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What’s in it for us?

What’s in it for us?
Imagine you’re working on a presentation that you have the next day for an important client. You’re doing the best you can to gather and construct ideas. You might think of some of the best techniques you can use in the presentation to get your message across. You might work on a story to hook your clients to your key messages or appeal. The next day you’re waiting in the meeting room at your client’s office. You’re having all kinds of thoughts. When the decision-makers arrive, you have a brief conversation with them before beginning the presentation. You are nervous and yet all pumped up at the same time. You start the presentation, and everything’s going perfectly well. You are almost about to wrap up when your client stops you and asks, “Great presentation! Your service is interesting too – but what’s in it for us? How can we grow with the help of your proposed plan?” You realize how you never gave that aspect a proper thought to begin with. From here on, you know what you say to answer that question will only be tweaked ideas of what you want your client to do for you. Will this guarantee the deal? Well, nobody knows.

What do you think is happening here? What went wrong? The individual was operating with a self-focused mindset, and the example I shared above discusses just one aspect. They missed out on one significant factor that would have helped them better serve their clients–considering their needs, objectives, ​and ​challenges.​​ We might not necessarily see the people ​we​ work with as obstacles to overcome or irrelevancies to ignore. Still, when we focus only on our goals and what we need from a particular partnership, we have already started operating from a self-focused mindset. We start seeing them as vehicles to further our objectives and needs rather than strategic partners to work with and achieve shared goals.

What does it mean to have a self-focused mindset toward clients? As employees, managers, and consultants, we need to realize that our relationship with our clients can be strong when we help them identify what they need and how it can be fulfilled. If we begin to believe that we have to take care of ourselves first and ​only​ ​then ​will we pay attention to the needs and objectives of our clients, they will most definitely sense this sooner or later. Such an approach will not help us invite long-term partners for our brand. If we’re only looking to make our business case, get the deal, and close it, we’re serving neither ourselves nor our clients. With a self-focused mindset, we see what we need from a particular client. While in a business sense, this isn’t entirely wrong, who do you think will be disadvantaged the most because of such an approach? If we’re blind to what our clients need and look for, they will eventually feel worn out in such a relationship and look for other organizations to work and create value with. We might still not choose to see this reality. We might not say it out loud, but we consider our clients blameworthy for the deal’s failure and, eventually, the strained relationship. The next thing we know, because of our client’s word of mouth, we might not even get other people to work with us readily. So, when we think only about our goals, needs, and objectives, we compromise our organization’s results. Making our business case with an impact-focused mindset When we say it’s essential to understand what our clients need, it doesn’t imply that our needs do not matter – of course, they do. But we should find the means and medium to align our needs with our client’s needs and build strategies and actionable principles to achieve them together. We can do that by operating with an impact-focused mindset—to collaborate, not to outsmart our clients and persuade them to use our services. What we focus on is channelizing efforts to attain collective results. Most individuals and organizations must assess if their organizational culture and systemic approach toward their clients are pervasively self-focused. They could be focusing only on their tasks, goals, and growth without considering how their actions could impact the outcomes of their colleagues, subordinates, supervisors, and clients. However, when individuals and organizations develop an impact-focused mindset, it makes the organizational climate positive – to eventually help in building positive interpersonal relationships with clients. With an impact-focused perspective, individuals and organizations start focusing on collective results. They start understanding that what they do as an organization impacts what their clients do. When we have an impact-focused mindset, our clients become valuable to us, and we want to direct our actions toward helping them to the best of our abilities. We then make reasonable efforts to help them achieve better outcomes so they have to make less effort to correct things themselves. Rather than blaming our clients for being inconsiderate and incompetent, with an impact-focused mindset, we work around solutions to the problems in our clients​’​ organizations. We work ​toward​ making them our allies. How can we make the shift​ toward an impact-focused mindset? ​An impact-focused mindset can help us see our clients as people. So how can we make the shift to it? Knowing our clients​’​ needs, objectives, and challenges is a great place to start. Asking ourselves a few questions can be helpful in that regard. What is it that our clients need? What do they want to achieve for themselves? What strategies do they work with? What is their organizational philosophy? What challenges are they encountering in achieving what they want? What problems exist in their systems? What’s preventing them from becoming the best at what they do? When we’re genuinely interested to know our clients through open and honest conversations (that aren’t too invading), there are good chances that we can identify areas where we can add value. When we make ​our​ business case, we can tap into the places where the clients ​might​need a strategic partnership ​and propose how they can benefit from having us on board. An aspect we should keep in mind that can help us humanize our interpersonal relationships ​with our clients is that ‘we need them, just as much as they need us.’ As individuals and organizations, we can’t work in isolation; we need to have strategic partners, we need to have allies, and we need to collaborate if we are to achieve collective results. So, as much as we would want our clients to understand and consider our proposal, we must not give them a perception that working with us will be bad for their organizational integrity. Finally, it’s essential to understand that even if we might change our ways ​to become​ impact-focused, we shouldn’t expect our clients to change along with us. A primary principle of an impact-focused mindset is changing our patterns for good rather than trying to ‘fix’ or ‘correct’ other people. If we give our clients a sense that we’re right and know what’s best for them, they will most likely resist having a professional relationship with us. At this point, it helps to recall what the founder of Arbinger Institute, Terry Warner, said, “We most effectively influence one another to change by letting ourselves be changed.” If we keep this perception in mind while considering our client’s needs, objectives, and challenges, they might see us as an understanding organization. Even if they don’t, we won’t blame them for not accepting our offer. We will know that at least we tried. Aprajita Jha is the linchpin at My Emotions Matter, an education initiative that helps individuals and teams learn the mindset and skills of Emotional Intelligence. You can learn more at