There may be situations where you feel that you are 100 percent in the right and that the client is absolutely in the wrong. Even in these cases, keep in mind that the client perceives that you have let him down. You may have to walk away from the relationship, but be careful about how you deal with it; you don’t want to leave burned bridges behind you. If there has been good communication between you and the client, however, and expectations have been set, you should be able to avoid this kind of confrontation.
DEEP PERSONAL and professional trust, which boils down to a client’s belief in your integrity and your competence, is a hallmark of the long-term relationships that great professionals are able to develop. Clients expect and will forgive occasional errors of judgment, but lapses of integrity are a red flag to everyone around you. As the fifth-century religious leader St. Augustine wrote in his essay On Lying. “When regard for the truth has been broken down or even slightly weakened, all things will remain doubtful. ” Set high standards of conduct for yourself.
Tirelessly develop your reputation for integrity and honesty, and it will become one of your biggest assets as a professional. THE SOUL OF THE GREAT PROFESSIONAL This is the true joy of life, the being used by a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; the being thoroughly worn out before you are thrown on the scrap heap; the being a force of nature instead of a feverish, selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy. GEORGE BERNARD SHAW, Man and Superman
GREAT PROFESSIONALS become extraordinary client advisers by developing some important attributes. These attributes encompass the important talents, skills, and attitudes that enable professionals in any field to build and sustain long-term, broad-gauge client relationships on a consistent basis. The great advisers we’ve studied also possess certain outlooks that frame and inform their work. We call these outlooks the soul of the great professional. They are not so much personal characteristics as they are ways of looking at the world.
If you cultivate them, your ability to add value will be enhanced, and you’ll become a more appealing person to your clients-someone they will both respect and enjoy spending time with. In addition, you’ll be better able to shape and manage your own career. These outlooks-the elements of this soul-can be discerned in virtually all of the professionals we have studied who command strong client loyalty. If you were a client, whom would you rather spend time with? There’s no contest here: all of us would prefer a positive, energizing individual to someone who always sees the dark side of things.
Some situations, such as a tax audit, may benefit from the scarcity mentality we’ve described. But in general, clients prefer and benefit from the expansive thinking of the professional who sees abundance, not scarcity. Don’t confuse an abundance mentality with laxness, laziness, or imprudence. The professionals who perceive abundance often have a healthy dissatisfaction with the way things are done today. They know there’s often a better solution. Like strong organizational leaders, they push and stretch for new ideas and innovations; they don’t wait for them to float down from the sky.
That’s why clients like having them around so much: these professionals constantly energize, motivate, and inspire others. The sources of your fundamental outlook on life-abundance versus scarcity-are varied and complex. Your early childhood experiences and upbringing clearly have a strong influence on this dimension of your personality. Someone who suffers physical or emotional deprivation as a child, for example, may always harbor a deep-seated sense of scarcity. A lack of love and affection damages self-esteem, making it hard to have an abundance outlook.
There is no doubt an element of personal “constitution” involved-some individuals just seem to be born with more resilience against the vicissitudes of life-but family and parental role models are also an important influence on your adult attitudes of either abundance or scarcity. We believe that the education you receive plays a critical role as well. Economics and engineering, which are typical backgrounds of many professionals in business, are founded on principles of scarcity. Both disciplines are concerned with the optimal use of scarce resources.
They focus on the tradeoffs that have to be made-for example, “guns versus butter,” a graph recognizable to many readers, which is found in many introductory economics textbooks. The liberal arts, in contrast, are premised on abundance. The liberal arts perspective sees a world of nearly infinite ideas and resources, a world where trade-offs are not always necessary. It also raises important philosophical questions. Rajat Gupta, McKinsey’s worldwide managing director, says that he reads poetry at the end of each partners’ meeting: “At first, that took people by surprise.
But over time, poetry has affected what we’re doing. Poetry helps us reflect on the important questions: What is the purpose of our business? What are our values? ” The European Renaissance, which was a time of enormous scientific as well as artistic ferment and innovation, exemplifies the power of the liberal arts perspective. The concept of humanism, which fueled the Renaissance, was based on a belief in the potential of human beings and their ability to reach self-fulfillment without recourse to higher powers or supernatural means.
The most accomplished and inventive figures of the period, from Niccolo Machiavelli to Leonardo DaVinci, were consummate liberal arts scholars, equally at home with art, science, mathematics, philosophy, history, and literature. Does this mean you have to study liberal arts to become an accomplished professional and develop lifelong clients? Yes and no. What we have found is that the best client advisers, regardless of what they majored in at college or studied in graduate school, become deep generalists.
They read widely, take an interest in a variety of subjects and disciplines, and cultivate personal interests as well as professional expertise. Recall Peter Drucker, for example, who has a passion for Japanese art, or David Ogilvy, who had a deep interest in French culture (he eventually went to live in France). The risk of burrowing too deeply into one discipline like economics, engineering, or accounting is that you will begin to adopt a scarcity mentality. Broad knowledge and learning, in contrast, open the way for an outlook of abundance.
Great Professionals Have a Mission Orientation The individuals who have had a significant impact on history-figures such as Jesus, Buddha, Joan of Arc, Gandhi, and Abraham Lincoln-had clear missions that led them to perform at extraordinary levels. The great advisers we’ve looked at in this book also had well-developed personal missions. For Thomas More, it was fulfilling God’s work in this life; for Niccolo Machiavelli, it was creating a stable, unified Italian state; for J. P. Morgan, it was establishing an orderly financial system in the absence of regulatory agencies.
Gertrude Bell’s mission was to promulgate an understanding of the Arab world among Westerners and ensure peaceful cohabitation of the Iraqis and the British. Early on, General George Marshall was driven by a desire to create a professional, respected U. S. Army founded on principles of excellence, efficiency, compassion, and hard work; later, his mission became no less than ensuring that the United States kept the world safe for democracy. For most of us, our personal missions are perhaps more down-to-earth but no less sincere, sacred, and important to us.
When you ask great professionals what drives them in their careers, you will hear phrases such as “making a difference to my clients’ business”; “enriching management practice through my ideas”; “being a teacher-teaching and explaining the importance of people’s rights”; “educating managers so they lead more successful, effective lives”; or simply “practicing excellence in everything I do. ” Fred Brown, who descends from the famed Brown Brothers Harriman banking family, is an example of an extraordinary adviser who has a clear mission that drives his daily behavior.
A highly successful personal financial consultant, Brown has authored several books on financial management. He writes a weekly newspaper column entitled “Money and Spirit,” and he has a waiting list of clients. He could well afford a trophy house and late-model luxury cars, but his relatively modest home in the Southwest and his utilitarian Subaru suit him just fine-he prefers to live his values of moderation and balance rather than flaunt his achievements through flashy possessions.
Using a powerful, unique approach to financial management that blends cutting-edge financial expertise with a deep understanding of each client’s personal, familial, professional, and spiritual life, Brown has developed an intensely loyal following of individuals and families who come back to him year after year. Brown charges an hourly rate that is a fraction of what the market could bear, but this is a conscious choice he has made that is consistent with his mission of helping people lead better lives through improved financial management.
“By charging what I do,” Brown tells us, “I am able to serve a very broad clientele-I get the millionaires but also people who are scraping by and desperately need help just to survive. ” The opposite of a mission orientation is the strictly material orientation. Your main focus becomes money, title, promotion, or publicity. When a professional has no sense of mission, he or she risks becoming a mercenary-someone that Machiavelli cautioned against five hundred years ago when he wrote, “Mercenaries are disunited, thirsty for power, undisciplined, and disloyal.
” Machiavelli urged the creation of national militias-citizens’ armies with an overriding purpose and an intense loyalty to their home state-a revolutionary concept at the time but now the accepted norm. The author Victor Frankl, who survived the Nazi concentration camp at Auschwitz during World War II, wrote that “Nothing is more likely to help a person overcome or endure troubles than the consciousness of having a task in life. ” A mission orientation not only helps you overcome difficulties, but it will give you great strength in practicing the seven attributes.
It will be easier for you to be an empathetic listener; your conviction will intensify; your integrity will be strengthened; and it will be far easier to practice selfless independence. Great Professionals Channel Adversity into Wisdom and Confidence The extraordinary client advisers we’ve profiled have all gone through difficult experiences. They’ve made mistakes, suffered reversals of fortune, and even been humiliated. Whereas many people become embittered, cynical, or distrustful as a result of these setbacks, the really great professionals get stronger. They become wiser, more confident, and humble.
Their comfort zones expand, enabling them to tackle an ever-broader variety of situations and client assignments. Laura Herring’s story illustrates how extraordinary setbacks can create resolve and determination. In less than ten years, Herring’s firm, The IMPACT Group, has grown to 120 professionals who deliver a variety of relocation support services, from counseling to resume preparation. It had an inauspicious beginning, however. The concept got its start when Herring, originally a family therapist, pointed out to a Fortune 500 executive that relocation was one of the toughest personal issues facing his employees.
Challenged to develop a solution, Herring invested $360,000 and months of time to create a program called Momentum. Just after the company placed a major order for her services, however, its relocation manager vetoed the idea, leaving Herring with no business. “I had double-mortgaged my house,” she tells us, “and sold some real estate my husband and I owned. I was deeply in debt, with no cash flow. Panic set in. ” She goes on to say: I was unable to go home and tell my husband what had happened. So I went to the phone book, and began looking through the Yellow Pages for other companies that I could sell the program to.
I called the vice president of marketing at United Van Lines and told him I thought he should have the first shot at buying our services. He agreed to meet the next day. He loved the materials so much that he immediately placed an order for 10,000 tapes, books, and related services-it was a $1 million sale. I was ecstatic. Two days later, however, he called me back with terrible news. “We’ve decided to develop this internally,” he told me. “We can’t go forward with the order. ” Unfortunately, I didn’t have a signed contract.