I once helped a client develop a keynote on innovation for a major healthcare company’s annual planning retreat. We spent hours crafting the perfect structure for the talk, ensuring every point was clear, concise, and backed up by data and stories.
But what my client valued most was not the structure of the talk.
It was how I made him feel between our meetings and after our work.
For me, the obvious and easy was to listen to his concerns and ideas; to believe in his potential.
And in the end, he gave me one of the best and most surprising testimonials I have ever received:
“Guillaume is a gifted person who channels his positivity in a way that he wants to believe in your potential and has more confidence in your success than you do.”
I realized that day that the actual value of my client engagements happens in the free space. In that case, it was the confidence I gave him to deliver a successful keynote, not so much the “deliverable”.
The lesson: “Don’t be so precious with your craft.”
These six simple words hold a great deal of wisdom, especially for those of us who have dedicated our lives to perfecting our art.
Whether we are writers, designers, architects, developers, or consultants, we tend to focus on the technical aspects of our work, striving to create the perfect deliverable. But in doing so, we risk missing out on the more profound value of our engagement with our clients, the value that matters more for them.
You’ll tell me: “That’s all nice, but after all, clients hire us to solve a problem.”
Clients come to us because we have a particular set of skills they do not possess. They buy from us the belief that we can provide the solution they need to move their business forward.
And while we pride ourselves on our ability to solve even the most complex technical problems, we can get so caught up in building the perfect solution that we forget about the bigger picture.
The value our clients expect goes way beyond deliverables.
Reports, slide decks, logos, and financial plans are essential. But beyond, they provide a reason and a structure for human connection. They are not a substitute for that connection. Instead, they are the “sheet music”, the scaffolding, and the props for an experience that goes beyond technical details.
Our craft, process, and deliverables can only take us so far. Beyond that lies empathy, enthusiasm, and confidence in our client’s success.
Remember that you are not just creating a product or delivering a service. You are engaging with human beings who have hopes, fears, and dreams. Be sensitive to their emotional needs as well as their technical needs.
I get it; it’s sometimes easier said than done.
On another occasion, I delivered a diagnostic that was so accurate, but I was so focused on the information that I misgauged the ability of my client to digest it.
I didn’t pick the right pace or moment to deliver it. I should have rescheduled our call. I had terrible bedside manners that day. And I lost a good client. All because I didn’t deliver the emotional value that I should have.
I learned that technical excellence is not enough in both cases I shared with you. We must also be mindful of our client’s emotional needs. We must be empathetic, enthusiastic, and confident in their success. We must be willing to listen to their concerns and ideas and help them see their potential.
So, my advice to all passionate about our craft is this: Don’t be so precious with it.
Yes, strive for technical excellence. But remember that your craft is a means to an end, not an end in itself. The true value of your engagement with your clients lies in the human connection you create.
It lies in your ability to inspire and empower them to achieve their goals and move the needle for what they value most. Don’t miss out on that value by focusing too hard on the technical details.