Q: I’m part of a team on a major, highly visible project. We have clear roles but are all associated with the outcomes (for better or worse). Unfortunately, the person who has the role of creating the deliverable for executives and other internal audiences is not good at it but is very attached to his role. How do I help improve quality without causing offense?
Antonia, marketing director
A: Find a way to get everyone’s attention refocused on the needs of the project while playing to each person’s strengths.
First of all, though, be sure there really is a problem. Since you’re in a role that focuses very much on messaging and the look and feel of communications, it’s natural that you’ve got high standards on the deliverable.
The question is whether those standards are truly applicable here. Taking a step back, assess the deliverables on whether the content is clear and easy to understand. If it passes that test, then assess whether it is convincing in terms of building support and/or driving to a desired decision.
Those are the most important qualities; however, we’ve probably all seen PowerPoint decks with a distracting level of typos and format problems. This, too, can detract from the power of your collective message.
So, what can you do?
I’m wondering, for one thing, how roles and responsibilities were assigned. If each person just grabbed what they’d like to do, this is probably not the only poor assignment. Even if the project is midstream, having a check-in to reassign and adjust may be useful. Enlist support from the project lead on this, especially if he or she shares your concerns.
Then consider this particular person and what his strengths are. If, for example, he is a talented analyst, make sure that those tasks are assigned to him — along with a high level of recognition for those contributions.
Look at his motivation. If he wants to control the message, taking control of the deliverables is a logical step. In that case, it’s important to be sure that the message also represents the will of the entire group. Develop a process where he can have the right level of message input, while convincing him that it’s better to let someone else do the hands-on work of depicting the message.
A need for recognition may also play into his desire to create deliverables. Does this also go with the role of being the “front of the room” spokesperson for the project? If he likes that visibility and is effective, those two roles could be separated so that someone better at creating the story documents can do the prep.
You might also be able to tactfully offer some training. For example, sit down with him and talk through the ways the material could be strengthened, providing coaching rather than trying to pry it away.
The bottom line is that if the team as a whole is dissatisfied with the deliverables or if they are doing the project a disservice, someone — the project manager, executive sponsor or some other person in authority — needs to step up and enforce clear expectations. Projects have failed over less.
What challenges do you face at work? Send your questions to Liz Reyer, leadership coach and president of Reyer Coaching & Consulting in Eagan. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.