This blog introduces you to my special brand of BIKE. I show you how to find your Best self, access your Inner strength, tune in to your Killer instincts, and use your Expressive voice. It's inspiring, spiritual, quirky, and it's all in your head. It's about ATTITUDE, not exercise, though that might be a side benefit.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

When perspective matters

As we stood near the cottonwoods on a dirt trail, bordering a wide creek bed, I laughed at what I saw as my boyfriend's weak attempt to let loose in the wilderness.

In our khaki hiking shorts, our tank tops and boots, backpacks filled with water bottles and snacks, sweating in what was turning into a mid-day summer sun, my boyfriend and I were hiking in Sycamore Canyon (a wilderness area in central Arizona's Verde Valley) when we arrived at a wide clearing. The sun beamed over our heads as we walked into the open space to see Sycamore Creek off to the left, the continuing trail about 50 feet ahead. The water looked so inviting, and I was so thrilled to be out there that I ran out into the center of the clearing and yelled up into the sky.


Raising my arms, I yelled again, even louder, "AHHHHHHHHH!" It felt good to release that energy. So I turned around and urged my boyfriend to do the same. But he nodded his head.

"C'mon," I told him, "Just let loose." But he wasn't having it.

Me, intending to convince him, kept prodding him until he finally cried out in the tiniest voice, "ah."

We hadn't yet walked a mile, but it was as if he had no energy. "ah." Just like that. No rebel yell. No excitement. Nothing but a little half-hearted peep.

"Is that it? Is that all you've got?"

He looked at me as though he couldn't understand.

I wanted more. I wanted him to feel what I was feeling. Out there in the wilderness, visiting this place I'd never seen before, anticipating the long walk ahead, not knowing what we'd see, I felt a freedom and excitement. I wanted him to feel it, too.

"Are you kidding? C'mon. Give it all you got. Yell as loud as you can. Just for fun." Please!"

I'm pretty sure I saw an eye roll before he turned away from me, so I didn't think I'd worked my charm. But all of a sudden, I heard it.


He yelled so loud and so long, I jumped back; he'd startled me.

Then, he just stopped and said quietly, "You can expect the black bears to come after us now."


Oh, he was just joking. But this is bear country, and I hadn't thought of that. I just wanted him to yell, to relax. I hadn't thought we'd be disturbing nature by yelling out into the wilderness. I just wanted to have fun.

I hadn't considered a different perspective.

But that's what I'm thinking about this week as I deal with a client's dissatisfaction with my work. It happens. We can't please everyone. And sometimes we take jobs for the wrong reasons, or sometimes we agree to work with someone but the fit doesn't quite match. I wanted more from this job than the client did. I thought the job required more work than he really wanted. Truth is, it was his perspective that mattered here, not mine. And my approach caused a disconnect. I wasn't happy because I was frustrated with how much work was involved. He wasn't happy because I was taking too long. And neither of us were really communicating that.

So how can I avoid this in the future? I'm thinking pre-questionnaire, longer initial interview, avoid e-mail communication and stick to the phone. I'm thinking there must be a solution to deal with what might be an uncomfortable situation at first that is sure to turn into worse later.

So I polled Twitter to see what other writers like me might do in order to approach a client that turns out not to be the right fit.

Heather Boerner says she has a simple solution. She just gets too "busy" and raises her rates to scare them away. But you might not want to try that while you're working with them. So Alycia de Mesa thinks including a cancellation clause in the written contract is a good idea.

Because we own our own mistakes here, we take responsibility for our own choices, and we are learning to be accountable, I'm certainly not upset with my client for reclaiming his work. I think I might have done the same thing if I were in his place. In fact, I might have done it sooner! And, thankfully, I learned a few lessons to pass along to you:

Consider the enjoyment factor
If you're in business for yourself, you get to pick and choose the projects you take on. That's your luxury. If you agree to do a job, and it becomes something you don't enjoy, you should first make the most of it. Complete it as best you can. Don't put it off. Get it off your schedule sooner, rather than later. But if the project becomes difficult to manage in some way, it's best to pick up the phone and talk to the client to discuss how you should proceed. Chances are, if you're not happy, the client's probably not happy, and you can agree to part ways amicably.

Pay attention to perspective
When you agree to do a job for someone else, make sure you're clear about what they want. Can you deliver that? There may be good reason why they want something less than what you think they need. So make sure you can separate yourself enough from the job, recognizing it's not yours. Unless they're hiring your for your consulting services, you must provide only what they're asking for--even if your best advice tells you the job needs more.

If you've ever worked with a client who doesn't seem to be the right fit, or if the work turns out to be nothing more than struggle after struggle, what's your perfect solution? Is it possible to reach the same level of perspective before you sever the ties? What's worked well for you?


Tamara Hart Heiner said...

very interesting and thought-provoking post. At least you were able to work it out. Worse is when you have the lower hand--like when your employer is dissatisfied w/ the work you've been giving 140% to. Then they fire you. :)

The BIKE Lady said...

Thanks, Tamara, but we did sever ties. He did let me go. I am okay with it, as the project really wasn't that fun, and I had reached that conclusion as well. I was simply anticipating finishing out the job, though I know part of the problem was my own doing. I made more work for myself than he even wanted. It is a matter of perspective, but it was his perspective that mattered here. Not mine.

I urge you not to consider this kind of situation the lower-hand. I encourage you to consider what you might have done differently to improve the situation. That way, you'll do better next time. Forward movement allows for room to grow and change and see beyond your own perspective.

What I would like to know, however, is how to avoid that in the first place. Not sure it's really possible. Would like to hear your thoughts on that.

Tamara Hart Heiner said...

Good question. First, I've never had the opportunity of being fired or let go, though I've seen my husband go through it many times. I think you hit on the big key: communication. I doubt this is how it went for you, but my husband, who is an ambitious, self-motivated person, often takes the project, imagines how to get it to the final destination, and takes off at full speed.

Then comes that perspective and communication. Somewhere along the way his final destination doesn't quite match up with his employers' final destination. And he did it so quickly, there wasn't really any time to backtrack and change his path. If there'd been an open line of communication, and more openness on DH's part, perhaps he could've seen from their POV where he needed to take the project.

Instead, he just felt overused and underappreciated. And this is where the lower hand comes in: the employer has the total decision whether to accept his work or decide it's not worth the trouble to correct. If the employer had decided to train this highly motivated employee to be a better communicator, great things could have happened. But they didn't, and since the employer expected a job that wasn't getting done, we certainly couldn't blame them for their decision.

You are right, I would not think of your situation as lower-hand. It seems to me that you mutually agreed to sever ties. However, when one party doesn't want to sever ties but has no choice but to do so, someone's definitely got the upper-hand.

Now it's up to DH to learn his lesson so this doesn't happen again...communication is key, I believe. That, and a certain amount of humility and willingness to work with each other is needed for both parties.

The BIKE Lady said...

Perfect illustration, Tamara. I'm with you. Let's hope your husband and his former employee gets it, because it's too bad to lose a motivated employee.

kerry dexter said...

another kind of perspective perhaps -- I thought about you when I read this
bamboo bikes.

The BIKE Lady said...

Thank you, Kerry. I love that you thought of me because of those bikes and what they do. They give life. I am really humbled by your message.