Many years ago I was in an internal meeting. It was one of those annual meetings where we talking about the year ahead, problems we’ve faced and how to overcome them. Apparently, in the prior year, we spent too much time asking for permission before executing. I’m guessing it’s a common problem in many organizations.
Our leader, whom I’ve tried to model his leadership style, laid out a plan to allow more independent thinking. He outlined ten facts that we could follow. That was twelve years ago. In the past twelve years, I’ve realized that I only need to follow the first two. (It appears the next 8 all can be rolled into either the first two.)
Note: This is written using the term “client.” I’ve been a consultant for the better part of 15 years. If you’re not serving an outside client, you probably have an internal client. Can’t figure out who your client is? Probably a topic for another blog post.
1. Take Care of Your Clients
If you had the choice between grabbing lunch with your client and anyone else, grab it with your client. This seems simple and yet in a given week, we probably don’t always put them first. There are two primary ways to take care of your clients: - As a function of time management, we can’t get everything done in a given day, week or year. The idea is that if you had a choice between helping a client or working on an internal project, the client should come first. Take a look at your priorities today. How many of them are directly impacting the clients you serve? - Often clients come with a difficult problem that needs solving. Can we execute a project differently? Can we get a new/different resource? Find a way to solve their problem or meet their needs. We can’t always say yes to every client request, but are we advocating for them to get them the best we can do?
If you think back to the last month, have you put your clients first?
2. Take Care of The People Who Take Care of Your Clients
In the consulting business, I often see consulting managers get the first one right but miss the second. They go hand in hand. If you don’t have a team, who is going to take care of your clients? In a three person consulting team - one manager and two consultants - the client probably sees more of the consultants then the manager. They are the front facing part of your organization. Think about the following scenarios: - What is the impact of giving a consultant a day off after working a 60 hour week? - Think about the trickle down effect of empowering a consultant? - Imagine the impact of saying “thank you.”
We should always take care of our people. But when you frame it as a direct link to the service of your client or customer, it becomes a key link to a successful business. Think about the negative: - The effect turnover has on your client projects. - How apparent an unhappy consultant is to your client. - How unmotivated a consultant could be in solving your client’s needs.
Now Think of Everything Else
In any given day, my to-do list is filled with items that having nothing to do with my clients or the people that serve them. It’s important to me to make sure those items don’t impact my ability to take care of my clients and the people who serve them.
As you reframe your priorities, keep in mind that I wasn’t able to change my priorities overnight. Even today, an internal project or something that doesn’t fit into these two buckets can take me away from my core priorities. But understanding that these are the two most important goals has helped me keep my focus over the long term.