Clients can have as much of my time as they want…

Internal meetings seem to get a bad rap. There are always too many of them and they are too long and inefficient and sometimes they are with people that you’re not excited to be with. We are always looking for ways to shorten the meetings or perhaps to run them to our agenda so we can just get what we really need from them.

The people who know us best and who are on our team still may not understand this, and as a result, may fail to give our time due respect by scheduling unnecessary meetings. Shouldn’t they be the most careful with it? We can feel frustrated in such circumstances, and, much like it is within a family setting, we can sometimes speak a little more honestly (or harshly) to convey our needs than we otherwise would.

But, what about our clients?

It is with our clients that we say (sometimes without words) “you can have as much of my time as you want”. Perhaps our clients run late for meetings. Perhaps the meetings seem somewhat ineffective. Perhaps we just make ourselves available to our clients a little too often.  Our behaviour is what allows our clients to continue to take advantage of our time, and therefore, our energy. So, what can we do without offending our clients?

Be clear with your behaviour

Time – When we continuously allow our client meetings to run over by not stating the timeframe at the start of the meeting, we are saying that there is no limit to our available time. When setting up the meeting, agree the timeframe (the beginning and the end) in writing.  Provide an agenda that states the time.

Context – Agree a context for your meetings. What is the ultimate focus here? Ensure that you push anything that doesn’t fit that context out to the next appropriate time. Agree on context in your client conversations and phone calls. Make sure you are on the same page about the purpose for the conversations to keep them effective.

Manners – Be polite and clear. When it is time for things to finish up, simply close your folder or notebook as a sign you must wrap up and agree when you can continue the conversation later (should there be a need for it). If you’ve stuck to your context you shouldn’t need a further allotment of time.

Respond appropriately – Stop replying to emails and phone calls outside of working hours. This simply sends the message that you are always available. If you are working earlier or later than you’d like clients to know, set a time for the email to send that is more appropriate.

Your time impacts your energy levels and your sustainability. If you want to give your clients the best version of you and deliver to their expectations, then set guidelines with them that offer respect to both of you around time and energy. They (and your work quality) will thank you for it in the long run.