Evening Sessions #12: Your Clients are People! (The Abed-Graham Client Response Scale)


Some want to work with you. Some don’t.

Sometimes they find you. Sometimes you find them.

Sometimes they hang off your every word like you’re a guru and other times they’re ready and waiting to destroy each and every solution you offer.

Before becoming a strategic consultant, my experiences with middle management had been overwhelmingly negative. My colleagues and I personified the difficult, ‘ready to shoot down every plan a manager could have’ client.

It was us and them and they couldn’t deal with us.

Over the years, I’ve attempted to distil why my peers (doctors & nurses) had such a hard time engaging with management. Really, it was a two way street where neither group had an insight into how the other lives. This was the worst case scenario but it lead me to create  a model, which my firm uses, on a more general basis to understand how clients may respond to change.

The scale is theoretically simple, a clients default response to any proposed plan will sit on a range:

Destructive Disengagement ——————————————> Constructive Engagement

Destructive Disengagers

We were destructive disengagers, highly trained in very specialised roles with our own unique culture.

If you’re a manager or consultant, you really need to take the time to eat, sleep and breathe this groups daily lives. You need to experiences the highs and lows, the mind-numbing glitches and the truly satisfying aspects of their work.

You need to create open forums where you acknowledge they know better than you and ask for their solutions which you can then guide into a master plan. These are often public servants who have effectively been ‘ordered’ to work with you, in many cases they have been told what they’re doing doesn’t work and they’ve not got what it takes to fix it.

You need to show them you’re on the same team. Once you have these clients on side, they can be the most rewarding to work with because they will become truly committed to executing your plan to the best of their abilities. Often, they became your longest and most trusted clients.

Constructive Engagers

They have sought you out. You’ve been recommended to them, they can’t wait to hear your ideas, innovations and master plans.

You feel great, the next Peter Drucker, you’re promised unlimited resources at the touch of a button. Many times these clients are great to work with and you get great results.

But beware.

There are lofty expectations to meet with these clients. Make sure you are up to the ask and keep your client grounded about what can be achieved over what period of time. Do not get carried away with your own perceived greatness (i.e. ego) and reign in your use of resources. Make sure your client’s resources are used to create value at every stage of your relationship.

Every relationship is built on two key factors.

Trust and Insight.

After all, your clients are people too.

Dr Saif Abed

CEO and Co-Founder

Abed Graham Healthcare Strategies Ltd


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