Volume 9 Number 3 | March 2019
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Drawing the Line
Presumably, we enter into a client engagement as an expert. We shouldn’t enter as a “contractor” or a “vender” or as another pair of hands and part-time employee. We have expertise not resident within the client organization.
The reason we charge based on value and not time durations is that our presence isn’t the value, improving the client’s condition is the value. Hence, the more quickly that is done, the better off the client is, gaining faster returns on the investment in us.
What’s not so obvious is our need to be both an expert and partner with our buyer. We don’t want to be a “friend” and we don’t want to partner with lower level people (though we may work with them to implement the project). That means that we sometimes have to disagree with the buyer, “push-back,” and point out behavior change that the buyer must embrace.
We have to walk a fine line among arrogance (“I know what’s best for you and you don’t”) and amiability (“I don’t want to offend anyone”) and outright fear (“They might end the assignment”). You do that by being a professional, not assuming anyone is “damaged” and can’t accept feedback, and understanding that this is always the primary question:
“What’s in the client’s best interest?”
That best interest requires total honesty and transparency. Your tone can be reasonable and friendly, but your message has to be frank and clear. You’re not in this work to find affection and you won’t be paid to be a buddy.
A “million dollar mindset” means that you embrace these realities:
- Most people will listen to professional feedback, though a few won’t.
- Most projects will be successful, but not every single one.
- You can always find more clients and earn more money.
- Using empirical evidence and observed behavior trumps speculation.
- You will be respected most of the time for doing the right thing.
We all face conflicts in client situations. We need to realize that we were brought in because of our expertise and abilities (partner, not vender) and we are derelict if we don’t apply them in an objective fashion to best improve the client’s condition.
We often blame the client for forcing us to take a wrong turn when it’s our own hands on the wheel.
© Alan Weiss 2019
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