November 20, 2019

Improving Client Relationships

Improving the relationships with your client, or boss, can be hard but by managing and coaching up, things can be made better

Improving Client Relationships

I was listening to a discussion recently about managing relationships with your boss or client which really piqued my interest. Everyone wants to have a great relationship with their client (or boss) but sometimes they can be a bit difficult to work with. Often, this is a result of them being overextended, overworked or sometimes just incompetent. The reality  is that in these scenarios, it is going to be up to you to make the relationship work, as they are probably too busy to even think about that. This is where managing up comes into play.

Some of you may have also heard of the term Coaching Up before and used it interchangeably with Managing Up, but they are different.

  • Managing Up - Is how you influence your managers perception of you.
  • Coaching Up - Is when you want to change the relationship with your manager.

Managing Up

Having the client on your side can go a long way into helping you get buy-in for an idea or to work through a sticky situation.  The easiest way to achieve all of that is to see your client as your biggest customer.

If you think of your client in that way, would this change the way you work with them? If you imagined them as your biggest customer and they wanted something, you would more than likely just say yes and not even argue with them. So why don't we do this for our client as well?

If you want your client to see you in a particular way, then see them as your biggest customer and say yes.

As we saw earlier, clients are often overworked & overextended, so another big part of managing up is taking work off of their plate.

A big part of that is bringing them solutions instead of problems. It sounds obvious, and you have probably heard it countless times, yet it happens quite often. When we bring problems, we are adding stuff to their plate. The exact opposite of what we want.

Keep on taking work off your client's plate, time & time again

Be proactive and take the initiative to either fix or find a solution. We all love it when someone has taken the initiative and been proactive to do something for us, so why not apply the same mentality for your client?

Over time you will have managed to change your client's perception of you, after which your ability to influence them would be much easier due to that level of trust being built with them.

Pushing Back

In situations where you feel strongly about something and feel the urge to push back on the request, do so, but do it in such a manner that it doesn't cause conflict and opens the floor up for discussion. A good approach to take with this is to say "I think differently about that...". They may go against your suggestion and that is okay. Ultimately, they get the final word.

When pushing back, it is important to remember to strip out any emotion. Having that passion in your voice can often play against you and cause more harm than good. Stay calm and rational.

Coaching Up

When you are coaching up, you are trying to change the behaviour of your client. If they are receptive to feedback, then you can provide it to them with the methods discussed in this guide. However, in the scenarios where they aren't interested in feedback, then you will just frustrate them and they will become more reluctant to change their behaviour. In these situations it makes it trickier as you are going to need to take responsibility and see what you can do to help the situation.

If your client isn't going to change, you need to frame things differently and see what you can do to correct the situation

To demonstrate this lets imagine you have a manager that has a habit of just adding work to the backlog during meetings, without any consideration of the effect it will have on the deadline. If they aren't receptive to feedback, then you will need to take it upon yourself to see what you can do about the situation. This may involve you speaking up when she adds items to question their necessity, or you may need to analyse it afterwards and show the effect it will have on the deadline. Either way, you are taking it upon yourself correct the issue.

This does mean that it will be more work for you, but compare to doing nothing, it would be far better.

Until next time...keep learning!