When To Bend, Not Break: Mastering Flexibility in Client Relations
Let’s talk flexibility. A subject I frequently tackle. Ever felt super exhausted trying to cater to client requests? Welcome to the club. Over time, I’ve identified 6 things to base our decisions on.
In our VA and OBM business world, striking the right balance between flexibility and values is more of an art than a science.
These 6 things are my rule for making flexible decisions, understanding the advantages of adaptability, recognising the risks of excessive flexibility, handling requests with integrity, and, ultimately, staying true to my defined role and values. So hopefully you can use this to build in the right level of flexibility to different requests day in and day out.
This episode shares:
- Your main rule for flexibility: We are flexible when we can be and never when we can’t.
- Create your own decision baseline based on your values
- Consider the benefits of being flexible as nothing is ever black or white
- Consider the costs of being flexible as continually bending over backward can lead to burnout.
- Navigating client requests with integrity, be honest, and deliver what you commit to
- Always stay in your role with the aim to make your clients’ lives infinitely better.
Your Brand’s Flexibility
“My Brand Is Flexible. We are flexible when we can be and never when we can’t be.”
Have you ever been in a dilemma, torn between accommodating a client’s request and sticking to your policy? Our brand’s philosophy revolves around the concept of “flexible when we can be and never when we can’t.” This means that while we strive to accommodate our clients’ needs, there are boundaries that should not be crossed, no matter how tempting it might be. For instance, when faced with unique situations, even my team occasionally stumbles, wondering how to navigate unfamiliar waters. But, as I often reiterate, it’s about staying true to our essence.
When a client’s request seems out of the norm, the first step is to assess it against our flexibility rule. Are they asking for something that can be accommodated without a significant negative impact on us? If yes, we should certainly consider it. However, if their demands risk jeopardizing the project or ask for something wildly outlandish, a firm conversation is in order.
Now, this doesn’t mean rigidness. Sometimes, these situations aren’t about what we do but how we handle them, and that’s where our flexibility rule shines.
Tip: 💡Before agreeing to a client’s request, take a step back. Ensure it aligns with the project’s core and doesn’t compromise you, your team, or your business.
Your Non-Negotiables and Decision Baseline
Our brand choices around flexibility are deeply rooted in values. Personal and business values often shape how one reacts to various scenarios. For me, it’s all about people and family. Remember that client who suggested cross-country trips? It clashed head-on with my value of family time.
While values are non-negotiable, they’re not rigid. They serve as guidelines, not chains. For example when a client is planning a significant event months in advance and requests my on-ground presence, then it is a one-off scenario, and the circumstances allow me to make an exception.
Every request demands evaluation against your value system. Life is filled with gray areas and some might fit snugly within, while others might clash. It’s this delicate dance of aligning values with requests that determines our yeses and nos.
At its core, it’s about understanding where flexibility aids growth and where it hinders it. Such decisions require a blend of professional judgment and personal integrity.
When a client’s request seems out of the norm, the first step is to assess it against our values. Are they asking for something that can be accommodated without a significant negative impact on us? If yes, we should certainly consider it. However, if their demands risk jeopardizing the project or ask for something wildly outlandish, a firm conversation is in order.
To be honest, often these situations aren’t about what we do but how we handle them.
Tip: 💡Clearly define your core values. Use them as your decision guide. Before agreeing to a client’s request, take a step back. Ensure it aligns with the project’s core and doesn’t compromise your values.
The Benefits of Flexibility
Being flexible offers a world of advantages. When we show a willingness to bend and adapt, clients often reciprocate, creating a harmonious professional relationship. After all, business, much like life, isn’t black and white. Recognizing this early on helps in handling unexpected twists and turns. Embracing flexibility, within reason, can foster goodwill and mutual respect.
It’s the flexible tree that doesn’t break in the storm.
Tip: 💡Set clear boundaries. Know when to be flexible and when to stand firm.
The Costs of Flexibility
Like all good things, excessive flexibility can backfire. Continually bending over backward can lead to burnout and resentment. It’s about striking a balance. If you find yourself constantly compromising on aspects you deem critical, it might be time to reassess. Being too accommodating might earn short-term appreciation but can lead to long-term exhaustion.
Tip: 💡Set aside some time each week to reflect on your workload and client interactions. Ask yourself if there were instances where you felt overly stretched or compromised. Recognising these patterns is the first step. Once identified, establish boundaries or communication strategies to ensure that your well-being remains a top priority alongside client satisfaction. Always remember, a well-rested and content professional delivers better results.
Navigating Requests with Integrity
Managing requests with integrity is important. It’s about ensuring that the flexibility offered aligns with what was initially promised to the client. Imagine proposing a comprehensive digital ecosystem overhaul, only to backtrack later, citing personal comfort with certain tools. It’s not just a breach of trust, but it also lacks integrity.
If there’s a specific way you operate, that needs to be communicated upfront. It’s about setting the right expectations and then living up to them. If a change is needed, it should be in the client’s best interest and not personal convenience.
Tip: 💡Always circle back to the original promise or agreement. Use it as a reference point when making decisions.
Knowing Your Place and Stay in Your Role
In my role as an online business manager, I am here to facilitate, support, and bring a client’s vision to life. It’s a dance where the client leads, and we follow, adding our expertise and flavor without overshadowing their rhythm. This understanding ensures that our actions, even when bending a bit, are in line with the client’s best interest.
Take the example of using project management systems. In my business, we work with a lot of clients and we use all their different systems. And that includes project management systems. If we’re working with operations, Generally, we’re going to be in a client’s project management system to manage whatever we’re doing and the team.
As a result of that, a lot of our activities have to also go into our own project management system, so our business, so that we can see everything that’s happening. And so the impact of that is that things get double-handled because we’ve got to track it for ourselves and then we’ve got to track it for our clients. And if I was to cut one of those off, it would have to be my own
While it’s tempting to streamline operations for personal convenience, we always prioritise the client’s needs. Even if it means a bit of double handling on our end, the client’s business integrity comes first.
Tip: 💡Constantly refocus on the client’s objectives. Ensure every flexibility decision enhances their primary goals.
And… that’s a wrap!
Flexibility is less about a rigid set of rules and more about understanding boundaries and values. It’s an ever-evolving journey, much like the dynamic world of business. As professionals, it’s our duty to find the right balance that serves our clients while preserving our well-being and integrity.
Remember, the aim is to bend without breaking. Use your values as your compass, trust your instincts, and let every decision be a reflection of mutual respect in the client-business relationship.
Life and business are far from straightforward. I hope this deep dive offered some clarity and direction. As we navigate this journey, let’s keep learning, adapting, and growing.
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Follow along with the transcript
E16 How flexible should I be with clients? 6 things to consider before saying yes or no.
Leanne Woff: [00:00:00] Hello, hello. Welcome to another episode of [00:01:00] the Audacious OBM. I’m Leanne and today we are talking about flexibility. So a question I often get asked is how flexible should I be with my clients? And I believe there are six things we need to consider before we say yes or no to requests around being flexible.
That’s what I want to talk to you about today. So the six things are my number one rule for flexibility, what my baseline on making decisions around flexibility is, The benefits of being flexible. The cost of being too flexible. Managing requests with integrity. And the final one is sticking to your [00:02:00] role.
So hopefully this gives you a little bit of a framework and a way that you can build in the right level of flexibility to different requests day in and day out. All right, so number one. My rule in flexibility is – My Brand Is Flexible. We are flexible when we can be and never when we can’t be. So I’ve had situations recently where, I’ll have my team say to me, “Oh, what/how are we going to handle this?
Or what do we say? It’s not what we would normally do.” And this is my, that I go back to my rule. We are flexible when we can be and never when we can’t be. And what that means is. As long as we’re staying within our role and within our boundaries, but we [00:03:00] need to change something to benefit the client and the impact is not astronomical for us, then of course we’re going to be flexible.
They’re not asking for anything that’s wildly outlandish. If what they’re asking for jeopardizes the project, well then yeah, we have to have a stronger conversation about that. If we believe it’s unrealistic, if we believe that it is way out of scope. These are all things that make it harder for us to be flexible.
And there are just certain things where I’m unwilling to compromise. And so what are those things? Which brings me to my second point. What is your baseline for making decisions around flexibility? For me, this always comes down to values. What do I value [00:04:00] and what does that look like? For example, I value people and I value family and I would never want to jeopardize anyone’s people or anyone’s family.
And so if I had a client who came and said, Hey I really need some more of your help. And I think it needs to be in person. And I need you to fly across the country once a week on a Wednesday to do this for me. Now, if I match that against my values of family, It doesn’t really sit very well because I know that then every Wednesday, I am not going to be able to do my son’s homework with him or take him to his activities.
And it’s something that I really enjoy and he really [00:05:00] enjoys and I think that it brings stability. So asking me to travel across the country once a week, it’s actually something I cannot.
I’m not willing to ask myself, my family, or my team or their family to give something like that up, especially if I can find an alternate way to get the same result. Now, does that mean that every time a client asks me for something in terms of, “I need you to be away from your family,” that I’m going to say no?
No, it doesn’t. Because if my client said to me, “Hey, I have a really big event coming up, it’s in eight months time and it will just make my life so much easier if you’re there, are you able to do this?” Then I’m going to talk to my son and say, Hey, this one week I’m not going to be there, but [00:06:00] it’s okay because dad is going to take you and I’ll be back on Monday.
And then next week I’ll take you again and I’ll sacrifice that little piece for my client, ’cause I don’t think they’re being unreasonable. I don’t think the cost of that flexibility is going to have a real impact or jeopardize my values. So that’s how I generally will measure things is what’s the actual impact of this and how much does it matter and at
what level. Then we be flexible? If it’s only going to cost me and it’s not going to do anything for me, well, then why would I do it? And the truth is, I don’t think anybody is really that hard or that self absorbed, but I believe that in most things, there needs to be [00:07:00] balance and fairness. If you give a little, you get a little, and you know what I’ve noticed?
If I’m a little bit within reason, flexible with my clients, they’re flexible with me. Because at the end of the day, we’re all people, and life is never black and white, and neither is business. It’s not black and white, it’s not repeatable, the scenarios are not guaranteed to happen in the same way every time.
And so the sooner that we recognize that, the better it will be for us. Because then when something unexpected happens or someone does request a little bit of consideration and flexibility, we’re not surprised and we know how to handle it. So I do think that there is a big benefit in being [00:08:00] flexible with consideration.
But then what’s the flip side? What’s the cost of being too flexible? Now that is one that I think more of us struggle with. We’re too flexible and we struggle with boundaries and setting boundaries
and keeping boundaries.
The cost of that is burnout and being resentful. If we don’t, keep to our boundaries. If we say yes and then yes again and then yes again, even though we don’t want to, even though the things we’re being asked are some of those things that we really shouldn’t negotiate on, then we’re not really living a great business.
We’re constantly giving everything that matters away and not getting anything in return and we feel like ‘Yes, yes, yes. [00:09:00] I’ve given you so much!’ You can’t then expect other people or clients to see that the same way. They’ve asked you for something. You’ve said yes. They don’t owe you anything for that.
It’s not like you said to them okay, this is going to be extremely hard for me and I don’t really normally do it and all of these things, so that they fully understand what they’re asking for. If they’ve just asked you and you said yes and they ask you something else and you say yes, that’s on you.
And so it’s really important. That we think things through and that we are flexible when we can be and not when we can’t be. So that then we don’t end up resentful of things clients never intended to do in the first place. And we don’t end up burnt out and unable to work with anybody because we’ve said yes just too many times.
[00:10:00] Then, we need to be considerate and be quite logical in a business sense when we’re managing requests. We need to manage them with integrity. And what I mean by this is we need to come back to what we’ve offered in the first place and what we’ve sold. Because if I have said to somebody, yep, I’m going to come in and I’m going to completely overhaul your whole digital ecosystem.
I’m going to look at your tech stack. I’m going to look at your marketing and we’re going to come up with the best plan for you and a whole new ecosystem. And then we get into the project and I say to my clients, oh yeah, but I only work with these certain tools, or I’m only going to consider these certain marketing avenues.
Because that’s what I’m most comfortable with. [00:11:00] Well, that’s not really what you’ve sold the client. You’ve sold the client an ecosystem that is customized to them, not customized within your small pool. And so in matters like that, it’s actually not in integrity for you to say, no, I only work with these things and you’ll just have to deal with that.
Because it’s not what you sold. But if you do want to operate in a manner that is very clear cut, then you just change your offer and you start saying, Hey, I can build you a really great ecosystem that consists of these things. These are the tools that I love. This is how they can work together. It’s incredible.
I’ve built something like this many, many times and this is the outcome I get. There are ways to do it. But you need to position it properly first. Otherwise, you need to be flexible and possibly step out of your comfort [00:12:00] zone a little bit. And then the final thing that you need to consider is what your role is.
And really staying in your role. So as online business managers, we are there to make our clients lives easier. To make them infinitely better. Incredible. To help them reach their goals. To make their dreams come true. They have the vision, we bring it to life. That makes you secondary. This isn’t actually all about you.
You’re a partner in there, but it is not all your way or the highway. And we have to remember, our job there is to support another business, to make something else thrive. When you’re picking tools or [00:13:00] working within tools, you need to be thinking about your client first. And we want our clients to be able to easily interact with us.
And still get what we need. But at the end of the day, that easy factor needs to be for them first. So for instance, something that happens in my business is we work with a lot of clients and we use, all their different systems. And that includes project management systems. So if we’re working with operations, Generally, we’re going to be in a client’s project management system to manage whatever we’re doing and the team.
As a result of that, a lot of our activities have to also go into our own project management system, so our business, so that we can see everything that’s happening [00:14:00] from our brand’s perspective and for capacity measurement. And so the impact of that is that things get double handled because we’ve got to track it for ourselves and then we’ve got to track it for our clients.
And if I was to cut one of those off, it would have to be my own. I would only have it in the client’s thing. Because my job is to support them and not to take a piece of their business away from their business. So their assets, their communication, it should all be within their systems. Because at the end of the day, if I walk away, that plan is still theirs.
Their, their team is in there. Their team shouldn’t be in your system. And if that means that there’s some double handling and overlap in my land that’s for me to resolve. And if I choose to automate that so I don’t have to deal [00:15:00] with the whole manual entry, fantastic. But it wouldn’t be reasonable for me to say to my client, no, you can just go online because it’ll be easier for me.
Because that’s not our role. And so when we’re looking at being flexible, we also need to come back to that purpose. What are we here for? How are we doing it? Am I honoring that? So I hope that that’s giving you some food for thought around how flexible we can be, how flexible we should be. And no, there is no black and white.
As much as I would love to give you black and white rules, it’s something you do have to figure out and you have to think about. Think about those boundaries and your values and come up with your own little system to manage flexibility because people will always ask for flexibility because [00:16:00] life is just not straightforward.
That’s all from me for today. If you enjoyed this episode, please give me a five star rating review. Otherwise, Sabrina on my team will cry. Thanks so much. See you next week, guys.