I have spent the last couple of weeks kicking around the idea of putting the company’s Values down on paper – rather than just have them kicking around as a general idea and adding to the list as issues cropped up. (And that is just what I’ve done now – you can find the initial draft of them here – they’ll develop as we learn new things of course…but now back to my point.)
Even before its inception, we at CCO Global have had core values that helped shape the company as it came together – and not based just what our collective capabilities have taught over the past two-plus decades or what we wanted in putting a new company together. But we dug further and used the helpful experiences working with our global clients – as well as learning from some of the complications that have cropped up in the past, and the best methods to help avoid them going forward.
The biggest one that came to mind not only in starting the company – but when it came time to put pen to paper — is the true value of Honesty.
Is honesty the best policy?
The credo of “Honesty is the best policy” has been adapted in our company’s mind set to “Honesty is the only policy.”
Having personally lead numerous Fortune 500 global assignments with a number of consulting companies and global agencies – they seem to thrive off the game of “We’ll tell clients what we think will make them happy now – and hopefully it works itself out later.”
The problems can start as early as during the sales process – or fester and linger late in the development cycle as complications start to crop up with the realisation that the requirements may not be met by the end of the project. From there, the general pattern falls to watching it develop into a rolling catastrophe as deadlines approached — both for the client as well as the internal team tasked to deliver the project – we actively seek to avoid that predicament for the sake of all involved.
If you are seen as a trusted partner in the collective efforts with your clients, it is inevitable that some things may go wrong somewhere down the line. Neither humans, nor machines, are perfect 100% of the time – so the expectation that everything will always go right in every instance only sets one up for either disappointment or failure.
The best course of action is to try to mitigate the problems early – assess the risks and develop potential solutions for quick resolution – asking yourself what can go wrong and why it may go wrong; and if it starts to look like it is going to be problematic, how to correct it in short order.
If things look to be going off the rails, you let the client know early in the process and set out a plan on how, together, you can fix it. The thing that will doom you to impending failure is you actively seek to try and hide the issues and it becomes an on-going “fire drill” / “whack-a-mole game” where you are constantly battling not only to keep the project on time & budget, but dealing with keeping both the client, and your internal team, happy and focused on the end goals as the pressures mount.
I have seen this too many times to recount from the consulting houses and agencies I was brought into help with their clients – and every time I suggested talking to the client about it, I was quickly rebuffed – mostly out of fear of the expected consequences of such a conversation.
Surrounded by “Yes” as the only viable option — and the fallout
I believe the problem stems from the fact that generally people working with clients want to say “Yes” to everything, and never utter the word “No” (or more effective use than either is the phrase “This may be a good way to approach an issue that we have cropping up” and provide both options, and what the expected outcomes of following those paths, will provide at its conclusion.)
People are generally terrified of giving a “No” answer — and believe if they do, they’ll get fired/yelled at/dressed down. When really, if you have a conversation – however difficult – not only can you resolve the issues, but you can emerge from it with a stronger relationship as everyone tosses their cards on the table and you can learn from all the parties involved.
My beliefs lead to this stark thought: The reason a company is retained by its clients – or should be retained – is that they have not only the experience and knowledge to help them solve their immediate problems, but can help provide insight into other areas where the client may have not considered. You are there to lend your wisdom and acumen to not only the project, but the business as a whole – its people, balance sheet, and its aspirations & expectations going forward. To get there, you have to travel the path not of least resistance, but the path of honesty to achieve the best rewards.
To be honest is not easy, but the rewards become apparent as you develop your relationships. So how do you treat the value of Honesty in your workplace – both with your clients and your employees? Do you see the Value of it?