All of us have experienced a difficult client, or one who has challenged our integrity,
performance, or delivery with someone up the ladder. Constructive criticism is how we
grow. Professionals need to learn early on not to take that kind of criticism personally.
Helping the client/customer achieve the results they desire is something all of us should
continually shoot for. However, there are times when an unrealistic, overbearing, and
caustic client can go after someone on your team and the complaint is not valid.
Many years ago while working as a grunt on a high-end condo construction site the
developer asked our boss to cut corners on something that could pass code, but was not in
the best interest of prospective buyers, or the same quality as units already sold. It was
gray. The project construction foreman refused and told us not to do it. The project
manager approached him and demanded the change be made per the developer’s request.
After a lengthy discussion the project manager concurred and both refused to have their
crew make the change to cut the corner. Both were willing to walk off the job if their
people were forced to make the change and sacrifice quality. After lengthy discussions and
consideration the developer backed off and trusted the professionals who made the right
The entire crew was empowered and affirmed because their bosses listened to them when the proposed change was attempted, but would not work. The construction foreman and project manager trusted and listened to their “boots on the ground.” As a 19-year old kid I had no idea the risk these middle-aged men took. There was a good chance the developer would have let them go and brought in someone who would do what he wanted. These leaders were willing to stand on
principle. Leaders this is a benchmark for people following you. The professional road is littered with the bodies of good,
hard-working, competent employees who were thrown under the bus to appease the client
even when it was the wrong thing to do. All of us have a story that is similar. We may have
not lost a job, but a client, or customers unrealistic expectations, or demands were
mandated even when the action was not in their best interest by the very professionals
hired to do the work.
Again, we are not talking about constructive, worthy, viable criticism, that is totally
different and those who have been in business long enough, have experienced it even
though we might have disagreed with the direction, but changed to please the client.
Employees want and need to be affirmed by leadership. Professionals need to be
supported when they are the expert in a particular area. When someone on your team
knows you “have their back,” it creates a powerful sense of affirmation and loyalty. The
team player doesn’t expect you to approve, or turn a blind eye to mistakes, but they do deserve to feel as though their expertise and counsel is valued. If it’s not they will move on to a place where it is valued. Is the client always right? The real answer is, “No!” However, finding solutions to help the client win and succeed is the end game for all of us. Think about your business and expertise. You are the thought leader an expert in your particular position/specialty. When a client/customer suggests something that is not valuable, worthy, or realistic, management owes them the courtesy of being honest. It may not change the outcome and the client may ultimately choose the lesser option in terms of performance, quality and delivery. However, when your leader stands in the gap for you it’s better than any raise, or benefit because it screams that they respect and trust you. And that is something a lot of people do not experience with their boss.
Monty Carter is a Storyteller and Brand Strategist for WebSpeak Media in Greer, South
Carolina. In addition to telling client stories he also writes on organizational culture,
leadership, conflict and other business related topics.