The Gouldian Finch, research conducted at Macquarie University in late 2012 has shown, uses just one eye and one side of its brain to choose its partner for life. In the study published in Biology Letters the researchers found that ‘Beauty, therefore, is in the right eye of the beholder for these songbirds, providing, to our knowledge, the first demonstration of visual mate choice lateralization‘. Black-headed males choose black-headed females, and used only their right eyes and left side of their brains to do this.

Here’s looking at you kid, that is, if you are on my right-hand side and are the right colour – the Gouldian Finch chooses its mate by using only  its left brain and right eye. While clients may not do precisely this, we need to recognise they are all individuals, are different and use different criteria to choose our firm or our partners for that next assignment. It is also these individuals who determine the power or otherwise of our brands – Sean Larkan (Image: (c)

This provides a timely reminder – we somehow seem to assume that all clients fall into one amorphous group – ‘clients’  – and that all our marketing and approaches to them can be similar and should produce the same results. Of course, this is wrong. Each client is very different. Each individual at every client is different. And it is these individuals who choose our firms or the partners at our firms for their next assignment. It is also what they think, these individuals, that constitutes our firm brands, and the individual personal brands of each of our partners. Some of these individuals are notoriously one-eyed. Others adopt what one may call a balanced approach, taking all factors into account. In each case we need to understand and respect this.

What can we learn from or do as a result of this?

  1. firstly, simply understand and respect their individual differences. Some clients are definitely left-brainers, detail people,  even pernickety (excessively precise and attentive to detail; fussy), want every ‘i’ dotted and ‘t’ crossed, while others rely on trust and relationships and that you will do the right thing by them and ‘sort out the detail‘ – the ‘just tell me where to sign‘ type. Others are a wonderful balance between these extremes;
  2. understand what constitutes your firm’s and your individual partners’ brands (and what gets them chosen); it is what these same client individuals think or do not think. It is not what your firm offers to market or what their organisations think – organisations don’t ‘think‘. We should never forget this;
  3. therefore, go to a lot of trouble to truly understand what makes the key individuals, usually the decision-makers, at your key clients, tick. What are their preferences? How do they, individually, like service to be delivered? What are their typical styles of behaviour, thinking – how do they interact with others? Are they generally constructive in their styles or defensive, either aggressively or more passively, in the latter case tending towards avoidance and compliance or conventionalism at all cost. Our partners all say they understand this, but do they really? Too often changes at key clients, which may have been months in the making, take place and catch us by surprise.

I have learned this first-hand in a roundabout sort of way through my consulting work. It has made me approach this area of interaction very differently.

A lot of my work constitutes organisational turnaround and growth strategy work, and as a result, I work closely with leaders. In turn many of them are interested in developing their leadership skills and as a foundational element for this we usually have them undertake a scientific diagnostic (in my case via Human Synergistics with whom I am an accredited practitioner) around their leadership styles of behaviour, thinking and interaction with others. I have learned through this, that each client is uniquely different (but no less successful), and has different buttons that need to be understood in dealing with them. It has been a massive help and made me look at individual relationships and how they unfold and should be managed, very differently. I think we need to have this sort of understanding of every key individual at key clients.

Sean Larkan, Partner, Edge International  +61 2 6566 1806