Faking it

May 22, 2007

Can you fake being personal?
In our rush to offer solutions to clients’ problems we often (too often in my opinion) eschew the personal and embrace the professional. We really don’t get the value of being “ourselves” because somewhere along the line we’ve learned that to be ourselves is to not be good enough. I’m of the firm belief that there are no differences. What there are – are boundaries. People hire people because after they’ve assured themselves that you have the skill set to do the job, they want to be in a relationship with someone they like, feel comfortable with and ultimately feel safe with. All of that requires a large degree of self awareness and an ability to manage boundaries. It also requires that we be ourselves. You can try faking being personal but it won’t work. It never does.
I have a number of questions I ask myself when working with clients to make sure I’m “being myself”.

  • What’s my emotional response to this client and to undertaking this assignment?
  • Would there come a time in this relationship where I could share that understanding in the service of the relationship?
  • Whose authority am I drawing on to make this client feel confident about working with me? My own? Or someone else’s?
  • How do I feel about “not knowing” in the presence of this client?
  • What is my motivation for working with this client? Money? Learning? Creativity? All three? something else? i.e. what’s in this for me?

Those basic questions help me to keep connected to myself and more importantly, they ensure that I bring myself to the relationship. Tricks and tools are great and important sometimes, but if I’m not sure of what I’m feeling and when, I can’t reach for what I need in the service of my clients. Unlike the customer in the advertisement above, I want to feel personally connected to my clients and it’s only in that frame of mind I can grasp how best I can give them value for their money.

2 People reacted on this

  1. Annette,
    I’m a bit self-conscious about being the first to respond, again, to another post from you which I’ve found incredibly pertinent and well put.
    Only yesterday I discussed this type of issue with a director of communications in a big Irish company. It was the lack of a personal relationship between a CEO and a consultant that interested us.
    I always buy a personal relationship; I’m seldom satisfied with a purely business one. I want the whole person in the relationship and this means that I want to be with someone with whom I can empathise. There are plenty of business people out there who have tools and techniques, who know process and who have the intellect to dissect situations. As far as I’m concerned the differentiating factor which determines whether I buy their time is what they bring into the relationship as ‘added value’, added whole-person value. Of course they must be competent, professional and reliable. But it’s the intangible extra from which I learn unexpected things that attracts me. For example, if they play saxaphone and bring that into the discussion about how to develop directors as conductors… If they cook, and bring the difference between sticking to the recipe and writing your own recipe book into the business strategy development meeting…
    I think I understand what you’ve written but I better check?

  2. That’s precisely what I mean Omani – except I don’t see the “personal” as the “added extra” I see it as the essential ingredient .. if the boundaries of the relationship are well enough managed, particularly in the kind of work you and I do which simply can’t be done effectively with a dog and pony show, then you must bring yourself to the task.
    It may be just me – but I think unless the work we do has some personal impact (and that comes from the relational aspect) then it won’t work – that’s (for me) why so much of what passes for “training” goes out the window as soon as people get back to their offices – it simply isn’t relevant to their personal experience of the work and the job.
    I could go on, and on…

Comments are closed.