Do thoughts like these plague you – “my client isn’t cooperating and doesn’t appreciate me.” “I wonder if my work is good enough.” “I feel isolated and not part of the team.” You are not alone! These thoughts pop up from time to time.
Here’s an example of a similar situation that I was in. I put everything else aside to meet an urgent deadline, which put a lot of pressure on me. When I reach out to colleagues there is no response or nothing helpful. In spite of all of this I do meet the deadline, but the only acknowledgement is dead silence. Not even email saying thank you.
I am good at what I do, but my work suffers without input. I know from experience that confronting my boss about this problem is not a good idea – but what can one do?
You need to communicate without being confrontational. I have slowly improved my skill at influencing the people I work with over the years. Here’s what I have learnt:
If you don’t talk regularly, schedule a call which aims to review and plan your work. You be the judge on how frequently you need to meet, whether it’s weekly or monthly or anything in between. Even though this isn’t a committee meeting with a formal agenda, send a reminder with the points you want to discuss.
Your own agenda
You are in charge of the meeting and you need to prepare. Do your own review before the all. Ask yourself what went well and where you can improve. List any problems you want to discuss and the solutions you will propose. If there’s something delicate to talk about I actually script what I need to say. It helps to keep me on track and tactful even though I don’t stick to the script word for word.
Give positive feedback
This is a perfect opportunity to report on your successes. Don’t be shy –tell your client how proud you of your work, whatever it is, for example that you met a deadline or figured out a faster way to accomplish a task. And don’t forget the positives. If something has improved, say so.
Nobody likes to hear about problems and let’s face it – this type of discussion can become emotional. Most of us don’t talk about these things. We hope the problem will go away and then they don’t. Deal with it before it blows up in your face!
Here’s an example of a problem I often have to deal with. Suppliers submitted their invoices late and I had to ask for payment authorisations in drips and drabs which irritated everyone concerned. And I had to cope with all those phone calls and emails about late payment. The situation was inefficient and stressed me.
It works for me to suggest a solution when I raise an issue. I asked for authorisation to tell suppliers that we would not make payment until our next payment run if we didn’t receive their invoices by our deadline and it worked! My client makes payments once a month and everyone knows what to expect by when.
If you don’t have a solution to propose, ask whether your client has any suggestions.
Show that you have your finger on the pulse
Do some research. Is there anything new on your client’s website? Have you read any articles related to the business or industry concerned? Share anything interesting and relevant and particularly any good news.
You don’t have to spend a long time on this. Do a quick search on the internet just before your meeting.
What are your client’s priorities?
The last item on your agenda should be more questions. Knowing what your client’s priorities are will help you plan your work and steer your efforts into the direction they want to go.
You will find that asking questions work very well for you. You will acquire useful of insights and information and your client will love it.
Above all, keep communicating. Ask your questions, be brave and discuss those difficult issues and focus on the solutions. You will demonstrate to your client that you are interested, focussed and positive.
And finally, keep it short and light – everybody enjoys a bit of a laugh!