049 – How to Call BS without getting Sh#t upon
Communication is a critical part of a Project Manager’s job, and perhaps no aspect of comms is more important than ensuring that what is communicated is correct and truthful. But when someone is not being truthful – to themselves or others – how do you call that out? Or, as we say, how do you “call bullsh!t” on someone without it wrecking your relationship or the support you need from that stakeholder?
This episode Kate and Kim get really, really real about calling out BS when you see it – why it’s our jobs as PMs to do it, how to do it and, where possible, how to do it in a way that ends up being positive for everyone. Well, as much as possible, anyway. And, yup, we do talk a bit of B.S. in this episode!
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Calling Bullshit [3:30]
Here, Kate relates a frustrating situation where definitions of success were vague and accountability was not being defined. These measures and responsibilities are crucial for changes and processes.
The First Step to Calling Bullshit [7:12]
The first step to calling bullshit is establishing a good bullshit meter- you have to be able to detect whether this idea has actual problems or it’s something you just don’t understand. Kate relates that in her situation, the idea is not necessarily bad, but without rigor, isn’t feasible.
How to handle a situation where you suspect bullshit [11:20]
Even if it’s frustrating or emotions are high, it’s important you get curious when you suspect bullshit. Asking the right questions can help call the person out- for example, you could ask “You say this team is supposed to hold themselves accountable- why would they do that, what is their incentive?” These should either make the bullshiter realize their BS or will get you closer to an answer.
It’s also important everyone knows the impact and consequences of projects- project outcomes are rarely the issue, rather, it’s comprehension of the work that goes behind that outcome.
Dealing with bullshit by changing the conversation [25:44]
Another effective way to call out bullshit is to change the conversation. You could change the conversation to something more big picture to something relevant to the issue. In Kate’s case, she mentioned changing the conversation from that of rework, to that of roles and responsibilities, which is really the problem.
Recap of Process [32:28]
First thing, you need to develop you bullshit detector, and not just for others, but also yourself. If someone calls bullshit on you, try getting curious, and put it on them to explain or elaborate on the topic. From there, you can determine whether this feedback is actionable or simply a result of frustration. When calling bullshit, hard charging it is usually not the way to go- you can call bullshit by asking leading bullshit or changing the conversation. If they persevere in their bullshit, you can task them to act on it
You might be in trouble if… [36:17]
- You get frustrated, and you let that influence your tone and actions
- You sense bullshit and you do nothing about it