February 16, 2010

Is it a good fit?



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Last week I decided that I was not going to take on a particular client. It wasn't a personality issue or a coaching issue I'm not qualified to address. In this case, the client wanted to work in person, and I felt that, with the amount of work we were going to need to do, a long-distance, heavy-travel relationship would not be in either of our best interests. I referred him to coaches in his state so he could work with someone closer to home.

As entrepreneurs, we have the luxury of saying no to projects or prospects. "Luxury?" you say. Luxury to pass up a paycheck?

Yes, that's what I said. Because it's not about the money, is it? When I work with a client, I want to know that I'm going to be able to do my best work and that the client will benefit and grow from our working together. If there is doubt in my mind that this will happen, I'm happy to refer him or her to another coach. Because, ultimately, I want what's best for both of us.

How many times have you accepted a project that you knew wasn't right for you? Maybe you thought you were Superman. Maybe you thought you could stretch your skills to fit. Maybe you didn't hit it off with the client. Maybe the time frame was too short or the desired results too vague. But you took it on anyway.

How did it turn out? I've found that, when I have a bad feeling about a project, it usually turns out to be a bad idea. I wrote about an experience here that just didn't feel right from the beginning, and sure enough it was not my best speaking engagement.

The good news is, they hired me again, so I must not have been as bad as I thought I was. Also, I learned to trust my intuition, so that learning experience was important. But I was not happy before, during or after the workshop, and I don't think the audience benefited as much as I would have liked.

Just recently I was asked to take on the organization of a local event. I have a lot of experience running events and I'm good at it. It would have meant a lot of visibility for me and my business. But I just didn't want to do it. It's not a good fit for me right now, for a lot of reasons. So I said no.

It's hard for most of us to say no. We don't want to let anyone down. We don't want to go through the trouble of making that next referral. We really think we can pull it off, or hope we can. We need the money. Saying no, for a lot of people, implies failure. It implies "Can't."

I disagree. Saying no, trusting your gut when something doesn't fit shows strength. It shows empowerment. It shows that you know who you are and what's right for you.

Here's a post in the same vein by Jane Pollak. I like this quote, in particular: "Feelings in our bodies (we shouldn’t ignore) will show up before words have formulated around them in our brains. We need to trust these."

The next time you feel it in your gut that something or someone doesn't fit, pay attention. Analyze the situation. Explore why you are feeling this way. You might or might not be onto something. Wouldn't you rather make the right decision now than be dogged by a bad decision later?

(ETA: After I passed along this client to a new coach, I received two new ones in his place. Always trust that there are plenty of clients out there for you!)

Share your examples of a bad fit!

2 comments. Please add yours! :

TechEase said...

I couldn't agree more about the fit being 2-way. When we only say yes to jobs that we know we can knock out of the park, we create a fantastic reputation for ourselves. We become known for our integrity and for exceeding expectations.

In your case, while I wish you weren't so good at drawing boundaries for the sake of the event, I have learned that I can always trust that I will get the straight dope from you. It's nice to know where people stand, and that's a trait that I've seen in you again and again. I find it the most difficult to set limits when it may ruffle feathers or disappoint people, but you seem to have achieved that strength long ago.

I'm glad to see it's served you well in business as well, although maybe having integrity is why we're not millionaires yet...?

Lisa Braithwaite said...

Evan, working in nonprofits will either teach you to set strong boundaries or it will teach you to be a martyr and never say no. I'm one of the lucky ones who survived nonprofits with boundaries intact!

However, the thing about not yet being a millionaire... you may be onto something.

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