One of the things I enjoy most about my job is talking to different clients who invite me into their world. They care about their employees enough to call in an outsider and invite them to see the inner workings of their operation, find areas of opportunity, and work on solutions. It truly is a fulfilling experience and I am grateful to be a part of it.
But what happens on the rare occasion a client calls you for help and want you to fix a problem but don’t give you the means to do so?
A client asks you to develop and deliver a team building event for his employees. According to the client, the employees are not getting along and it’s affecting productivofity. As you probe for more information to get a better understanding of the issue, you ask to speak to the team. The client asks why that’s necessary. You tell him you need to spend some time with the employees to get an understanding of why team building is needed. You want to make sure you fully understand the root cause of the problem in order to come up with a good solution. The client said that’s not necessary because he knows the problem; the employees just do not get along. You explain your position again and after a short back and fourth, he still insists on “checking the box” and deliver a training session for the employees. At this point you realize the real problem; it’s the client.
What do you do?
Put on your suave language arts cap!
You need to have a candid conversation with the client. Reverse roles. Have him see what you are seeing and hearing. Explain (without insult) that in order to truly create a workplace where employees work in harmony, he needs to be flexible enough to both listen to what the employees have to say and have the courage to do something with that information. Explain how he would come out as the hero to both his employees and his superiors to be the one who turned the morale around. But most importantly, he would have the respect of everyone because he did the one thing nobody else would do; he listened.
But what do you do when the client still won’t budge?
From a short-term business perspective, the client is always right, and you do not want to lose their business just because he doesn’t want you to talk to the employees. After all he is the one writing the check.
But from a long term strategic perspective, if the client won’t budge, the best thing you can do is respectfully decline the job. Sure you can make a quick buck by accepting the job. The client has a business need that you can fulfill. But without honing in on the real issues you are going to deliver a training program the employees will love (because they are getting a break from their regular routine) without getting to the core of the problem. When it’s all said and done the employees will go back to the same ways that caused the client to call you in the first place. Then six months down the road when the client is golfing with other clients and they ask “Hey, how did that team building event go?” what do you think he is going to say?
Word of mouth travels fast. In order to protect your brand, you sometimes have to pass on the quick buck.