You want to enable your client to get the outcome they said they want. But their behaviour doesn’t seem to match their words. Clients who:
- Ask to reschedule meetings at the last minute, or are consistently late.
- Don’t show up and then make a lame excuse.
- Take more than 48 hours to return your calls or emails.
- Break off from your meeting to attend to ‘other business’.
You may find these behaviours infuriating. You may think they are being rude and disrespectful. That’s your response to their behaviour. That’s about you, not them. Autopilot responses like these can negatively affect your relationship. Here are three things you can do to immediately improve things.
- Accept reality. What is happening is happening. You feel bad about it. This is a normal reaction, but there is no point wallowing in it.
- Breathe. Take note that you are still alive, nothing really dreadful has happened to you.
- Take action (in advance). Decide what you will do next time this happens. Know how will you use the time you now have available and get oh it.
What about them? First remember that this is hardly ever personal. Senior people, in corporate organisations, are generally crazy busy – not flaky. Think for a moment about the type of day they have and pressures they have to cope with. Something has to give and on this occasion it is the time they allocated (for themselves) to spend with you. They are probably embarrassed about letting you down and upset not to be spending some time on a project that is a priority for them. Blaming them, or putting pressure on them isn’t the best way forward if you want to maintain a peer-level relationship. Instead here are three things you can do to address the situation more elegantly.
- Talk about breakdowns (in advance). Agree how you are going to handle these breakdowns in your working agreement. Use this agreement as the baseline to discuss what has happened.
- Confront reality. Find out the clients perspective on what is happening. Ask whether, or not, their outcome is still important. And, if so, what is more urgent and important, or just urgent, that is distracting them.
- Agree changes. Ask them what needs to change so you can work together in a way that suits you both. Accept that you may need to adapt to fit their needs (they are the client) and change in the way you charge for your service that reflects this.
Above all keep your perspective and do what you do best. Consult the client. Make it about them, not about you. Is this useful?