After a few painful ordeals with clients we came the the conclusion that changes needed to occur in our approach. Some clients just weren’t worth keeping or jeopardized our ability to service our best clients.
No organization can thrive when resources are drained. Employee exhausting is a real threat to the success of any project.
The Full Scoop
In a boardroom far, far away – I was sitting with a number of managers waiting for an executive leader to arrive to a governance meeting. The meeting often started late, or not at all, and a lot of fear and anxiety went into this seemingly insignificant meeting each month.
Nothing of value tended to occur during these meetings. They were supposed to be an opportunity to give executive management the chance to hear what was really occurring within the group; but, this rarely transpired. Rather, the meeting was a painful check-box item during the month, that had to happen. The ability of those in attendance to turn it into a positive experience was limited by the autocratic management style of the executive team.
As the meeting started (late) we began to go over deep dive topics that were meant to bring attention to different positive and negative project trends within the group. Rarely would we get past the first couple of slides. We would jump from one trivial topic to the next, and ultimately the meetings were an ineffective use of time. The attitude was corrosive and intimidating, management was fearful of the executive team, and spent the majority of the meeting either silent or practicing the art of saying as little as humanly possible (unfortunately, this was often a very good idea).
The proper definition of a word or phase, a status request meant to catch a subordinate off guard, an update on an item that everyone knew would never get accomplished, but seemed to be of special interest to the executive team. Rarely did we stay on topic, and rarely was a true and transparent report given. We had an agenda but the executive team typically had “their” agenda, which prevented subordinates from giving an accurate and direct report for the month.
On the plus side, at least the conversation was easy to follow. If you’re going to waste your time for an hour, and you have no choice in the matter, at least a basic understanding of grade school survival tactics can buy you 15 more minutes until the meeting ends. We just kept smiling and nodding. Very sad.
- Realize that some clients are not going to be worth the time and money, they will sap employee moral at the expense of those who really deserve your attention.
- Draw up terms that outline the baseline of conditions you need to provide services. Use contracts and set clear expectations for service levels.
- Speak openly about the state of the relationship to existing trouble clients, letting the client choose their path forward. Make sure you’re okay with the outcome of presented options.
- Be willing to walk away, no win scenarios don’t work for anyone.
For managers, it is important to know what is really occurring within your teams. Avoid getting stuck on trivial topics that will be easy for you to understand, but result in no actionable change. This will only occur when there is a level of trust that allows for open and effective dialog.
Questions to Ask:
- Do your employees feel they can speak up without retribution?
- Can they approach you when a difficult situation arises?
- Do they feel afraid of how you may react when less than positive information needs to be communicated?