Recently, I was on the phone with a new client who was about halfway through the onboarding process. As we were talking, I noticed that the client kept needlessly apologizing for things. She apologized for not having answers, for not having certain information she felt she should know, and for just about every time that she had to answer a question with, “I don’t know.”
I finally asked, “Why do you feel the need to apologize? You’re not a professional bookkeeper or financial manager. You know that and you’re ready to make some changes, which is why you’ve hired us to help. We are going to improve the situation and get your organization ready for the next level. Together.”
My client let out a big sigh and sounded tearful as she replied, “Thank you for saying that. Thank you for your kindness. I am apologizing so much because others in my past have not been as kind, and it’s been a huge frustration and slightly depressing. So thank you for being so kind.”
Sadly, I am quite used to hearing this sort of story. This person, a long-time, successful nonprofit leader, had been so beaten down by messages that were unkind that it had eroded her own sense of self and confidence in the area of finance.
There’s a lot of back and forth, give and take in the beginning of any new relationship, and especially so when we are in the early stages of a new client relationship. We must have honest, candid conversations with the client about things like: what’s working (or not working) in their existing finance workflow; what processes need improvement; what accounting systems are broken and why.
These early talks can lead to all sorts of difficult conversations about staff or board dynamics, cash flow issues, and other sensitive topics where leaders often carry a little excess baggage. If we’re not open and kind during this early phase, we could potentially miss out on information or insights that will help us serve you better.
There is more and more research out there that indicates exercising kindness makes for stronger, more effective leadership and teams. But that’s not why we’re kind. We’re kind because we care, not only about your business but also about you as a person. A great business strategy for us? Sure. But at the end of the day, we’re humans serving other humans all day long. And we’re kind because we believe, quite simply, that we should be.
About: Our team at Blue Fox provides customized, boutique financial and back office services for social impact organizations. Services range from standard bookkeeping and payroll services, to coaching and consulting, to full-blown virtual CFO services. Our mission is to disrupt the traditional accounting model through technology, innovation, and a radically client-focused approach that truly empowers nonprofits and social enterprises. For more information call (321) 233-3311, email firstname.lastname@example.org, and visit www.YourBlueFox.com.
Author: Founder & CEO, the Original Blue Fox, Chantal Sheehan, MS, CFP(r)
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