One of the most important skills an Administrative Consultant needs to have is the ability to pay attention to details and follow instructions.
To clarify, I am in no way, shape or form suggesting that you should be an automaton merely taking orders from clients. (On the contrary! Your role as a business owner and Administrative Consultant is to exercise initiative and critical thinking.)
You’re running a business. It’s your role to take clients through your processes and always be investigating and probing as much as you need to determine where and how to best support them administratively.
That said, you are still in the business of providing support and helping clients accomplish the things they want to accomplish.
Very often, they want those things done a certain way for their own intentional reasons.
By all means, gain clarity and deeper understanding of what your client is thinking — and why — because that is definitely going to help you be of greater service to them.
If you know of a better way or have an idea you think might be helpful, you should share your advice and suggestions.
In the end, though, at least when it comes to practical matters (barring anything unethical or illegal, naturally), the client has the final say about what they like and how they want things to end up. It is their business, not yours.
Let’s take our members forum as an example to show you what I mean…
On the forum, we’re trying to create a particular experience so there are a few seemingly insignificant details that we are persnickety about.
We provide registrants with very precise, clear-cut instructions so they can complete their profiles accordingly.
One of those details is that we ask registrants to enter their location with city, state (or province, etc.) abbreviation and then their country so that it appears exactly like this: Anytown WA, USA.
Note that we specifically leave out a comma between the city and state, but do have one between the state and the country. It’s not the traditionally correct way one would normally format that kind of information, but this is how we want it — consistently.
Once in awhile we’ll have someone register who doesn’t get that detail right the first time.
Some ignore the instruction and don’t complete their location at all.
Or they’ll put a comma where we specifically ask them to leave it out.
Or they’ll spell out their state instead of abbreviating it.
Or they’ll only enter their state.
Or they’ll leave off the country.
We give them once or twice to get things right, but every so often we’ll get someone who will do everything BUT follow directions and enter things the way we ask.
This is always utterly perplexing to me because to my mind, it couldn’t be clearer or simpler.
We tell them explicitly what we want there and provide an example.
Yet, after three, four or more attempts, they still just can’t get it right.
They aren’t paying attention and keep trying to make up their own rules.
So how does that relate to working with clients?
Because if you have a habit of not paying attention to details and following specifications, you end up frustrating the client and wasting their time.
They have nothing to feel bad about in wanting things they want them, but when your inability to follow through on those wishes forces them to repeat themselves over and over, it makes them feel like a nag and they resent it.
Plus, when that is the case, you are not demonstrating competence.
They lose confidence in your abilities.
They won’t trust that they can rely on you to get things done properly.
They’ll feel the need to start double-checking your work.
All of which ultimately makes you difficult to work with.
They didn’t choose you so you could create more work and hassle for them, right?
In the case of my forum, we tend towards giving everyone the benefit of the doubt first.
But if they repeatedly can’t get it together, we begin to form the impression that this isn’t someone we should be representing.
We are constantly advocating for our members and touting their graces and competence to clients so we need for our members to actually be those things.
When someone can’t follow directions, especially when it comes to the simplest of things, over and over, we have to question their qualification and whether they are someone to whom we should be lending our reputation.
It’s not an indictment on the registrant as a person, but we are a professional organization after all.
We have a standard of excellence and competence we adhere to so we really need members to put their best foot forward and inspire our confidence in them.
And the same goes for your clients. They need you to inspire their confidence.
You don’t have to be perfect. You’re not a machine, and you will make mistakes every once in awhile.
And that’s okay because that’s not where your value lies. In fact, I advise you to have a conversation about that with prospective clients in your consultations.
But what is important is that overall you demonstrate a pattern and consistency of proficiency so they can trust in you.
When they have a specific detail they want adhered to in a certain way, honor that.
Because if you can’t, you create distrust and unease for them, and eventually they’ll start looking for someone else who doesn’t make it such an ordeal to work together.