When things aren’t going quite as planned with your assignment or project, it may be easier to try to hide. However, it’s best to face up to the situation and communicate when things are going off course. People want to be treated like adults, no matter what the situation.
Sometimes, despite how well we plan, things don’t go as we’d like them to. With that in mind, here are five ways you can be open and transparent in your communication to limit surprises.
1. One of my favorite mottos is “under-promise and over-deliver.”
Be upfront at the start of any joint endeavor and share what you believe is possible based on the information you have. Be realistic, plan backward, and build in extra time for the potential unknowns.
2. Provide ongoing updates to eliminate any surprises.
Communicate often and in a consistent manner when working with others. Share what’s going well and highlight areas of potential concern. Awareness is crucial in gaining buy-in and support.
3. When you know the initial plan is no longer viable, think through what is and offer recommendations on what is possible.
For example, you can share, “I know that you wanted this; however, based on your timelines, it’s not going to be available. Instead, I can do X or Y, or if you’re open to it, we can wait and update the timeline for when the goods are available.”
4. Be open to how others will respond.
What was critical when you started the project may no longer be essential. Be open to the feedback to your recommendations and be willing to flex if the other party has a preferred approach and plan.
5. Learn how to say no when needed.
Connecting back to point 1, instead of going round-and-round, learn how to say no when needed. Be frank and upfront about what is plausible and not. You can soften your message by delivering it in person or via phone. Emphasize that the last thing you want to do is make this call. Explain how many ways you tried and state what isn’t possible.
The size or scope of your project doesn’t matter. In general, people do not like surprises when things don’t measure up to their expectations. Get in the habit of communicating often, openly, and honestly. Don’t sugarcoat or push under the rug where you may need guidance or help. Involve stakeholders who are vested in the result early on so they are aware of the risks and can help you mitigate them or change direction.