Don’t volunteer for failure: Always show the cost of success

cost failure

When the expectations are bigger than the resources

Recently, I have been getting the same question over and over again from people in many different companies and industries. It takes many different forms, but the basic idea is this:

“What should I do when I am being asked to deliver something without enough resources to do it?”

This challenge becomes a critical point in your career because you need to find a way to deliver the best possible outcome, without setting yourself up to try and do something totally impossible (which by definition you will fail at).

If you go forth and try to make it happen without clarifying expecations and resources up front, you set yourself up for a big risk.

Conversely, if you say, “I don’t have the resources to do that” in an unstructured way, you might also take a credibility hit.

So what do you do?

The three converations you need to lead:

1. Show the scope of the journey out of the hole you are in
2. Highlight the choices of outcomes and costs
3. Share the problem that WE have

1. Show the size and scope of the hole that you are in

The problem is that the executives do not understand the scope of what they are asking. They are entirely focused on the outcome that they want, and they want you to make it happen.

To them it seems straightforward (cheap) to get the improvement, because they don’t fully understand why, or even that they are in a hole. They know they are not performing, but because they do not have your expertise, they can’t see the 37 reasons why.

If you don’t show them the reality, there is a good chance they will believe that only thing between where they are now and best in class performance is YOU, with no additional staff, budget or time to get there.

Don’t let this happen. Act right away.

Create something that looks kind of like this. The left axis is whatever it takes to be competitive in your space.

Status Reality

2. Highlight the choices of outcomes and costs

You need to show the true cost of the big outcome they want.

Then you need to give the management choices for different levels of outcomes that cost different amounts.

OK, if you only increase my budget 10% we can fix these things, and add one item, but we can’t add most of the competitive features. If that’s the funding choice you make, this is what you will get.

The chart looks something like this:

Budget Options

This way you are still building credibility by showing that you can do the complete job, but you are not shooting yourself in the foot by signing up for the impossible.

3. Share the problem that WE have

The impossible is stressful!

Don’t put all the pressure on yourself to try to do the impossible without the necessary resources, becasue you will feel like you are personally failing when it can’t be done, when in reality this is not your problem alone.

This is a choice that the company needs to make.

Your job is to shine the spotlight on clearly defined choices.

Do yourself a favor and make sure you paint the reality clearly as soon as you can, and only sign up for as much as you can get funded.

1. Share the knowledge of the scope of the journey
2. Share the decision about the level of investment and expected outcomes with the management team
3. Make sure everyone has the same definition of success. It’s not just you who should feel the pressure

What do you think?

Join the conversation about this on my facebook page.

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About Patty
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Patty Azzarello is an executive, best-selling author, speaker and CEO/Business Advisor. She became the youngest general manager at HP at the age of 33, ran a billion dollar software business at 35 and became a CEO for the first time at 38 (all without turning into a self-centered, miserable jerk)

You can find Patty at, follow her on twitter or facebook, or read her book RISE…3 Practical Steps for Advancing Your Career, Standing Out as a Leader, AND Liking Your Life.


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Your Credibility: Negotiating Your Budget

This month’s Professional Development webinar was on the topic of Negotiating Your Budget.

If you missed it you can download the recording.

Members of Azzarello group can download this webinar for free.

Negotiating Your Budget

Your budget and your credibility

Building credibility is a critical skill for any executive.

I wanted to do a webinar specifically about budget because there is no other topic of discussion that can do as much to either build or destroy your credibility in a single conversation!

You need to get the budget conversation right.

This is a very useful webinar to download if you want to:

  • Establish your credibility in a new role
  • Secure support and funding for a strategic project
  • Avoid risk of failure when you don’t get the funding you need
  • Build a stronger rapport with your boss and stakeholders
  • Proactively propose budget changes in difficult situations

In this webinar: Negotiating Your Budget I gave you approaches and strategies to drive your budget negotiations with your stakeholders as well as specific ideas, worksheets and templates for what to show and how to talk about it.

Members of Azzarello group can download this webinar for free.

If you are not a member, you can learn about membership and join, or you can purchase this individual webinar below.

The webinar

In this webinar you’ll learn how to treat your budget as an important communication opportunity for building credibility.

    We talked about how to:

  • Develop credibility before you ask for money
  • Change the conversation to make it difficult for them to say no
  • Create the right communication tools
  • Not commit yourself to something that isn’t fully funded
  • Drive the conversation about the difference between OK and great

You can’t do great things if you don’t get them funded!

Your budget is a fundamental part of your operational plan. Yet you NEVER want to show your operational plan when you talk about the budget that you need.

In this webinar I talked about how to translate what is in your operational plan into language that will be more compelling, build your credibility and get your stakeholders and approvers on your side.

Your budget is a communication tool

First and foremost, you must recognize that you need to create a version of your budget, separate from your operational plan, that is solely a communication tool — a really important communication tool.

Be careful with jargon and acronyms, and learn how to develop the right dictionary of terms to use when you talk to each stakeholder and approver.

You are far more likely to get support if you are talking in their language.

In the webinar I gave examples of how to do this translation effectively, so that you ensure you are communicating in a way that stacks the deck in your favor.

The Left Column Makeover

Your goal is to have a better business conversation. Showing your approvers a list of projects that you need funding for is not a business conversation.

The list of things you show your stakeholder needs to be a list of things that they already care about. You’ll never do this with a list of projects, programs, personnel, infrastructure costs, agencies, and vendors.

I talked through how to build a much more compelling left column that will drive a much higher quality business conversation.

Doing your left column makeover effectively will raise your credibility tremendously — even if you don’t get the budget. But it will also make you much more likely to get the budget.

Don’t get squeezed

One of the biggest risks in a budget negotiation is to go in with a plan and a number, and then have your approvers cut the number drastically, but not allow you to cut the plan.

I refer to this as getting squeezed.

You need to make it clear that you have a strong grasp of how much things really cost, and that you have already squeezed and cut any low priorities and excess cost out of the budget. You need them to truly believe that what you are asking for is realistic and what they are suggesting is not.

Successfully avoiding the squeeze is another reason why building your credibility over time really matters. The higher your credibility, the more likely they will believe you when you say, “here is what I can do and can not do” for this amount of funding.

I have seen careers ended by people getting squeezed and not being able to change what they are being asked to do into something that is actually doable.

Be an executive

Another aspect we covered in the webinar is how it is very important to behave like an executive. Two important ways to do this are to 1. really know what executives expect (I included a list), and 2. don’t always be seen as asking for more money.

If the only conversation you ever have says, “I need the same amount of money to do the same things as last year, and I need more money to do new things”, your credibility will drop dramatically.

You need to show yourself to be creating efficiencies over time, and also show that you are self funding some of the new work.

Once you build this level of credibility you will be more likely to get your new initiatives funded because you are seen as someone who is managing your money really well. You are creating efficiencies without being asked to do so, and you are not always asking for money.

This is the way highly effective executives behave. They get to do better stuff because they are trusted to do it.

Build rapport with your approvers

Finally, make sure that you broaden the conversation with you stakeholders and approvers beyond the presentation once a year when you ask for money.

You can’t build credibility and trust without building a relationship along the way too. Invest in relationships. It will pay you back. It’s much harder to say NO to a friend.

Want some help?

To get some help with this and learn the specific ideas and techniques that we talked about, download the webinar: Negotiating your Budget , now.

Members: Download the webinar for free.
Non Members: You can purchase this individual webinar or podcast (links below).

Here are some additional, useful webinars related to building your credibility and putting yourself in a strong position to get your budget approved.

Members get these additional webinars for free:

So if you are not yet a member, you might as well join and get them all for free!

Let me be your mentor

Members of Azzarello Group basically get me as their mentor.

Every month you get new insights and tools in the form of these webinars, as well as the chance to call into a monthly members-only coaching hour where you can get direct personal coaching from me.

People tell me that membership gives them a totally new way of thinking about their career, getting promotions, solving difficult problems with bosses, peers, employees, and other annoying people, communicating better, being more influential, becoming a stronger leader, and enjoying their work more. I love to hear this, and I love to help!

If you join now, you’ll not only get this webinar, but all the other webinars in the Member Library.

AND you’ll get the opportunity to participate in monthly Coaching Hour conference calls with me.
Check out what we talk about.

AND as a member you’ll get to download your copy of the Career Year of action Guide (a $30 value) for free.

Membership is a great resource (and a steal at $179 for a whole year) to help you advance your career.

Join Now
Join Now.

Other Options:

Purchase just this webinar ($19.99)
Purchase just this podcast ($9.99)


patty blog image
Patty Azzarello is an executive, best-selling author, speaker and CEO/Business Advisor.
She became the youngest general manager at HP at the age of 33, ran a billion dollar software business at 35 and became a CEO for the first time at 38 (all without turning into a self-centered, miserable jerk)

You can find Patty at, follow her on twitter or facebook, or read her book RISE…3 Practical Steps for Advancing Your Career, Standing Out as a Leader, AND Liking Your Life.


Free eBook Download