Consulting Consultants: Hyper-Communication

One of the biggest lessons that I have learned in the past year of consulting is about communication.  Communication with your company (if you work for a consulting firm like me), communication with your team mates, and most importantly communication with your client.  In some cases, communication with all three will work wonders for your reputation.  Here’s the incident that helped teach me this lesson…

The Story

Back in January of this year, I sent an email to my client boss requesting January 23rd off for my birthday.  Since I make it person practice to never work on my birthday (if I can help it), this is something I’ve done for years when I was working at my previous employer.  I received a response to that email telling me that it was “okay” for me to take the off.  Little did I know that 2 days before my birthday something extremely personal would happen in my home.  Since this event was personal, but I also wanted to keep my client informed, in case other events took place regarding that situation, I gave the client boss a quick (skimpy on the details) run down of what was going on.  He asked if I had told my employer about it, I told him I hadn’t but that I planned to.

The next day I took my birthday off (as planned, requested, and approved) and had not had a chance to talk to my employer about the personal matter.  I had figured I had told the client and that was the most important thing.  However, while I was out of the office the vice president of my office and the account executive in charge of the client came in to check on things.  When the account executive didn’t see me, he asked the client where I was.  The client not wanting to divulge personal information that I might not have told them yet said “I’m not sure what he’s told you, but I don’t know exactly where he is” (the fact that the client boss did not discuss the personal issue is strong testament to his character and is much appreciated).

You can see how this is bad.  The client boss had forgotten about it being my birthday and my having asked for it off in light of personal item I had entrusted him with.  Combine that with the fact that I had also made the mistake of not telling the other on-site consultants from my firm that I was taking the day off.  No one knew (or remembered) where I was.

The Lesson

Ouch.  Talk about learning the hard way, right?  Well since I was able to produce the email that showed I had asked the client for the day off and had the “okay” to do so, the issue was quickly aleviated.  But it could have been avoided entirely had I told more people about my whereabouts and schedule.

The message here is, make sure as many people know what your schedule is as possible.  When you ask for a day off, do so in advance.  When you have permission from the client, make sure to send them a reminder the day before, just as a heads up.  Also inform any other on-site consultants and client employees as possible.  Definitely inform those that you are working with directly.  If you work for consulting firm, make sure you shoot off an email to the account exectutive (aka “sales guys”) so they know too.

Hyper-communication doesn’t just revolve around taking days off.  You want to be in constant communication with everyone about what’s going on.  You want the people from your company to know what’s going on at your client.  Especially anything that has a direct affect on you.

The idea here is to actually over communicate.  Don’t do just enough to get by.  And definitely don’t stop when you think you’ve done all you can.  Think and make sure that you are talking to everyone you need to talk to.  Make sure everyone knows where you are at and what (proverbial) page you are on.  The more people that know, the better it is for you in the long term.

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