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They Don’t Need Your Honesty

August 24, 2017

I lied to my team today. Well, maybe not an actual lie, but certainly I indulged in a little wishful thinking. I’m a project leader. That means that I’m not responsible for the day to day workings of my project. That’s the responsibility of the project manager. Instead, I’m responsible for the overall project success.

We have a client imposed deadline coming up next month for our new location. We were planning to be all the way ready for them to do their testing on October 1. Instead the client announced they wanted to test network connectivity on September 15. The way network connectivity works, you cannot set it up for just one person. You pretty much have to set it up for the entire site. So, we have to have it ready two weeks early.

Can we do it?

That’s actually a question we cannot answer with certainty until September 16. We will either make it or we won’t. But, how we approach the next 3 weeks will have a large impact on our prospects for success.

This client is famous for imposing nearly impossible deadlines on us. And every time we’ve met the challenge. I was project manager for many of those projects. I’m finding it challenging to be the project leader and let my project manager run the project.

Rodney, our schedule isn’t set up to do network testing on September 15.

I know. But, is it possible to be ready?

Maybe, but only if we put other stuff on hold. Tell me again, why the 15th is so important?

Because the client set that date. Travel schedules are going to be crazy and September 15 is the only day before we launch.

Yeah, well, I’m gonna put it down as a risk and escalate that to my management.

Sure. Let’s just make sure we are driving toward the 15th if at all possible.

There are two approaches when you have a team and you are given an impossible task. First, is to make sure your team knows that the goal is unlikely. Let them know that it puts the project schedule at risk. Tell them the truth. Tell them, that the odds are we won’t be able to make the aggressive schedule.

The second approach is to lie to them. “It is going to be SO awesome when we bring this in on their insane schedule!” Sure, you have to do the normal project management tasks. You need to manage your schedule and be willing to make compromises. You need to overcommunicate. But, you need to inspire your team with the idea that you believe they can do the impossible.

A funny thing happens when you convince people that you think they are super heroes. They tend to stretch out of their comfort zone. And because you’ve already set the bar so incredibly high, your team will have the freedom to innovate and look for creative ways to get to the goal. They will start to believe they really are super heroes.

The worst thing you can do is tell your team that the task is probably beyond them. Even if you believe there is no chance you will meet your insane schedule, keep that to yourself. Your team doesn’t need your honestly right now. They need you to lie to them and convince them that you really believe they can fly.

It’s amazing how many of my teams have soared over the years. Yup, good leaders lie.

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren. 

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(c) 2017 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved 

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