Episode: 215 |
Will Bachman:
What Have Your Heard?:


Will Bachman

What Have Your Heard?

Show Notes

What should you say when you are meeting for the first time with an individual at a client you are already serving?

Here’s the approach I’ve used the past few years:

“I’d be happy to provide context on the project, but I don’t want to go over material you are already familiar with. What have you already heard about this effort?”

In this episode, I explain why I use that question.

One weekly email with bonus materials and summaries of each new episode:

Will Bachman 00:01
What should you say when you are meeting for the first time with an individual at a client you’re already serving, or you have a project in progress. Maybe you’re meeting with a senior executive in another division who you’re interviewing. Maybe it’s a frontline supervisor, whom you’ll be observing for the day, whatever their seniority, what should you say? Here’s what I would do. For the longest time, I’d introduce myself, and then I’d provide an explanation of the project. My background is blah, blah, blah, and McKinsey, blah, blah, blah, we’ve been brought in by so and so we’re working on this issue, or goals, XYZ, here’s what we’ve done. So far, we’ve talked to these colleagues of yours, etc, etc. That seems polite, after all, to provide some context, so the person knows why they’re talking to you. But the approach has a few drawbacks. One drawback is it’s boring to listen to, if you’re meeting that person on the phone, chances are good that before the end of your first sentence, they are checking their email. Another drawback is the first impression that you’re making in this new relationship is that you’re a consultant who talks at the client, instead of listening to them. It’s not as David A. Fields would say, it’s not right side up thinking. Another drawback is you’re missing a beautiful opportunity to gain some powerful insights. So here is a different approach, one I adopted just a couple years ago. Now, when I am meeting with someone at a client that I’m serving, and I’m meeting this person, for the first time, I say, hey, I’d be happy to provide some context on the project. But I don’t want to go over material that you’re already familiar with. What have you already heard about this effort? That question has several advantages. First, it immediately gives the other person the chance to speak, giving them more ownership of the conversation with the meta message that you will be taking their point of view into account throughout your relationship with them. Second, the answer no matter what it is, we’ll provide some useful insights. Let me give some examples. The person may say, I haven’t heard anything about it, please give me some context. That’s interesting to know that people are not discussing your effort. The person may say, I haven’t heard anything about it, but no need to go into the details. What do you need from me? that lets you know, you’re dealing with a non curious person who just isn’t that interested in the big picture? The person may say, oh, I’ve heard you’re working on and then go on to give a accurate and detailed summary of your mandate in their words. And that’s interesting to know that someone has done a good job of communicating the message. And it’s useful to hear the vocabulary that is used to describe the project internally. The person may say, Well, I’ve heard about the project, but I’d love to hear about it in your words. That response suggests you’re dealing with a sophisticated player who’s engaged and truly curious about the work, someone who has a confidence that they don’t need to show off what they know. The person may say, Oh, I hear you about you’re here to eliminate jobs. If you actually have some other objective other than eliminating jobs. That statement lets you know that the rumor mill is working, and you’d want to speak with your key point of contact discuss an internal communication strategy to get the correct word distributed. So no matter what answer you get, it’s a useful question. What have you already heard about this effort? That’s it for this short episode of Unleashed the show that explores how to thrive as an independent professional. Unleashed is produced by Umbrex, the first global community, connecting top tier independent management consultants with one another, and I’m your host Will Bachman. Every week I send out an email with summaries of each Unleashed episode, transcripts of each episode and often some bonus material. If you’d like to get that weekly email, send me a note at unleashed@umbrex.com Thanks for listening

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