Dear Dan: I Don’t want to Give my Clients to a Less Competent Colleague
Your blog is immensely helpful. Here is a topic that I have not seen yet.
I am successful in winning work, especially repeat work from the same customers. I am a project manager in engineering/construction. When I win work, I then manage the projects.
Company management is directing me to give some of my projects to one of my peers who is not successful. It sounds selfish, but I don’t want to give the projects up. What are your thoughts?
Dear Sounding Selfish,
Congratulations on your success. An engineer who can sell is a remarkable asset to any organization.
Perhaps the best I can offer is some questions that help you reflect on your present and future.
#1. What do you most enjoy about your work?
Is it winning new work or managing the work you win? If you love winning new work, management’s desire seems like a win for you.
Perhaps you enjoy long-term relationships with returning clients. If that’s the case, handing off a client might drain fulfillment from work.
After reflecting on the aspects of your job that bring you the most fulfillment, have a conversation with management. How might you create a job that fuels your energy and takes the company where it wants to go?
#2. What are your career goals?
If you aspire to move up, finding a way to meet management’s goals is essential.
Are you in line for promotion? If you are promoted will you end up less satisfied with work?
#3. What goal is company management pursuing?
Are they expanding capacity? Perhaps they want to “train” other engineers to win more work. If they want to expand the team’s ability to sell, handing off work doesn’t accomplish their goal.
How might handing off work be seen as an advantage for you and the company?
#4. How are you compensated?
If compensation is connected to the number of projects you manage, have a discussion with your boss about compensation.
For your consideration:
My first thought is an engineer who can sell is rare. I wonder how you feel about leaning into sales a little more – as long as it’s recognized and compensated?
I imagine that your company is trying to expand business and you might have a great opportunity to be a real asset.
My concern is you might move away from the aspects of your job that bring you fulfillment. Low fulfillment is always followed by low energy.
You have my best,
What suggestions might you offer Sounding Selfish?
NOTE: I relax my 300 word limit on “Dear Dan” posts.
There is nothing selfish in wanting to ensure that the delivery fulfills the sale. If the company wants to expand on your success, then you have the earned right to maintain control of the entire delivery process … i.e. manage your own team, all the way through.
And you should be able to pick and choose who is on that team.
Seize the moment, and go for it. Good luck!
Thanks Rurbane, I had a similar thought but didn’t include it in the post. It’s not selfish to want to make your best contribution. I’m glad you brought it up.
Don’t apologize for success.
It’s nice to say there is never, ever anything “selfish” in wanting to ensure that the delivery fulfills the sale.
It’s not true.
It can be “selfish” if it hurts overall growth, especially over time.
Delegation, good delegation, is CRUCIAL to organizations seeking growth.
You may have earned, through demonstrated success, the right to maintain control of the entire delivery process. And managing your own team, all the way, through, may be part of that. Maybe you even get to “pick and choose” who is involved. Often, you DON’T get simply to “pick and choose”. The “perfect” person isn’t always available. People management is hard.
The best managers/leaders learn how to delegate well, even if they aren’t allowed to simply “pick and choose” who’s available.
Personally, I’m still learning how to let go and delegate more, as well as BELIEVE that delegation is the key – so I’m not trying to do it all myself. I recommend checking out this…
I’m going to keep reading up on the art of delegation wherever I can find it.
With all due respect, Paul … Bullshit.
There is no substitute for personal commitment; if a repeat customer is invested in you personally, it’s because they trust YOU, not your organization. They trust that if you vest in an Other, in your stead, then YOU will ensure that past performance IS indicative of future results.
Been there, done it; three times, twice as an employee (transferred to another company taking those clients with me) and as a consultant (call it “honest broker” …). Trust matters. Seize your moment; don’t enable the less committed.
Seems like great advice for those that are more directly interacting with a customer, like a sales person. I’m just an IT guy, and have always been in service to others in the organizations I’m in. I’ve been witness to the situations where a senior IT person was excellent and high on personal commitment, and didn’t delegate. When they leave, the team flounders to serve the same organizational customer as well as they did. Those internal customers can’t just follow the excellent and high personal commitment person, so, overall, the organization suffered. I personally feel more delegation would have helped the organization with that. I work on my own personal ability to delegate and try to believe in the value of delegation, even when I look at my delegation options and think “They’ll never do this as well as me…” That’s hubris that I want to avoid.
Dear Feeling selfish, We wear the same shoes, fortunately our company maintains us with our clients. I think you need to sit down with management and discuss the options first what you do and what others don’t do. The next point I have is educate the individual they are seeking to pass work to and educate them in what you do the works and perhaps what they don’t do that fails, after all we are all one with the company. The discussion needs to come from the top down. Perhaps have the other individual be a student of your methods in order to enhance the team. Best Wishes…
Thanks Tim. The idea of mentoring others enables Sounding to maintain his client base AND help the company expand. Perhaps part of the conversation centers on a desire for advancement and what that looks like.
Dan, I agree. Without knowing the companies viewpoint to take work away from one to pass to another leaves questions. Do they have greater plans for the successful Engineer adding more to his plate per say, or are they trying to get the other Manager on board who perhaps has free time? I see the need for mentoring the others or you may be losing a Client too?
Effective delegation is an important leadership skill.
Letting go of some projects opens the door for new and bigger opportunities for you.
If your peer is not successful the key question is why? Is it a lack of skill or motivation? Is he stressed out because he has a lot on his plate? And how has he lasted in his current role?
Do you and your peer have the same boss? Discuss your concerns with your boss. I like Tim’s idea about you mentoring this person. Or maybe you and your peer co-lead the project.
1. Can your peer learn to be an effective project manager?
2. Can you learn to let go and delegate when you need to?
Thanks Paul. Wonderful suggestions. The idea of delegation is important. I wonder if the company equates delegation with passing off work to someone else. In one case we maintain responsibility, in the other we let go responsibility.
…good point Dan.
I like the idea that delegation operates in stages, with a “good end” being that you’ve been able to let go of even the decision-making, and will stand behind the decision THEY make, while accepting responsibility.
This has great expanded points.
Dear Sounding Selfish
Consider conducting an on boarding session for your colleague that will help them better understand the client’s business, but more importantly, what’s important to the client and how the client likes to work. Successful client relationships are often in the nuances. It takes nothing away from you if you share your approach (as long as it is not done in arrogance.)
True leaders help others succeed. That’s what makes for winning teams, as I’m sure Dan can Depending on how you approach this, it could make a great case study.
Best of luck.
Thanks Deborah. Equipping others is one of leadership’s important functions.
I respect your reference to humility. It seems that humility enables our ability to impact others.
I sympathize with your struggle. At work I passed work to another who would take it on as an opportunity to grow and build knowledge. It was supposed to lift my workload to be able to focus on other tasks. Even with my coaching, they floundered in the lime light and other managers actually asked for them to be removed and assign the work back to me. Without a fight they backed down because they really didn’t want to be there in the first place. It’s hard when your delegation options are limited. I wish you all the best!
Thanks Toni. I’m so glad you jumped in. Sometimes an organization has higher aspirations for a team member than the team member has for his/her self. That always leads to disappointment and frustration.
Perhaps the colleague doesn’t have the talent to sell and maintain relationships.
I would recommend considering what you like most and least about your work and your full range of options (to expand what brings you the most satisfaction). Specically think about what wastes your time/energy and what can be done to eliminate it. While somewhat out of context I think of the beginning of Hebrews 12 – ” throw off everything that easily entangles…”. As an engineer I enjoy solving problems and walking clients thru innovative solutions. It can be demoralizing to see a client frustrated by a collegue’s poor work. Reading your story felt like a flashback. I left the company I had been at over a decade and eventually started my own. I’m loving the setup with full control of client interaction and freedom to innovate. I let my self be so frustrated trying to fix things that I did not manage the transition well. I had a short, very frustrating transition job in between. I have marvelled at how much easier it is to work out of the home than a standard office. I now meet with people on purpose and have more meaningful connections. The more meaningful work and connections has greatly increased income – I still marvel at how it worked out. I wish you well.
Thanks Charles. My take away from your comment is about controlling our environment and maximizing our talent. Your concern is well placed. It’s easy to loose sight of what really matters and just get the work done. One day we wake up and realize that we hate the job we used to love.
Dan, I am extremely grateful for the mentors I have had along the way that had the vision to let me make mistakes and learn from them. They invested in my growth. Yes, someone with more experience may have done a better job at the time, but I grew to be very valuable in my organization. I would not have had that growth if I was kept at bay in the beginning. Delegation is not just a tool to manage workload, it is a tool to build a strong team with great resources all around. Don’t be a “puck hog”.
Arggghh, y’all missin’ the point …
A good project manager ain’t necessarily a a good program manager …
I can getcha from a to z .. but I can’t promise alpha/ omega …
I can close the loop; but can’t make the loop go on forever.
I’m a closer, not a politician.
Sounding Selfish – You can contribute the most by growing others that can be as good as you are at delivering the service/product. Focus on creating a process and how you know the process is working. Look for measurements that successful completion of the process steps yields and develop a scorecard with daily/weekly measurements. You and your protege will both know very quickly where things are going well or poorly. Maintain, accelerate, recover as appropriate. Coach, mentor, teach. Soon you’ll be able to delivery many more programs to many more customers; an upward spiral.
I do not believe there is anything selfish in wanting to make sure that your clients get the best product possible. I am in a similar position at my office. I wear many hats at my job and we work 6 days a week. Due to being in grad school, sometimes I need an extra day off during the week. When my colleague covers for me, I feel like I am doing our patients a disservice. He cannot answer the questions the same way that I can and he is not as personable as I am. He feels uncomfortable talking about finances while I have no trouble doing it. At the end of the day it is up to you! If it were me I would talk to management about keeping my clients.
I’m so glad you jumped into this conversation, Sara. Perhaps it would be possible to explore ways for clients to get the best possible product and also include others in serving them.
You bring up a persistent challenge when people are promoted to management. They often can do the job better than their direct reports. Sometimes when a manger is promoted they continue doing the work they did before they were promoted. This is a short-sighted for everyone involved.
Maybe Sounding Selfish could try a few different approaches to finding their true comfort or joy zone:
– Co-manage a project you sell with another PM you trust. See if the project can go smoothly without you being as hands-on as owning the project start to finish.
– Ask you Leadership to allow you a 90-180 day exception to strictly focus-on selling business. See if that brings you the things you desire -satisfaction, income, more relationships, etc.
– See if you could build your own team of PM’s that you train and trust. You hunt the business, maintain the relationships and oversee the PM’s work, remaining involved in all parts, but without the sole responsibility of doing all three jobs.
– Ask your clients where they see you most valuable. Do they give you business because they like your relationships and the value you bring or do they value your PM work more?
Just because it’s one way today, doesn’t mean it has to last. If you worked on my team, I would want you to be focused-on what brings you the most joy. As a valuable player to the team, a skilled tactician and a client favorite; it sounds like you have leverage to try a few different things and seek the best fit for you, the company and your clients.