“Let’s talk about the truth,” I floated. “Your project manager told your ops manager that everyone on the team thinks he manipulated the schedule. Did the project manager speak on your behalf?”
“Well, he didn’t get my permission, but I sort of agreed with him,” Deana said.
“Tell me what your truth is about this project schedule. Tell me what you personally know happened. And, please, avoid talking on someone else’s behalf. Tell me what you personally know.”
“Well, everyone agrees we are behind schedule even though the schedule shows we are on-time.”
“How do you know that?”
“Everyone said it.” Deana was getting exasperated.
“I asked you to speak only for yourself, what do you personally know about the schedule?”
“I don’t really know anything about the schedule. I mean, I have a copy of the updated schedule, but I don’t know who updates it, or how often. And, I don’t visit the job-site, so I don’t have first-hand knowledge of progress.”
“What do you know, first-hand?” I pressed.
“Okay, I got a call from the client, and they were worried that we were behind schedule. That’s what I know, and I know that first hand,” Deana insisted.
“Now, tell me, as if I am the ops manager in front of everyone else in the meeting, about your phone call with the client. And, speak only for yourself.”
Deana took a breath. “I got a call from the client about the project schedule and we were all wondering…”
“Stop,” I interrupted. “Speak only for yourself. Try it again.”
Deana had to gather her thoughts. She slipped into “we” mode unconsciously. “Okay, I got a call from the client about the project schedule. The client told me she was worried and I am worried, too.”
“Keep going,” I prompted.
“What do you mean?” Deana thought she was finished. Off the hook.
“Tell me what you know, what is your truth about the project schedule. Start over.”
“I got a call from the client about the project schedule. The client told me she was worried and I am worried, too. I got a copy of the updated schedule, but I don’t know how it is updated or how often, so I can’t tell if we are really on schedule or if we are behind.”
“So, what was different about what you said compared to what the project manager said?”
“When the project manager said everyone on the team thought the ops manager manipulated the schedule, it sounded like an accusation. You made me speak for myself, so it sounded more like…” Deana paused to think. “It sounded more like a search for the truth.”
“So, the problem in the team has nothing to do with the schedule. It has to do with the way the team searches for the truth.”