Client relationships matter and it’s not just the people you serve outside your organization that you should be considering. Relationships with internal clients, whether you work at an in-house agency or just handle work requests from other teams, should get as much care.
In the case of responding to project and job requests from other teams, we often don’t think of these people as clients at all, because we aren’t directly invoicing them for our labor. However, if you think of a client as anyone you serve, then you expand your client relationship “on” mode to everyone you work with.
You probably spend more time at work than at home, so managing your relationships there should be a focus. You’ll be happier, more engaged, and more productive at work.
Here’s how to keep tensions low and productivity high with client relationship-building:
Internal client trust will come when you’re willing to admit and take responsibility for your mistakes, when you follow through with what you’ve said you’ll do, and when you are vulnerable in admitting what you don’t know, and asking for help when you need it.
Show respect to get respect
People feel respected when their ideas are listened to and valued. It’s not just about nodding and looking them in the eye when they’re speaking. Take notes, and show that you’re considering their input. Treat everyone with the same demeanor, no matter their team or rank.
Balance the input
According to research done by Google, teams perform best with the most even amount of input from all members. If someone is being quiet, ask them what they’re thinking. If someone is talking too much, invite others to chime in. Being asked for input makes your colleagues feel valued and part of the ideation process.
Be serious about feedback
Periodically, ask for feedback on your performance. People are often reluctant to offer it unless asked. Your team can’t know what you need to improve on unless someone tells you, and being proactive about seeking out this feedback shows a real client focus on your part.
Create open lines of communication
Keep your colleagues informed of a given project’s status. If it looks like a deadline will slip or a particular ask isn’t feasible, be prompt and forthcoming in communicating this and presenting a plan B. The saying that’s better to ask forgiveness than permission doesn’t hold water when you’re trying to build trust and credibility with colleagues.
You should also be committed to avoiding the actions that damage relationships. Asking for people’s input won’t matter if you consistently miss deadlines. No one will want to give their input if you yell in meetings. Avoid gossiping and complaining, or you’ll never build trust no matter how hard you try.
Chances are, you’ve put more effort into creating great customer experiences than nurturing your internal clients. But thinking about how you can improve this realm of your work life will help projects more along more quickly and deepen those mutually beneficial stakeholder relationships.