Before the Client Sees It …

This may sound familiar. You’re in the final stages of reviewing, proofing and tweaking content for the client’s website. The much anticipated ‘go live’ day is near. Now it’s time to bring the internal team together for a final sign off – before the client sees it. My experience (one from which I have learned much) has been challenging, especially when people forget what the client wants and often inject personal opinions.

Trying to guide your team toward the end goal can be a daunting task. Granted, everyone has an opinion, and it’s great to invite new ideas and input. But where do you draw the line? Where do you say thanks for your input, but the client really wants this key point or that particular verbiage because it reflects what their customers want.

You may not always be in a position to have the last word about who is invited to review a project getting ready to go live. But if you are in a lead position to make that selection, do so objectively, bearing in mind that overly-opinionated people won’t help the process. On the other hand you have those who just like a good argument. These folks would have been practicing law except they didn’t pass the bar exam. Never a good combination.

The surest thing you can do is have the client’s target goals for the project set down on paper or on screen in front of everyone in the room boldly displayed. If the input you get from team members doesn’t mesh with what the client wants, there’s little wiggle room to discuss it.

However, it’s important to maintain a healthy rapport with your coworkers, even when you have to turn down a bad (or irrelevant idea). It’s important to redirect bad ideas in a thoughtful, positive and more collaborative way. Here are a few tips I’ve found useful over the years, especially when the ideas start flying around the room:

  • Take a deep breath before responding. Whether you agree or not, allow your reasoning power to catch up to your emotional response. You’ll come across kinder. more reasonable and more open-minded.
  • Let others weigh in first. Particularly when your gut reaction is negative, suppress the urge to be the first to jump in with your opinion. Besides, someone may have a great suggestion.
  • Be curious rather than pass judgment. Ask open-ended questions with an open mind. Make sure the person feels fully heard, and be careful not to take small stabs at the idea in the phrasing of your questions. It’s easier to take feedback if we feel that we’ve been heard and understood.
  • Recognize the parts of an idea you can agree with. Even if you can’t agree with the entire idea, pointing out what you do like will help to validate the team member’s idea, at least in part. Even when a suggestion has flaws, it might be calling attention to an important, underlying problem.

By respecting the collective team’s input (good, bad or indifferent), you’re taking a more objective position that will influence others to do the same. Click to Tweet: Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen. Churchill @witmergroup It shows good leadership, and let’s not overlook the main reason you and your colleagues are gathered together for this review session in the first place – final internal approval of the project – before the client sees it.