Do you ever have experiences where you work yourself up into a tizzy so much that your internal voice needs to reiterate in a shouty, annoyed tone, “Would you just calm the heck down?!?!” Maybe one of these days I’ll actually listen.
Last week, I had to deliver bad news to a client – we’re working on this giant project and we weren’t going to make a deadline. I was sure she was going to be upset and yell at me. I panicked. I practiced what I was going to say. I felt my pulse race. I took a deep breath and dialed the phone.
Client, I’m really sorry, but we’re working as fast and hard as we can but we won’t have this ready by Monday. I’m pulling people off other projects and putting them on this full-time, but it’s a lot to do and it can only go so fast. I know this isn’t ideal and I really apologize for that.
And what did they say?
I know you’re working hard. Keep chugging along and we’ll touch base next week to see where it’s at.
Where was the yelling? Where was the screaming? Where was the “What do you mean it won’t be done??” That’s what I’d prepared for! That’s what I’d panicked and had my heart racing for!
Color me surprised, to say the least.
I’m a traditional Type A personality that hates to let people down. I aim to please – always have. One of the unfortunate tradeoffs of that is that I hate (hate, hate) delivering bad news. My mind instantly goes to the worst-case scenario of what could happen and I do everything in my power to prepare for that, inevitably to attempt to soften the blow.
But what I’ve found is this:
People – whether they’re your clients, bosses, coworkers, friends, family…whoever – are human too.
Now, I’m not saying that you should go blowing deadlines all the time or continually disappoint people just because they’ll forgive you. But if you’re really trying your hardest and people see the effort you (and in my case, my team) are putting in, they’ll often be understanding when things don’t go as planned. And, being transparent and just picking up the phone (instead of procrastinating in your communication), goes a long way.
Now if I could just remember that in the future, my blood pressure would be a lot better off…