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Out On The Skinny Branches

I was “fired” by a client not too long ago.  Ouch.

What went wrong?

Was it something I said? How I said it?   Apparently … yes. Hey, it happens.

What was curious in this particular instance was that it wasn’t the result of my saying something that I knew might be provocative or challenging, but that’s usually where the risk is.

It doesn’t matter whether you’re a coach, an attorney, a health practitioner or a consultant of some sort. When you’re serving the needs of your clients, sometimes you have to tell them things they don’t want to hear. Sometimes you have to challenge them. You have to talk with them about things that make them a little uncomfortable or ask them to do things that take them out of their comfort zones.

Can that get you in trouble? You bet. But that’s where the gains are made. That’s where the transformations occur. That’s where the breakthroughs happen.

Years ago, Thomas Leonard, the “father” of the coaching profession, said, “You’re not a coach until 5 clients have fired you.”

At the time, I was appalled.  I can still remember my first “firing.”  And although it’s been 10 years and I’ve experienced a great many successes since then, it still stings when someone says they don’t want to work with me anymore.

But I understand what Thomas was saying.  If you’ve never been fired, then you’ve never taken risks … never ventured out onto the skinny branches.

I’d go so far as to say you can’t really be of much help to someone if you can’t say what’s on your mind. You have to feel free to say what you have to say as an honest and caring professional, regardless of the consequences … even if it means losing business.

Of course, you have to be respectful and somewhat circumspect. You don’t want to go over “the line,” but those who come to the interaction with a fear of upsetting or offending the client are not serving. Playing it safe doesn’t cut it.

Of course, there are several reasons why people might choose to look elsewhere for the services you provide.

Your personalities or personal styles might not be compatible.

They may not be comfortable with your business model, or it may not fit their needs. For example, I’ve had some clients who want to work with me on and off on more of an “as-needed” basis, taking what some might see as a band-aid approach. I prefer to take a consistent, systematic approach that’s proven to work.

You have a model for how you do business. If your approach or the programs or services you offer aren’t a match for what the person is looking for, then so be it. You’re just setting yourself up to deliver less than stellar results if you try to make too many modifications in your proven system. If you try too hard to accommodate what someone thinks they need, you may end up nullifying the very things that make you great at what you do.

Look, the bottom line is that, as discouraging and dismaying as it may be to be rejected, you’re not going to be everyone’s cup of tea.

It’s the same thing when I go somewhere to speak. Somebody told me once that 10% of the people will love you, because they’re the type of people who love everybody.  10% of the people are critics who find fault in just about everything. Your job is to concentrate on the other 80%. That’s good advice.

What risks are you taking in your business?  Are you going out on the skinny branches where there can be big upsets and big rewards?  Or are you playing it safe?

As uncomfortable as it can be at times, I strongly suggest you choose to swing out. By all means, be kind and considerate when you interact with your clients, but, above all, be true to yourself … be confident … and be bold.

Even at the risk of being fired.

Best Wishes,

Meet Denise: Denise Hedges is a Business Development Coach and Speaker Coach for small business owners who want to be more comfortable, confident, and successful with their sales and marketing efforts. She specializes in helping them use speaking as a way to dramatically improve their results!