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2 min readDon’t Create Difficult Clients

by Guy Gage | June 16, 2019 | Business, Client Experience, Leadership

While talking with a partner friend about how he is raising up his next leaders, he mentioned that one of his leader-potentials seemed disinterested in partnership because he didn’t want to take on the “hard life” of a partner—particularly having to deal with difficult clients. My friend explained to his mentee that it didn’t have to be as difficult as others make it or that he imagines. Then my friend shared last week’s Monday Message with him about gaining the cooperation of his difficult clients to make the engagements go more smoothly.


Your Role


My friend’s story got me to thinking more about the misperceptions that you and your leader-potentials may have about creating powerful client experiences. You and your staff have accomplished great working relationships with so many of your clients. You’re good at what you do and demonstrate it regularly. You do all kinds of things to make it so.


  • You repeatedly remind them
  • You over-communicate
  • You go the extra mile
  • You make yourself accessible
  • You are responsive
  • You make accommodations
  • You bend and yield as much as you can, even at the expense of you and your staff.


The Client’s Role


True, all of these efforts are necessary and expected of you. It’s part of being in service as a professional. But there is a point at which all your attempts will fall short. In the end, you can only do so much. Your clients have an important role to play. And many of your clients will come around if you had clear conversations with them about the importance of their role. Minimally, they have to


  • get you information that is timely and accurate
  • respond to your questions so you can continue
  • participate in important decisions that you shouldn’t make


What You Accept


If you have uncooperative clients or unreasonable clients, first ask yourself how you have contributed to the situation. What have you tolerated and accepted over the course of the relationship? How have you dealt with their unreasonableness? How many times have you paid a price for yielding to their demands? What have they come to expect as the norm? Rather than thinking of them as difficult clients, examine how you create and reinforce the very behavior you don’t want.


There is no question that difficult clients do exist and you are likely to have a few. This message is to encourage you to avoid accepting their waywardness or firing them before you have exhausted all efforts to shape their behavior and your relationship with them. Whatever you do, don’t let a difficult client experience prevent you from pursuing or being a leader in your firm.

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