February 14, 2003
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When dealing with your clients in the high-tech world it
is so much easier to say “No” than “Yes”. I am
pretty sure it has something to do with my years in corporate IS/MIS/IT
departments, but, over the years, I have found myself becoming more and
more of gatekeeper, determined to keep new technology from complicating
my job and my client’s life. Despite whatever noble intentions I
might have had, though, this year I am more determined to say “Yes”
to my clients as often as possible.
A new attitude
This year I am making a concerted effort to avoid the automatic rejection
of complicated, difficult or even silly requests from my clients. I realize
that over the years I have been limiting myself, my career and my business,
by limiting client’s options. If they want to keep complete duplicates
of all their data on 3 different machines, so be it. If they want to install
the latest, greatest wireless networking in their home even though it’s
a completely unnecessary expense, so be it.
Now, this is not to say that I don’t explain all the nasty things
that can happen or the problems that might occur in their plans. I very
carefully lay out all the issues involved with their plans, but in the
end my response is “there are issues, but if that is what you want
then “we will make it happen.” Clients are, after all, a very
important part of the equation.
It might not surprise you to find that one major result of this new attitude
is happier clients. This is not to say that my clients weren’t happy
with my work before, but part of the reason they hire me is to make things
happen. They don’t want a debate over what is appropriate or feasible.
They have an image in their heads of how things should work and are asking
me to make that image reality. After dealing with clients in this way
for a few weeks, I find them more accepting of true roadblocks and bugs
we might run up against. They are also scheduling me for more hours than
they might have in the past. They have seen openness in my attitude and
responded with a further openness of their own.
By curbing my initial inclination to say “No” I am now delving
more deeply into what my client is trying to accomplish. In some cases,
they may not know how to express what they are really after. What may
sound like a crazy project might turn out to be easily achievable with
off-the-shelf parts once you talk about it for a while. If you don’t
put up the roadblock right away, you can usually find out the heart of
what the client needs, and then develop a solution.
Start saying yes today
I think you will find that having “Yes”, or, at least not
having “No” as your first response could open up some high-tech
career doors that might have been closed to you in the past. In times
like these, you need to be more open to job opportunities than ever before.
Shutting down discussion with unequivocal responses can limit your ability
to craft elegant solutions to meet your client’s needs.
This is not to say that you should open yourself up to every hare-brained
scheme that comes your way. If you truly think that something is untenable
or impossible, then you need to say so. There are some projects to which
you should say “No.” The goal is to curb your initial negative
response. This lets the client know that you have heard their idea and
it gives you time to formulate some sort of response without simply saying
“No.” In most cases, you will have to discuss the client’s
need more fully to discern the true nature of their request, but you won’t
have simply shutdown discussion of the project at the start.
The very nature of a high-tech career leads us all to become technology
gatekeepers, attempting to protect our clients against the vagaries of
bad or simply useless technology. While this is certainly an important
role, we all need to look for possibilities before ending any discussion.
Try to say “Yes” a bit more this year -- to your clients,
to your family and to yourself. You might find that everyone will feel
a bit better -- and the benefits to your high-tech career could be substantial.