When I first entered the consulting world in the mid-1970, there was a process in my company where new junior project managers were indoctrinated into the company’s client service culture. They didn’t learn this information via a class or some literature, rather, through on-the-job training. You would be paired with a more experienced project manager, who acted as your mentor and trainer for six months to a year. Your role as a junior project participant was not only to assist on assignments, working with others as a team, but also travel and meet clients with your mentor. Your role in these client visits was to stay quiet and observe how the senior colleague handled clients.
In this article, I want to share one of the invaluable lessons that I learned from this training experience, which has served me well throughout my career. I call the lesson: “reading a client’s office.” (Later in my career, as I became more senior, it led to reading my colleagues and employees’ offices.)
To learn this skill, you must visit a client in their personal office or space. As I was in the midst of this training, the car ride to the client’s office generally served as my preparation time from my senior colleague and the return trip was used as a debriefing. In the debriefing session, I was grilled on what I saw and was asked to think about what it meant in both developing a relationship and delivering the project. The practice forced me to become much more observant about my client’s personal life.
Your client’s office is a physical reflection of their value system, their points of pride, their interests and hobbies, their families, their accomplishments, their organizational […]