Remember, Clients and Colleagues Are Also People

The best advice I ever received was this: “Sometimes, you just need to chit chat,” meaning that it is important not just to do the job, but to get to know your colleagues.

After college and before I went to law school, I worked at a large consulting firm. I worked onsite at a client’s office; we were there to do a big project to update the client’s computer systems. One of my responsibilities was to schedule and run meetings with our client representatives about the project, where we’d talk about how things were going and what tasks we had to do next. I wanted to be very efficient in those meetings, because I wanted to show the client that we were doing a good job on the project, and I didn’t want to waste the client’s time.

I guess I came across as a bit too ruthlessly efficient, because one day, after a meeting, my boss pulled me aside and said something like, “Look, you’re doing a great job with this project, but your meetings can’t be all work, work, work. Sometimes you just need to chit chat with the clients.”

She was right. I had been so focused on getting the work done, and doing a good job, that I had not really gotten to know our client representatives, or form personal relationships with them. Once I did that, it seemed like we all started working better together as a team. And we had a lot more fun—both on and off the job. (I still remember when we finished the project and had team karaoke night.)

As I have progressed in my career, I have always remembered what my boss said about the importance of having good relationships with colleagues. And I have really enjoyed the friends I have made along the way. Looking back, I am so grateful that I had a boss who wanted me to be successful and gave me the feedback I needed so early in my career.