I recently had an experience that made me think.
A former client of mine, who I greatly admire, got in touch with me and we decided to hop on Zoom so we could chat over a video conference call. Then it dawned on us, we had never seen each other face-to-face.
You see, when we were working together a few years ago we communicated primarily over the phone. Our working relationship was entirely virtual, so this video conference call was the first time we had an honest-to-god conversation face-to-face. It was literally, a bit of an eye-opener.
A few years ago, having business meetings over the phone was the norm for most of us. Skype was still a little finicky and there was nothing unusual about doing weekly calls using a telephone. This created a clear business standard for me: no video conference calls.
I’m big on setting clear standards and boundaries in my business. I find that solid, long-term relationships with clients are formed when clear agreements are made. No blurred lines or ambiguity; everything just works better.
But there are times, and this was one of them for me, when our own boundaries can inadvertently put up a barrier between what we think is good for our business and what is truly good for our business. So, we need to ask ourselves two questions:
- Are our business standards reasonable or just stubborn?
- Did we create a business standard out of fear or dare I say it, laziness?
Let me explain:
A few years ago I was in the onboarding process with a new client and he requested something that, from my point of view, violated my business standards. He asked if it would be OK for us to meet on Monday mornings on Zoom. Initially, I was like, “uh… Zoom?”, accompanied by thoughts in my head of, “Now, I have to put on makeup and try to look presentable on a Monday morning when all I want is to just get the kids ready and off to school before I head to my desk and dive straight in to work?”
This idea of getting on a video call bothered me so much that I consulted a group of my peers for their opinions. Unanimously, they all agreed that if one of my business standards was to not do video calls, that I should just stick to my standards and communicate to him that video calls were not part of my standard operating procedure.
In the moment, that felt comfortable. But there was this niggly part of my brain that couldn’t help but wonder if perhaps my “sticking to my guns” was causing me to operate in an outdated business model.
I sat on it for a while and ultimately, decided to suck it up and do the Monday morning Zoom calls. Initially, it was uncomfortable. While I loved seeing my client and what the face-to-face interaction brought to the table (a heightened sense of awareness and empathy that can only come by reading facial expressions), I did not enjoy having to dedicate the time to look presentable on camera. But eventually, I came around to enjoy, even prefer, doing video calls. In fact, most of my time management workshops and coaching calls are done on video.
When it all came down to it, I realized that my reason for the initial “no video calls” boundary wasn’t strong enough. While I hated to admit it, my standard had made me lazy. It had me putting up a boundary where it didn’t need to exist, all because I had feared coming out of my comfort zone.
Only by checking in with myself on my own boundaries, was I then able to adjust.
So, I challenge you to take a close look at the standards and boundaries you’ve set for yourself in your business:
- Have you examined them recently to ensure that they’re congruent with how you currently want to operate and present yourself in business?
- Are you perhaps working with outdated, rigid models which prevent innovation and connection or are you open to fresh approaches?
While the old and familiar may feel comfortable, it can sometimes prevent you from delivering and experiencing an elevated relationship with your clients. It can prevent you from doing your best work.
Yes, just like the old saying goes, “rules are meant to be broken” and sometimes torn to pieces and shredded.