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Passion, People and Principles

Trite Formula?

post # 317 — February 27, 2007 — a Client Relations post

Musical performers always thank their audience for “being a wonderful audience.”

They often do this even in mid-performance, not just at the end of their act.

What’s going on here?

It often comes across a phony and false modesty. After all, it’s the performer’s job to entertain US.

Do they really think the audience is being “wonderful” or are they just flattering us into liking them (the old reciprocity trick)?

Should those of us in business be copying the approach?

In the middle of an assignment should we say “I want to thank you for being a wonderful client / boss / subordinate?”


Rick Turoczy said:

I’m going to walk out of my next meeting early. And, I won’t return until I get the pre-requisite standing ovation. Only then, will I come back, say what everyone has been waiting for me to say, and then leave again, never to return.

posted on February 27, 2007

Jim McHugh said:

Some of my strategy/performance improvement projects are with companies that are…’ not performing up to expectations.’ So, the mood around the engagment is not as festive as a live concert!

While I like to thank clients at the beginning and end of a project for getting the assignment, I don’t lavish them with insincere praise while we are trying to get the project completed. I do ‘check in’ regularly over progress, expectations, deliverables, etc. and positively reinforce the client if they are being responsive to getting me materials, data, setting up meetings, and providing timely feedback. And I ask them up front to do the same with me. Ongoing communication is good as long as its real, not fake!

posted on February 27, 2007

Wally Bock said:

I believe it’s important to be thankful and to express it. Every day of her adult life, my mother wrote at least three thank-you notes. I’ve striven to live up to that example.

When I was young I once asked Mom what I should do if there wasn’t anybody to thank that day. “Wally,” she said, fixing me with that stern mom-look, “There’s always someone to thank.” There always has been.

I thank clients and individual members of the client organization during and after the engagement, but I make sure to thank specific people for specific things. My final thank you at the end of the project, to the principle client contact, includes a thank-you for allowing me to do the work I love to do.

posted on February 27, 2007

David (Maister) said:

Thank you, Wally.

posted on February 27, 2007

Susie Wee said:

I guess it depends from performer to performer, but I think that the comment is often genuine. When I give presentations and lectures, I am interacting with the audience, no matter how small or large the audience is. If I sense the audience is actively engaged and trying hard to understand what I’m saying, then I appreciate it and try to customize my talk for them based on their nods, facial expressions, and questions (if allowed). On the other hand, if I have an audience that is more interested in checking their email, then let’s just say that I’m less appreciative. For many busy people, time and attention is their most valued resource. So, if someone is spending their time and attention on me and what I’m saying, then I am genuinely thankful.

As a blog performer, I see that you just thanked your audience in your comment response to Wally… My guess is that your “Thank you” was genuine. ;-)

So, I guess my initial recommendation would be: Express thanks whenever it’s genuine. Your audience is not dumb; they can spot phony flattery from a mile away. So, don’t even go there! That’s just my two cents…

By the way, Great blog! (meant genuinely!)

posted on February 27, 2007

peter vajda said:

In addition to the “thank-you(s)” offered here, for me, another notion behind my “thank you” is for providing me the opportunity to learn and grow as the result of the experience…in every interaction, one-to-one or a group, I learn something about me, about how I am or who I am, as a result. So, I always express some flavor of: “Thank you…I, too, learned/experienced something new/different/enlightening today/this evening/during this process/from sharing this experience…”.

Related to what Susie Wee said, above, for me, if a client or a group is “otherwise engaged” I’m still grateful that I can be (more) patient, or non-judgmental, or creative in bringing him/them back, or just allowing…an opportunity for me to rise above emotions, or reactivity which, in the past, I had not always been able to do, or do well.

So, I feel genuine in my “Thank you” even when the learning can be challenging. For me, growth is a journey, not a destination, and I’m grateful for the opportunities to grow. Where I am now in my work, I’m genuinely grateful for the experiences that brought (and continue to bring) me to this place and I have no qualms about saying so.

posted on February 28, 2007

Susie Wee said:

Peter- Actually, I am in total agreement with you and I was a bit careless in my comment. If I lost my audience to email, then I take some of that blame on myself and, like you, I work to improve my talk to get them re-engaged. If I have someone in the audience who has important computer work or email to attend to but has still chosen to be in the audience and give me their partial attention, then I do understand and am appreciative of them being there. In fact, I’m often a culprit of that myself when I’m in the audience, as like others I have an infinite to-do and fire-fighting list, but I am trying to give the speaker as much attention as I can while tending to those things. I’ve only had a rare couple instances where I was “less than appreciative” of my audience— I think the underlying cause was when the people were only interested in talking and having other people listen to them, but not at all interested in listening. But, this has only happened a couple times in my career- not a bad ratio considering how many meetings I’ve been in. Thanks for picking up on this, Peter!

posted on February 28, 2007

Tom "Bald Dog" Varjan said:

> After all, it’s the performer’s job to entertain US.

Not entirely. As the saying goes, it takes two to tango. Some people just cannot be entertained because of their negative attitudes.

Think of the Winnie the Pooh story and think of ways of entertaining Eeyore, the donkey. It’s virtually impossible. He’s got some good moments, but his general attitude is doom and gloom.

Peter Block puts it roughly this way in “Flawless Consulting”. I can’t find the exact quotation, so I paraphrase Peter…

“Good evening. We are the ____ Band. We’re going to play tonight to our best abilities, and it’s your responsibility to make the most of it and have a good time.

Certain people cannot be entertained. So, the best we can do is that we play “our music” as we like it, and that will attract some and repel some. It’s really self-selection.

posted on February 28, 2007