Sunday, March 18, 2007

Leading vs. managing

Does it seem like you are more concerned about a project than your client is? Do you often deal with ambiguity? Who’s in charge? Do your clients have any idea of how they will work with your firm?

There are two mantras you should recite every morning before starting your day:
1. I will manage my client’s expectations
2. I will lead my clients

Managing a client’s expectations starts with a great relationship, where they value your input and respect your recommendations. Understanding the relationship informs how you will lead. These are mantras that declare your intent to focus on their needs and expectations in a proactive manner, and make the experience of working with your firm easy.

It’s two-sided: The client has needs and expectations, the design firm has (or should have) workflow procedures. Your procedures will have anticipated their expectations, and the client will make it clear if those will work for them. Of course it’s not a one-size-fits-all approach, but it all starts with the relationship that you have built with the client.

Anticipating deadlines, respecting timelines and awareness of your client’s needs will allow you to manage your time and lead your clients. This thinking can be applied to everything from business development to project management. It allows you to control the relationship and the workflow, rather than letting it control you. It allows you to lead your clients, and guide them – not let them pull you along.

My recommendation? Develop your leadership skills. Your clients will notice. The rest will follow.

(unsummarized version at Business of Design Online)


Daniel Schutzsmith said...

I totally agree with where you are coming from. All to often I think we, as designers, get caught up in the grind of going through the motions and don't take time to really focus on the client. Great mantras!

studiosmith said...

Agree on many fronts. I find myself at times, as do some of my in-house colleagues making judgement on how the project's going with our marketing clients when in fact we are in control, per the way you've described. Bravo on the post and thanks for the accountability and encouragement.