I’m the sort of person who likes to find the silver lining in every situation. A traffic jam is an opportunity to catch up on my favorite podcast and a rainy day is an opportunity for a matinee.
So it probably won’t surprise you that I approach tough professional relationships the same way. I try to view them as opportunities for growth and learning–and I know I’m not the only one! I asked some of my favorite self-employed creative entrepreneurs for the insights they’ve gained from working with difficult vendors, clients, collaborators and employees, and they have a wealth of great lessons to share:
“Firing People Sucks. I don’t care if it is an employee or a vendor. It is always awkward. Unfortunately, as entrepreneurs we can find a million ways to blame ourselves and prolong the “broken” relationship thinking if we just do this or that it will all get better. Sometimes it does and sometimes it doesn’t. We need to recognize when “enough is enough” and that it is time to have those difficult conversations. Because, you never regret firing someone after it’s done.”
“What works best for me when dealing with a difficult client is to remember the issue is professional, not personal — even when it feels personal. And it will! But managing my emotions means I can be calm, cool and collected with a client rather than clouding very real issues and lessening the chance of resolution. Regardless of outcome, though, I always review what, how and why things went awry, so I can be better skilled when the next tough customer shows up!”
“I’ve learned that even I, myself, am capable of being a bad client! I need to actually, really read the contract and respect my vendor’s time. I need to come to them with a defined idea and set expectations. Most people don’t want to hear ‘I’ll know it when I see it’ or ‘I trust your judgment’!”
Consistent and open communication is the key to every business relationship. I have found this to ring true in all relationships. Make sure all communications are respectful and clear, and clearly understood, by all parties. This is essential. If something changes on either side, make sure communication is sent as quickly as possible; it makes for a stronger, trusted relationship. Without this, rapport fades, trust wanes and frustrations rise on all sides. It’s much easier to win when everyone treats one another as a great team member by keeping them informed of changes that impact timelines and other expectations.”
“Make people want to help you. It is a simple concept that will make an incredible impact on you and your business. Get your anger and reactive nature in check and be the person people want to help. When you are, they always seem to figure out how to.”
“I’ve learned that, while you always want to give people the benefit of the doubt and remain flexible, the relationship will go as it starts out. Meaning, if the person or client is chaotic, unorganized, misses deadlines, promises things they can’t deliver, and has a zillion excuses, it usually means this is how they operate and you should not expect the project to go any differently. Now of course, there are always exceptions (a car accident, a childcare emergency) but when you start to see a pattern emerge in the discovery phase when things are supposed to be easy and good, it’s wise to ask yourself, “Will this person truly deliver or be good to work with or will this just suck my energy and time?” There was one prospect client who started out this way, we gave them a second chance and they turned out to be just as flaky and unresponsive as we thought they’d be, so we luckily were able to pass on the project. Trust your gut!”
Author, Speaker, Branding Expert, + Founder at Red Slice
As for me: I’ve learned that you can’t please everyone you encounter no matter how much you might try. It doesn’t have to be a negative if a professional relationship doesn’t work out. It’s a gift you can learn from, and then move on stronger and wiser from the experience. Better relationships are always on the horizon!
How about you? If you have some thoughts you’d like to share on what you’ve learned working with a difficult client, vendor, or employee, feel free to hop on over to Facebook and share your thoughts!
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