You’ll be pleased to learn that over the past 20 years, my weight has remained remarkably constant (170 pounds).
By comparison, during that same time span, my family size has more than doubled, the junk in my basement has grown like a cancer, and the hair on my head, which once grew happily and plentifully, has fallen off to nearly zero. Frankly, my body weight is one of the most stable aspects of my entire life.
What has changed, body-wise, however, is the shape of the package. Nothing drastic mind you, but clearly some settling of contents has occurred during shipping.
It’s like how when you go off on a trip, arrive at your hotel, and open up your suitcase … the contents are the same as when you left home but, having endured the ravages of gravity, they’ve kind of sunk down towards the bottom.
As a practical matter, and if I may be a tad more specific, this has led to some of my dress pants not quite fitting as they should. And so the other day, while dropping off a bunch of shirts and pants at the dry cleaners, I asked if they could let out one particular pair “about half an inch.”
When I returned two days later to pick everything up, the owner, a soft-spoken older woman, informed me that she hadn’t done the work because she thought the pants should really be let out an inch and a half.
I don’t mind telling you that I found this kind of depressing. An inch and a half, really? I hadn’t realized I had been sucking it in that earnestly these past several months.
I also couldn’t figure out how she knew this; I hadn’t tried the pants on for her, I just dropped them off. It turns out, she compared the tight pants to one of the others that fit well and deduced the need for an extra inch.
I realized at that moment, that I was in the hands (not literally) of an expert.
Here’s how …
- She tested my assertion and did more than she was asked. I specifically requested a half inch; she wanted to make sure I knew what I was talking about (I didn’t).As a professional service provider, your clients do the same thing. They ask you to write it, build it, fix it, change it … in a particular way. Sometimes they know what they’re talking about. Just as often, they don’t.That’s why (whether they realize it or not) they hired you. Your role as an expert is not to just politely follow the boss’s directions (that’s what employees are for). You’re there to bring your broader perspective and experience to bear by making sure that before anyone start rowing, your client is pointed in the right direction.
- She wasn’t afraid to speak up. It’s always safer to just do what you’re told (insert your own husband joke here). Maybe I would have been offended by the suggestion that my circumference had expanded three times as much as I believed. But she said it anyway.Interestingly, nearly every professional service firm I work with begins our relationship by telling me the same thing: “We want to stand out from the pack; we want to be seen as thought leaders.”And yet when presented with the opportunity to actually say something stand-out-ish – not insane or disturbing, just interesting or different or to the point – they run back to the safety of that very same pack.That (understandable) orientation doesn’t serve you and it doesn’t serve your clients – they need you to tell them that their pants are too tight.
Here’s the bottom line. There’s a Japanese proverb that goes like this: “The nail that sticks up gets hit with the hammer.” I think that’s often true.
But the second (little known, because I just made it up) part of that proverb goes like this: “The nail that sticks up is viewed as an expert. So it gets hired, again and again, by the very happy client.”
If my dry cleaner can shine as an expert by simply suggesting that I loosen my pants, imagine what you can do if you’re willing to step up and express your own, expert thoughts.