No man is an island…and other overused phrases

Sorry for the “blog gap” – have been sunning myself on holiday…more about that another time.

Have just been reading reviews of Richard Branson’s new book,  Reaching for the Skies. Have also read his blog entry about the same. I like Richard Branson – can’t help it. Listened to the audio version of his autobiography over a 2 month period recently and still listen to the odd snippet when I need motivation – helps when you run your own business, to understand that the stress and the problems are the same!

What I also like about RB (if I may call him that, I’m sure he won’t mind) is his frank admission that he couldn’t have done what he did without help. Which is so true, and it’s also true that it’s quite rare to hear people in similar positions, genuinely admit it.

It’s a bit like that being an agency (or a consultancy I would imagine), you become that person(s) that people couldn’t do without, and sometimes you get the acknowledgement and sometimes you don’t. To be honest, the best relationships and projects come from a partnership approach, where client and agency lines are blurred in the sense that everyone pitches in, and everyone takes responsibility and ownership where needed.

The hardest projects are where the lines are drawn firmly between client and agency. You see it less and less (thank goodness) but it’s still there sometimes – dictorial communication, finger pointing and blame when things go wrong (as they inevitably will when one party feels bullied, as communication is impacted)

What clients can do:

– Submit clear briefs with as much detail as you can provide, never make ANY assumptions about what your agency understands you want

– Respond positively when there are misunderstandings – everyone makes mistakes, and sometimes misunderstandings are down to miscommunication and assumptions on either side

– be clear about how you will measure success, especially if this changes as the project commences

– take a collaborative approach when goals are not met – many factors contribute to the success or failure of a project and are rarely down to one party or activity

– treat your agency as part of the team, motivate them as you would a team that you employed directly

What agencies can (and should) do:

– ask as many questions upfront, even if it feels uncomfortable, better to look daft now than when you’ve worked hard on something irrelevant

– clearly document your expectations at the beginning, especially around deliverables, success factors and contingencies

– keep a consistent project team – too many cooks etc

– provide clear and regular reporting mechanisms, and go through them in person or by phone on a regular basis with the client – who tend not to read complex GANTT’s or spreadsheets

– be a   part of the client’s team, go and see them regularly, focus on the relationship

– under promise, over deliver (see, I told you there were plenty of overused phrases here)

Partnership is a term that is overused – and it’s no longer a selling point. You have to demonstrate your commitment to a partnership approach – and that’s where I think RB is so successful. When you read his books, he doesn’t come across as precious about his role – he just wants to get the job done, and put the right people with the right skills to use in the right places. He doesn’t always get it right – and that’s what life is about.

About the Author

Charlotte Graham-Cumming

Director, Ice Blue Sky Ltd

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