Managing Difficult Project Delivery Conversations 2

Managing Difficult Project Delivery Conversations

Tom, who is the leader of a large technology solutions company, recently attended a 1-day leadership training workshop to learn more about how to effectively manage and coach teams. One of the aspects he learned was that engaging in difficult conversations is a critical part of a leader’s role. A key takeaway was that you cannot withdraw to get away from the possible conflict and then later re-appear to hold a team member accountable in a domineering way. With this leadership insight, Tom realized that learning to manage difficult conversations is critical to the preservation of relationships. Failing to understand the impact of communication on another person can lead to a relationship breakdown that undermines confidence, discourages employees and potentially destabilizes the business.

4 Primary Communication Style Graph

By nature, Tom is driven to reach goals, very competitive, confident and, in exercising initiative, makes things happen. Tom is currently under pressure as the delivery of a complicated and high-earning technology solution for a bank is running behind schedule. Tom naturally communicates very directly. He gets to the bottom line and is not interested in lengthy explanations or stories.

Josh heads up the project. He is analytical, very specific in his approach to business, won’t be rushed, and reacts when insufficient time is allocated to complete work. He recognizes that the timeline for the project is slipping but believes checking and re-checking ensure the outcome is successful and there will be little need to rework the technical solution for the client. Josh communicates using detail, examples and specifics to support a conversation.

Tom opens the conversation with “can you tell me why is the project slipping?” To which Josh responds, “we need more time, I want to be sure before sign off.” Josh continued outlining every aspect he was checking at which point Tom issued a directive: “sign the project off by close of business today.”

Under pressure, Tom failed to listen to the detail Josh was providing. Josh failed to see that Tom was under pressure and needed headlines, bullet points, and a range of sign-off options Tom could take to the client. The meeting ended acrimoniously.

 Lifestyle Communication DNA Style

Had Tom, as the leader, given Josh his time and attention to listen to the detail of where the project sat, he would have been able to provide Josh with suggestions on issues or priorities to help him effectively achieve a plan for a sign-off. Instead, Josh felt overwhelmed and rather than moving the project forward continued to focus on reviewing each issue/step of the project under the original brief believing that Tom was criticising his work.

The reality of the situation is that both Tom and Josh were operating from their natural behavior and they did not have the awareness to adapt. Then Tom remembered during the recent leadership training he had completed the Communication DNA Discovery Process which identified his direct goal-setting, communication style. He realized that if before the conversation, or even at the start of the project, that Josh had also completed his Communication DNA then the result of the difficult conversation could have been different. He would have seen the benefits of giving Josh space to present his position whilst steering him to the bottom line and thereby a solution. He could have demonstrated to Josh that any risk to the project was minimized and offered Josh assurances that he trusted him. Tom would have uncovered Josh’s natural ability to absorb and analyse information ‘on the run’ and offer strategies to move the project to closure.

An Advisors Greatest Fear

An Advisor’s Greatest Fear

Is compliance your greatest fear or your greatest friend?

Maybe that depends on how you do business.

Take a look at some excerpts from recent articles:

SEC Chairman Mary Jo White last month said she believed her agency also should write fiduciary requirements for brokers, a broader rule that would apply whenever they recommend financial products to clients, not just retirement advice. Ms. White said the agency was only at the beginning stages of a ‘long process’.

The Obama administration is set to propose new rules requiring brokers who recommend retirement-account investments to put their clients’ interests ahead of personal gain, according to people familiar with the matter.

And now for some recent headlines:

Regulators offer best practices for serving seniors.

FINRA looks to streamline communication rules for brokers.

It’s going to be a long process so wouldn’t you rather be ahead of the curve than behind it when it comes to putting the best interests of your clients first?

One of my advisor clients told me that he was done with accepting compliance nightmares as clients, no matter how much money they have. This advisor made a conscious decision to stop using situational risk profiles and adapt an objective system.

Many of my clients envision themselves as big risk takers and will check the box for aggressive in the risk profile. There are many other factors that we discuss with the client to determine the type of portfolio we create for them; and many times that portfolio is more conservative. But when their portfolio produces average returns, they become upset and threaten leaving our firm. Then we need to have the risk tolerance conversation all over again and justify why we are in a less aggressive portfolio, says the advisor.

The advisor made a pro-active decision to use Financial DNA as a condition of doing business with his firm. Yes, it takes a little time and effort to complete, but we don’t work with clients who won’t do it. Now I can clearly see from a client’s report that if their propensity to take chances score is 73% and their risk tolerance is 50%, I will know up front that I will need to manage the emotions of the client during volatile markets. And, I will have a specific strategy that is customized to the client’s unique personality.

Why would an advisor change the way he does business? He knows that 93.6% of the financial planning process is the behavioral management of the client Source: Question of Financial Advisors, Meir Statman, 2000 so he can objectively uncover all the risks associated with a client: financial, investment and personality. And, now he has a documented methodology that supports putting his client’s best interests first.

Don’t wait for legislation to tell you how to manage your client’s emotions. Become a behaviorally smart advisor and help your client’s stay committed to you and their financial plan.

Do you need a financial advisor

Do You Need a Financial Advisor? 5 Questions to Ask Yourself

I have noticed that a lot of people are talking about the increased availability of financial technical resources, robo-advisors and generalizations about Millennials and their preference for using of this information to manage their own money. With all this technology and information at your fingertips, do you need a financial advisor anymore?

I, myself, used to manage my own money. I considered myself a smart person. I was educated in financial theory, financial history and even worked as a research analyst for an investment bank. When I first left financial services, I continued to make my own trades. I had some big wins, but I also had some big losses. In addition to the standard comparison to indices to measure my performance, I did some analysis to try to understand what I did right, but more importantly, I took an honest look at what I did wrong. I realized that despite all of my training and analysis of data (I even started using technical charting to improve the timing of trades,) I still fell victim to behavioral biases.

To help counteract that, I started developing a checklist to consider before I made a trade (this was before I really knew what behavioral biases meant.) However, I still found myself making not-so-good trades. I would hang onto losers because I couldnt bear to admit a loss. Or, I might sell too soon because I was panicked by some piece of news or big market reaction.

I tried using technology to help to trigger buys and sells. I tried using options to help manage risk; yet still, I would sometimes ignore the rules because I thought there was a signal that meant this one wouldnt follow the rules. And then I got busy with life and decided to get some professional help…with my finances, I mean. I am still actively involved in the decisions, but I rely on an advisor to help guide and check me.

So how do you know if you would benefit from an advisor to help you check your behavioral biases? Ask yourself:

  1. Have you done an honest analysis of your portfolio management decisions and results?
  2. Do you tend to be heavily influenced by people or the media that cause you to buy assets at the top of their bubble?
  3. Do you tend to sell assets at the bottom?
  4. Do you understand your real risk tolerance? Do you know how to build a portfolio that matches that risk tolerance? How hard is it for you to accept losses?
  5. Do you understand and have access to all of the investment options available to you? Do you really have time to do all that research on your own?


Managing Difficult Conversation during Performance Appraisal Feedback

Managing Difficult Conversation during Performance Appraisal Feedback

Janet heads up a team of fifteen sales representatives who sell technology solutions in the financial services industry. She is preparing to have a difficult conversation with one of those sales people whose performance has slipped significantly. This will be Janet’s first appraisal with Nicky, a popular, and well-liked member of the sales team. As Janet prepares for the meeting she knows that a foundational premise to the exchange will be to speak candidly. She believes the important first step is to set out all of the issues with a view to having a conversation, finding a resolution and setting out a plan to go forward.

Four Primary Communication Styles Graph

By nature, Janet is driven to reach goals, very competitive, confident and in exercising initiative makes things happen. Janet is currently under pressure as the expected sales levels have not been reached by the team. Nicky is considered to play a key role in delivering sales, but this has not been reflected in the current numbers.

Nicky openly expresses her views; she is engaging and communicates with enthusiasm. Nicky is a ‘glass half full’ person often promising much that doesn’t actually get delivered. She is popular and builds networks with ease.

The most challenging part of the conversation for Janet will be to tie Nicky down to explaining why sales are falling. Janet needs the meeting to accomplish something if only to explain the current downturn. In addition, she wants there to be a specific agreement about what will be done, by whom, and when it will be completed.

As soon as Nicky enters the meeting room she dominates the conversation by passionately recounting an opportunity that she was currently working on. The more Janet tries to pull the conversation back on track the more Nicky regales with stories about what she would be working on and the opportunities in the pipeline. At this point, Janet found herself retreating (in her mind) against this barrage of chatter.

Her intention to obtain mutual understanding with Nicky that something has to be done to improve performance and close the performance gap was fading. Janet’s plan to provide a clear message to Nicky that she wanted her to succeed, and that she was there to assist, fell by the wayside. Janet’s frustration rose to a level where she assertively told Nicky to stop talking and listen. Janet then continued the meeting assuming control. Janet laid out the sales issues firmly and with little consideration to the impact of her now firm voice.

Had Janet, as the leader, known how to re-focus Nicky and keep her on track she would have achieved her desired outcome. Instead, Nicky closed down; her confidence seemed to fade immediately; she had hoped to gain Janet’s approval but instead felt herself becoming emotional.

The reality of the situation is that both Janet and Nicky were operating from their natural zone, and they did not have the awareness to adapt. As the leader Janet realized that the performance appraisal was not going well and that there was a real risk of Nicky’s performance slipping further due to lack of self-confidence. Then Janet recalled that when applying for this current role her executive search consultant asked her to complete the Communication DNA Discovery Process which identified her communication style as being direct. She realized that if before the conversation or even as she was preparing for the performance appraisal meeting Nicky had also completed her Communication DNA then the result of the difficult conversation could have been different. Janet would have seen the benefits of giving Nicky time to be exuberant with her stories and further, understood how to keep her on track so they could have a mutually beneficial exchange.


 Lifestyle Communication DNA Style

  1. Keep to an overview of the strategy and not too much detail
  2. Smile a lot and keep an upbeat, positive tone
  3. Have meetings in a relaxed environment, and allow more time
  4. Let them talk openly but keep on track
  5. Address their lifestyle goals
  6. Provide clean and simple graphics to invoke emotions (fewer words)
  7. Talk about “spending budgets” and returns in a range
  8. Ask what their “gut feeling” is on your recommendations
  9. Make decisions interactively together and provide opinions of others
  10. Recognize them with invitations to social events

With this knowledge Janet would have discovered how to address Nicky’s more exuberant approach, acknowledge her successes, smile a lot and keep an upbeat tone which would have put Nicky at her ease for more difficult and strategic discussion to take place. Janet had wanted them to make decisions together and share opinions on how best to move forward. However, Nicky would have realized that Janet didn’t need long stories but did need meetings to be structured and with meaningful outcomes.

The performance appraisal did not go well. No conclusion was reached. Janet suggested to Nicky that they reconvene at which time Nicky should produce a plan and strategy on how best to increase sales and, in addition, bring any suggestions she might want to include to improve the sales process.