Before Things Go Sideways

Things go sideways sometimes, even when you do your very best. Here’s what you can do before that happens.

Don’t Make Promises You Can’t Keep: Your client stakeholders are listening to the commitments you make. They are keeping track, and later they will keep score. If you cannot make the promise your client desperately wants you to make, explain why you can’t make it. Once you make the promise, you own the results.

Name the Dragons: If the initiative you are proposing isn’t going to be easy, explain what problems you are likely to encounter, how bad it will be, and how you will, eventually, find success. No one likes to be surprised with bad news.

Prepare for the Roughest of Starts: I can’t even recall how many times I have bombed right out of the gate. It never fails that the bigger the opportunity, the rougher the start. If you count on having major challenges you can prepare your team, logistically and emotionally, to deal with the challenges. If it’s likely to take you three tries to get it right, tell your client that from that from go.

Manage the Outcomes: You don’t own the transactions that produce the outcomes you sell. But you do need to make sure the transactional stuff is progressing. You need to touch base with your team to ensure your initiative is on track. There is no reason you should be surprised and learn about your failure at the exact same moment your client does.

And After

Apologize: When things go sideways, apologize. Dom’t pass the buck. Don’t try to sweep things under the carpet. Start with a sincere apology.

You Own It: When there is a problem or challenge in getting the results that you promised, you own them. You are accountable for the result that you promised and sold. You might have to modify your original plan to get that result. You might have to make dramatic changes. But you were hired to produce the result; you are going to have to be resourceful.


What do you when you know things are likely to go sideways?

How do you prepare your clients for the challenges you will face together?

How do you prepare your team for what might go wrong on a high profile project?

What is your game plan when things go sideways?

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