I don’t mean that I have hunches, although that’s true, too.
I mean that I hunch over, physically, like so many of us do, who work on computers all day. I recently started physical therapy, because this posture of mine is causing all kinds of aches and pains; it’s throwing off my entire state of well-being.
Emotional postures can cause just as much wreckage.
By “emotional posture,” I mean how we show up in relation to other people, not just in our personal lives, but also in the professional realm. our ability to achieve business goals often rests on our ability to create positive and engaging experiences for other people; now I’m here to say that our posture is essential to our ability to create these experiences.
To create great client experiences, try shifting your emotional posture
Just as it can be a pain in the neck (pun intended) to find out you have a problem with your physical posture, owning up to a shortcoming in your emotional posture can be challenging. After all, it’s a posture you’re unconsciously assuming; stopping something we aren’t even aware that we’re doing is no easy feat.
I know from personal experience just how hard it can be.
For years, I’ve heard that I create an “intimidating” experience for other people. I used to resist this feedback—I knew I wasn’t trying to intimidate anyone, so if someone found me intimidating, that was their problem. Right?
It doesn’t matter if I’m trying to intimidate someone—if that’s the effect that they report I’m having, it’s real, and I need to take responsibility for it.
Think of it this way: If a client says your pitch is underwhelming, or your customer support is lacking—are you going to argue with them about what a good job you’re actually doing, or are you going to change how you show up? It doesn’t matter how smart or creative you think you are; it matters how smart or creative (or competent, or whatever other adjective fits the bill) they think you are.
What matters is their experience of you.
If you want to get to a place of power in your career, you need to make a fundamental shift. You need to stop focusing solely on how you feel, and get curious about how you make other people feel.
How to adjust your posture
To adjust your posture and improve your client’s experience, you need, first and foremost, to know how you want to make them feel.
And next, you need to know whether they currently feel that way.
So, how do you find that out?
One strategy is to simply ask them. Depending on your relationship with the client, perhaps you can ask outright.
Otherwise, consider issuing a survey at various points throughout your engagement with them that invites them to weigh in on the experience they’re having. For example, if you want clients to feel inspired, ask, “Does working with my team make you feel inspired?”, with 0 indicating “not at all” and 5 indicating “yes, very much.” (If a formal survey feels awkward, perhaps integrate this question into key status meetings with stakeholders.)
Another strategy is to read the tea leaves: If you aren’t getting repeat business from a client, and they aren’t giving you direct feedback about their reasoning, take a hard look—not only at things like whether your deliverables were on-time and up to par—but also at the experience you and your team created for them. And remember, “experience” isn’t just about pitch meetings, project kick-offs, and other major milestones; it’s about a client’s day-in and day-out experience of working with you.
You can also take it upon yourself to pay close attention to how your client seems to relate to you and others on your team. Are they energized and positive in your presence, for example, or do they always seem stressed out? While there’s no substitute for hearing direct feedback, there are often clues available to us if only we’d pay attention to them, that give us insight into other people’s experience of us.
It’s not easy to stop hunching, but with practice, I’m getting there—and you can, too.