I recently worked with a highly paid Program Manager who required all Project Teams to complete a weekly status report to elevate issues to executives for resolution and additional visibility. While some Project Managers tossed off the status reports with barely a revision from week to week, others deliberated over “Red/Yellow/Green” statuses for hours. After 14 weeks of issues raised to be resolved with no sponsor feedback or follow up, I tested a theory.

    I created a Red issue involving rabid wolverines attacking my IT team and requested assistance in either trapping or eliminating said wolverines.

    Three days later (!) a temporary (!!) administrative assistant (!!!) giggled as she sent me an email asking me if I had considered providing my IT team with helium balloons to escape from the wolverines. I should point out that this was working on the CEO’s top strategic initiative for a Fortune 100 company with a sponsor team of approximately four Executive Vice Presidents.

    At the next occasion when I saw the Program Manager, I asked if he had seen the issue and if my test had succeeded in bringing to light the lack of follow up or resolution from the executives in the weekly status process. He informed me that his job was to categorize, prioritize and publish weekly issues but that the executive sponsor team “had action opportunities at the executive level with regard to issue resolution.”

    Wow. Talk about someone who cant say what they mean. If people in your organization says things like “action opportunities with regard to issue resolution” instead of “our executives aren’t able to resolve issues” then don’t expect swift clear direction to your employees. Think about it for yourself:
    Do you find people around you saying “The team has voiced concern over the viability of the deadline” instead of “The team thinks the project will be late” OR “There is room in the projected budget for improvement” instead of “We may go over budget”?

    Clear, unvarnished honest communication is a HUGE personal brand attribute. Once you get a reputation for it, people will ask for your opinion about a wide range of topics.  It’s because they will trust that you will give them a direct and honest response from your point of view.  And that’s likely to be all they are looking for.  People who hedge their communication with modifiers and euphemisms are likely to think they will be “in trouble” for not giving the exact right answer.  Get over it. Most of the time, there is no single right answer.  There are only perspectives to the problem and the proposed solution from a variety of places and seats.  Give your perspective in a clear and straight forward manner and people will come to rely on your opinion as being an honest perspective from where you sit.  Not as a wavering politico who hedges their responses and, thereby, never really says anything at all.