a guest post by Gabe Lett, FSMPS, CPSM, LPC
I wonder where Sue is in completing that draft? Does Frank know his quality check is due this afternoon? Does Lynn remember our grant application is due this Friday? If others are having to ask these questions about your responsibilities, you are not communicating process.
Communicating process is about letting others know where you are in the process of delivering requested information or in completing a task. Most never think about communicating process because they do not see the value in it. Yet, when you communicate the process, it lets others know that you are working on what they need and whether you are on target or running behind. This is true for both external clients and internal colleagues.
What Makes Communicating Process a Differentiator?
Because most people do not think to communicate process, when someone does and makes a habit of it, it sets them apart. Think about colleagues in your professional role who are good at letting you know where they are in their process. Put yourself in the client’s shoes. How would you feel as a client if the consultant you hired kept you informed of their process? You would feel important and well-informed. You would feel that there was a partnership in the completion of your project.
This simple habit of communicating process differentiates you from most competitors. Let’s face it — most engineers prefer to be given a task then left alone to get it done. We are oriented toward things and methods rather than people and relationships. So it stands to reason that engineers who learn the habit of caring as much for the client as they do for technical superiority stand out.
Let’s consider a few scenarios to tease out what communicating process looks like.
1. You have a report due to a client in three days. You recognize you will not be able to deliver the report on time. What do you do?
- Option 1: Do nothing and simply deliver the report whenever it is complete, even if it is a few days late.
- Option 2: Call the client now to let them know you are running behind on their report, but you have a plan to complete and deliver it one week late. You will call again if that plan changes.
Option 2 is the best option for communicating process. You have communicated to the client early that their report will be late. You have a plan to complete it, and you’ve shared the new due date when you expect to deliver.
2. You gave an engineering estimate for a project. You receive bids and the lowest bid is 15% over your estimate. What do you do?
- Option 1: Call or meet with your client to describe what has happened and your best answers about why you think the lowest bid was 15% over your estimate. You also share what their best options are for moving forward.
- Option 2: Email the bids to the client with your recommendation regarding which one to award the project to.
Option 1 is the best option for communicating process. You let the client know not only what has happened but why you believe the low bid was so high and the options for moving forward.
In both scenarios, talking to the client frequently and with full disclosure is your best option. It is not always the most comfortable option, but it is best for the client. Leaving a client in the dark and wondering about what is going on is never a good idea. Communicating the process is your best practice for keeping clients engaged and informed, even when the news is bad.
Additionally, communicating process with your colleagues is a good idea. When someone internally is waiting for you to complete a task or deliver information, communicate your process. Keep each other informed on your progress or lack thereof. If someone emails you a request, let them know you received it and what your plan is for delivering.
Again, just like you rise to the top of your clients’ preferred consultant list, you also will enjoy promotions and respect from your colleagues when you communicate process.
About the Author Gabe Lett, FSMPS, CPSM, LPC
Gabe is a people person. Making friends and connecting with people for mutual benefit is what he loves. Being with people and learning about them energizes him. He uses marketing and business development to benefit his employer, his professional network, and his friends. Gabe has served three civil engineering firms, utilizing these traits in people skills to help build the business. He brings several key benefits to employers, clients, and his network. Gabe is a self-starter and likes to initiate new thinking about solving problems. He also loves working in teams and encouraging others to be their best.
We would love to hear any questions you might have or stories you might share on how the communicating process is a powerful differentiator.
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To your success,
Anthony Fasano, PE, LEED AP
Engineering Management Institute
Author of Engineer Your Own Success