Wicker Park Group periodically revisits some of our most popular blog posts. This is the second in a series of posts updated from 2013. The qualities explored continue to resonate with what clients are telling us they desperately need from outside counsel. Last week, we wrote about Zest, Grit and Self Control.
The character traits we are looking at this week, gratitude and optimism, seem pretty straightforward. After all, you’ve surely thanked your clients for their business, and having a generally positive attitude is easy enough. But our experiences at WPG have taught us that taking purposeful steps to effectively express gratitude and cultivate an optimistic attitude can easily make or break a client relationship.
No client relationship is ever going to be successful if the client does not feel appreciated by you and your team. It’s easy for an attorney to assume that clients know they are appreciated, but too often that’s not the case. In an interview with WPG, a client who was unhappy with the outside counsel relationship mentioned how much it bothered him that his attorneys never expressed gratitude. He said, “Every now and then it would be nice if they said, ‘Thanks for taking the time with the project, and by the way what’s going on in your day-to-day life?’ It’s about building a relationship.” The client hit on the fundamental point: It is about the relationship. And even though “building a relationship” can sound daunting, just picking up the phone for a thank-you call is an easy first step.
An executive at a large retailer once described in a client interview how outside counsel, after finishing a project, sent a nice e-mail and left a voicemail expressing his appreciation for the work. The executive said, “It was very classy. He took the time to say ‘Thank you so much.’ He has a big fan club here.” The action took only a few minutes but left a huge impression.
Another recent interviewee told us, “What differentiates [the firm] is the personal relationships with them. They convey a message that we are important to them and more than just a source of business.”
In addition to being appreciative, it’s also highly valuable to cultivate an optimistic attitude in your day-to-day working life. As a client told us, “No one wants to do business with an Eeyore.”
While it creates a pleasant work environment, being optimistic can also help you face obstacles and maintain control over situations for your clients. In the book Primal Leadership, psychologist Daniel Goleman and his co-authors write that “a leader who is optimistic can roll with the punches, seeing an opportunity rather than a threat in a setback. Such leaders see others positively, expecting the best of them.”
Another client told WPG that one of the attorneys on her outside counsel team was unnecessarily “negative and insecure” about the relationship whenever constructive feedback was provided. The attorney responded to criticism by suggesting he was not right for the work when the client only wanted him to work on the problem. By responding to criticisms and other obstacles with optimism, you can prove your dedication and avoid potentially losing a client.
In contrast, another client said, “[The lawyer] is the real deal: kind, easygoing, comfortable in his own skin, candid, always has our best interest at heart and generally a positive person.”
Take a few minutes and think about how to incorporate more optimism and gratitude into your client relationships; you won’t be disappointed with the results.
In the coming weeks, we will share more on the remaining characteristics, Social Intelligence and Curiosity.