Clients do not come first. Employees come first. If you take care of your employees, they will take care of the clients.
A GREAT trait that I see in the better leaders is that they are quite protective and defensive of their team.
I have been working with leaders who have very high standards and expectations of their team, yet when they feel that they are being attacked or scrutinised by external stakeholders, and that these aren’t warranted, these leaders will quickly jump to the defence of their team.
These leaders know and believe what their team is capable of and they have their full confidence that their team can deliver.
A couple of weeks ago I was talking to one of these leaders who is facing pressure from one of their clients about unrealistic deadlines, with the client not giving enough time to prepare the project before the deadline, even though they had been asked to deliver information a few weeks prior. This client was quite demanding and would put pressure on the team, not necessarily on the business owner.
Finally, it got too much for this leader. They informed the client that they would not accept this pressure or these unrealistic deadlines in the future. There was a clear process and guidelines that both parties needed to adhere to, and even warned that if they no longer wanted to follow this process, then they would have to cease the business relationship, as they weren’t willing to continue to work under these conditions and unwarranted demands.
The saying that ‘the client or customer is always right’ is totally false.
If the majority of your clients are happy, are repeat clients and refer you, then that’s an indication that your team is performing. If the above instances are infrequent, then that’s a sign that the issue is with the client, not your team.
There is probably no bigger or more popular advocate of this approach than Richard Branson, the founder of Virgin. “Clients do not come first. Employees come first. If you take care of your employees, they will take care of the clients.”
It happens all the time in professional sports, great coaches will often come to the defence of their team and deflect that criticism coming from fans or the media. Sometimes this criticism is warranted, often it is not, with the media trying to drum up some controversy and emotions.
That’s not to say that they won’t have a go or address the issues on the field with the team, but that’s after reviewing the games or matches and understanding whether the criticism was justified or what the actual issue was. Their number one priority is their team and their welfare and mindset.
Another leader I work with went so far as to ‘sack’ their client, for the benefit of the team’s welfare. This client had become obnoxious, rude and abusive. The client had not been dealing with the business owner, but she was aware of the stress and pressure this particular client was putting members of her team under, so she decided to take action and inform them that they could no longer use her business’ service. No warning at all.
Her team member came up and thanked her for supporting her and was so appreciative that she had taken action. The team member also said that working with that particular client had really drained her mentally and emotionally.
This Emotional Intelligence and the ability to sense and understand how your team is feeling is one of the most sought-after traits in great leaders. These leaders genuinely care for the emotions and feelings of their team members, and is it any surprise that women generally do better in regards to this?
When you prioritise your team over your clients and take action, it builds trust, loyalty, respect and confidence in your team. The short financial downfall will pay off tenfold in the long term.
Are you willing to ‘sack’ your clients or customers if it’s in the best interests of your team’s wellbeing? Beau Robinson is an Action Coach Business Coach and former Super Rugby Champion and Wallaby. beaurobin[email protected]tioncoach.com