I had been working with Chas all day. We spent most of that time in a meeting with his main customer and a couple of Chas’s direct reports. Chas was in his element. He was totally tuned into what the customer wanted and agile enough to be able to figure a way to get it for him without ever having to give away the farm. It was a treat to watch this master at work. Chas is without a doubt the best client relationship builder at his level in his entire huge company. His clients adore him. So do his bosses, who are at the very top of the food chain. On our way to dinner that night, Chas told me he was expecting a call from A.J., a VP of Finance. Chas had run afoul of A.J. by making a deal with one of his customers without understanding that he was not in alignment with a certain finance process. Chas wasn’t looking forward to this chat.
Just as we pulled up to the restaurant, the call came in. Since Chas’s car was equipped with Blue Tooth, I was able to hear both sides of the conversation. I could barely hear A.J. He spoke just above a whisper. However, I had no trouble hearing Chas and not just because I was sitting next to him, He is extremely passionate as a rule. On this occasion he was also a bit excited and perhaps nervous, thinking he was going to get chewed out. The conversation didn’t go that way at all. After A.J. politely explained the protocol Chas had failed to observe, he went on to compliment Chas on the wonderful relationships he had built with the customer. Chas informed him that it was all about the trust he had created with them. But he did so at a decibel level that gave me the mental image of A. J’s hair being blown of his head. I didn’t know until later that A.J actually had no hair on his head.
As we walked to the restaurant Chas said to me, “Hey that went really well didn’t it?’ I knew what he meant. He had anticipated criticism and animosity and got compliments and affirmation. As a coach, what stood out most prominently to me was the difference in energy levels between Chas and A.J. There was an incredibly stark contrast between the Chas I saw with his customer earlier in the day and the one I had just heard on the phone. I shared my observations with him. We talked it through at dinner. It became clear that Chas at times, interacted very differently with his internal people as opposed to customers. We made an agreement that from that point forward, Chas would consider everyone a customer, internal or external. And he would pay more attention to matching their energy. I wanted to him realize he had an incredibly well- honed skillset that he wasn’t fully utilizing. He was the consummate relationship builder with customers, but somehow flipped a switch when he was dealing with internal contacts. I see this dynamic quite frequently. For instance, an executive may demonstrate great skills in managing direct reports, but struggles with peers or bosses. The skill set’s the same, but the power gradient is different. In these situations, I encourage clients to use their skills more broadly by thinking about who they are dealing with differently. If we can do it with one set of people, we can learn to do it with others as well.
Chas has gone on to enjoy a great career with far less tension with his internal customers.