Make ‘em look good

A Point of View

David H. Fauss, M.S.M.

On March 3, 2016

Category: Business Relationships, Careers, Employment, Getting the Job Done, Managing Employees, Small Business Success, Trial Consulting

One aspect of our work as trial consultants is to evaluate cases so that our attorney clients learn how their case will be perceived by jurors, judges, arbitrators, or mediators. We always learn things that the attorneys and our other clients did not know or did not anticipate. The truth is, we may not have known or anticipated whatever it was either. But as soon as we observe it, we pass it along to our client so that they can “look good” (or smart, or clever or impressive) to their client, whether the client is an individual plaintiff or a corporate entity. The process works best when the attorney-client understands that this is what we want to happen. We want our clients to look good to their clients. However, when the attorney-client does not understand that is part of the program, and “fights” us in doing our work, they often do not look so good to their clients. It happens infrequently, but there are times when a attorney-client shows him or herself to be a jerk, for lack of a better word, to his or her own client, because of obstinance in working together with us toward the best outcome for our mutual client. An experience I had on the day I wrote this post made me think that this is often true in many environments, not just our trial consulting world. I had an appointment this day with a plumber who sold me on a particular brand of tank less water heater. But, as it happens, the water heater is not doing its job properly so the plumber dutifully came out to fix it only to have the supplier fight him on how to repair or replace it. The supplier apparently did not care whether he made the plumber look good or bad, but just stood by “company policies” to cause more work and a loss of productivity for both the plumber and me. It is that kind of action that should never happen in a service business. Making the customer look good should be a priority. This is not to say that all we do is confirm what our clients thought in advance. It is not. Instead, we find ways to learn and be open to what can be learned, to everyone’s mutual benefit.

There are many ways an employee can help his/her boss look good.  In the days when I worked for a large corporation and did not perform administrative tasks, I had a secretary.  (I actually had a series of secretaries in the early days of my career, which dates back to the time when being a secretary was an occupation, in and of itself.)  One of the best secretaries I had was named Rosemary.  She knew how I liked things to be done and she did them that way instead of a different way.  She also knew that my boss was extremely demanding of me, including imposing a strict requirement that I was sitting at my desk, busily working, at precisely the time I began my work day (regardless of the fact I was paid on salary and more often than not, worked later than the end of the work day).  On the rare occasions when I was a few minutes late arriving, Rosemary would open my blinds, turn on my light, pull out my desk chair, and place my work supplies on my desk, resulting in the appearance that I was working but had stepped away from my desk at precisely the moment my boss walked briskly past my office.  This simple series of tasks was performed by my secretary without my asking and the sole purpose was to prevent me from being scolded by my tough as nails boss.  In return for Rosemary’s kindness in making me look good, I rewarded her in many ways.  In my current job, I have many bosses, even though, as the co-owner of my company, many people think I can do whatever I please.  My many bosses are my clients, all of whom are equally or more demanding of my time than my former boss in the corporate world.  I learned from Rosemary that making my clients/bosses look good is sometimes as simple as telling them a few things I observed from my research on their case, so that they, in turn, can reveal this “special insight” to our mutual client in a way that makes them seem clever.  Taking all the credit for one’s successes will only get one so far, but sharing credit with the people who help make one look good is a more certain path to success.

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