Archive for June 17th, 2009

Dear Danielle: Should I Get Involved Beyond What I Am Hired to Do?

Dear Danielle:

My question is about how much I should get involved with my clients’ businesses outside of what I am hired to do. One client wanted to know if I saw her speaking video on YouTube and I hadn’t. I didn’t even know about  it. I think she was disappointed to hear that I hadn’t seen the video. Disappointed in a way that I may not know enough about her and her business. I have many clients and I am just wondering if I should be keeping up with their daily business in this manner, when I am hired to do the administrative side. If this is something I need to be doing, I will certainly make the time, but I am just not sure. –LE

I’ll be honest with you… I don’t have an exact answer for you on this one because it comes down to personal choice.

Ultimately, the client relationship is one that you’ll have to suss out yourself as you go along, and decide on whatever degree of involvement or intimacy, if you will, you’re comfortable with and what’s right for you.

I can only share with you my thoughts and opinions, but maybe that’s enough to help you figure out what you want to do.

I will say that there is no “should” or “need.” The kind or level of relationship you want to have with clients in your business is completely up to you.

I think the nice aspect about this client is that she wants a relationship with you.

It validates that this is something that clients really value and want to have with their Administrative Consultant. It’s something to be grateful for.

The flip side of this is that perhaps this is a client who may turn out to be too needy, which I hate to say, but I gotta be honest, can be a real pain in the butt.

If she needs a whole lotta extra hand-holding and validation, it can turn into a real energy drain.

This is business after all. You have your own life, your own interests and events, not to mention other clients.

Of course, we often become close with our clients. But being hired to be their best friend I’m sure wasn’t part of the bargain.

Our level of closeness with clients, or particular clients, is something that happens organically in its natural course.

Either way, you can’t possibly be expected to know every detail of your clients’ lives and businesses. And to some extent, I personally feel there is benefit to keeping somewhat of a professional distance.

Too often, when you get to be too touchy-feely friends with each other, your time and emotional energy can become drained. That can make it a little bit harder to stand firm in your policies and boundaries and standards.

Do you know what I mean?

Have you ever had a friend ask for a favor and you find it harder to say “no” because of the fact they are a friend?

We’re all human. We all have a tougher time saying “no” to family and friends to some degree or another.

Assertiveness with those who are extra close to us is an ongoing effort. That’s what I mean about there being some benefit to keeping a bit of a professional distance.

Of course you want to like your clients and be interested in them (and if you choose them right, you will).

You want to be friendly and personable with each other, but you don’t have to become best friends. That’s not something that can be forced or purchased anyway. This is a business relationship after all.

So all that is to say, no, you can’t be expected to know all the goings-on of your clients and their businesses.

You’re not a mind reader and you can’t be in all places at once.

If you didn’t work on the video, weren’t involved in the event in any way, and she didn’t tell you, how can she expect you to know?

Is she going to be as equally interested in the goings-on in your business? Is there a two-way relationship?

What else is she going to expect you to be all-knowing about (which is just plain impossible and unrealistic)?

Whichever way you want to go is the right way.

YOU get to decide what your boundaries and standards are in your business.

If you decide that there’s a degree to which the intimacy, so to speak, is a bit beyond a business level than you are comfortable with, that’s perfectly okay.

If you decide you really want to be more involved in your clients’ businesses and be their personal rah-rah section, that’s okay, too. We all cheer our clients on.

I get the sense that you’re feeling it’s a bit more than is warranted of the business relationship, perhaps because it’s not at a particular natural stage yet, and especially when you aren’t a mind reader.

Heck, you might decide this is creating much too much existential agonizing about this and decide there’s not a fit and let the client the go. That’s perfectly okay, too.

But if you want to continue to try to work with this client, the very best thing you can do is have an open, honest dialogue.

On top of anything else, it’s a great opportunity to further understand each other and clarify expectations and understandings.

Let her know you appreciate that she cares whether you know about her successes and that by all means you want to cheer her on. Then invite her to email you whenever there is something she’d like you to know about or share her success in with you just in case it’s not something you would necessarily know about.