Attributes of a bad client

Let’s create a checklist of bad client attributes and behaviors, and see how this one stacks up:

  1. Consistently contradicts their own requests
  2. Changes priorities
  3. Gives conflicting requests from multiple people
  4. Bonus: conflicting requests from the same person
  5. Treats the “help” as second-class citizen
  6. Has a mountain of rules and regulations
  7. Does not follow any of the rules or regulations
  8. Loves the “bring me a rock” exercise – this is where they ask you to produce some deliverable, with ill defined requirements. You produce it, they say bring them something similar, but different, and still can’t define what they want. This repeats ad naseum
  9. They aren’t worried about doing the right thing, only what their bosses and others (like the market) will think
  10. Meetings, lots of meetings. Meetings to discuss meetings.
  11. Bonus: Won’t just have three people chat about something, has to call it a meeting. Double bonus if they insist in sending a meeting invitation

I think I hit #s: 1, 2, 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10.

Things I’ve learned from having clients like this in the past.:

  • You can only make an inrrational client a tiny bit more rational
  • You have to put in a lot more effort to frame decisions for them. I basically had to box them into a corner to do the right thing
  • Don’t play the game, you won’t win. Don’t try and outfox them, don’t do any “double secret probation” type stuff where you have non-disclosed meetings with stakeholders to try and get something done behind people’s backs.
  • However, you can get things done despite others. Frame what you are doing in a way that they see it as benefiting them.
  • Make the process your friend, use it to shield you from tasks they ask you to do that will make you look bad, or could break a truly important rule (or heaven forbid, law)
  • Momentum is key – Once you get a little bit of progress, once you get them working slightly more rationally, you can build on it. To quote the insane Herm Edwards of the NFL “WE CAN BUILD ON THIS!” (shouted after a loss).

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