Project Takeover Blues 2: Addressing the Balance: Keeping an Equal Footing

[This article continues our series on taking over a project from another team or, looking at it from the client’s perspective, switching teams.  This is part 2.  You can read part 1 here.]

This article looks at the essential bias of most client/developer relationships.

This is a world that celebrates wealth and power that rich men and women wield; one in which every Joe and Joanne aspires to this status as an apotheosis of a successful life. For all the talk about God and religion in America the core tenets of Christianity are not in play there where doing business is concerned.  No-one but no-one in America gives his coat along with his shirt when a guy asks a shirt from him.  As for laying up treasure in heaven – guys are too busy laying cash up in bank vaults and in their hearts down here.

In Europe, the bulk of the rest of the developed world, Jesus is a fiction; something dreamed up by inadequates, and cynicism is the best policy for handling people; no open-heart policy there.

A guy I worked with, an OK guy, Steve was his name, a Welshman, who of course played rugby football, as everyone does there.  He told me a story about his team coach. The coach had warned him about lineouts. (In the lineout two opposing teams file in a long line each beside one another as the ball is thrown over above them. The teams jump up together to obtain possession.)  Lineouts are set pieces of the game which are notoriously tough; the bruiser types usually play the man by throwing a punch to the kidneys at their opposite number when the referee is on their blindsides.  The coach had advised Steve for when this happens: ‘Next time you go up; dig him twice as hard back’.

The rationale of this was that the bruiser guy would never leave Steve alone unless Steve at the first opportunity hit him back twice as hard.  At first Steve tried to do without retaliating. After a few fixtures however he had adopted the instant retaliation as policy – as dogma.

Well, in a less physically violent but as jolting a way, verbally and in the business transaction, such a policy or dogma soon evolves among developers towards their clients.  Elsewise the slippery slope towards nervous collapse begins, because many, even most, clients will take up and make use of the bruiser option as their default setting. So they must be curbed at the earliest opportunity by a fierce but measured retaliation from the developer.

Such a retaliation puts an estrangement in place between the two; and such an estrangement is the birthing space within which respect – first towards the developer – thereafter and mutually between each other – is able to enter the world alive and nurture the relationship to thrive.

Of course, just as some guys can give punishment but refuse to take any; you can lose clients this way. Some will walk, offended, even outraged; and go look for some pliable sucker elsewhere to drive into the ground from doing their penurious bidding.   But most clients generally shape up and innately understand the natural justice in the situation. This puts the relationship on a proper footing.

Once a common respect has been established, then the relationship can grow and develop and thereafter even niceties like offering one’s coat along with one’s shirt might be contemplated as possible.

The scenario is unChristian maybe; but so is most of the world, and even more of the business world.  Jesus died for us; but he himself says he came to give life and life in abundance. We are not called to die for him; although perhaps there are instances of men and women who have been called by him to give their lives in his service? But where it avails nothing to be crushed and bled and thrashed by a client who is a natural bruiser, no-one, Christian or not, is making any hay for the Kingdom by lying down and allowing himself to be trampled to death.

An important strategy for use with clients who shape up and share esteem but go quickly into into relapse – the backsliders – is to play the zero-sum game and set them to rights.  The rules are straightforward and you must ALWAYS abide by them and NEVER relent nor ever get spiteful.

When a guy cooperates give him a reward; like when he allows a just but unwelcome correction, give him a compliment and praise him for allowing it.

When a guy is deliberately hostile or reluctant give him a punishment – that is – go back to the original line-out scenario.

These two simple rules when always applied may not be an absolute guarantee for rescue of a situation and relationship; but they are your very best strategy for getting reinstatement of good order and due respect.

In our societies a tendency, which many people understand to be natural, but which if allowed to be natural gives humanity no hope for a better world, is for those with a power to hire and fire, to pay or not pay, to demand but not be demanded of, to take up the higher ground from which to lay it on the guy who is to be hired or fired, paid or not paid, demanded of but not demanding.  This kind of relationship is widely accepted as the general norm between employer and employee, boss and bossed, master and servant.  Jesus says there is another way.

And Jesus is no numbskull; nor is he a soft touch nor wimpish loser type.  ‘He did not rely on the approbation of men because he knew men and knew what was in men.’  And ‘he was no respecter of persons’ i.e of position status sway. In his unique way he was tough. He gave it out where it was right to give it out; and he took it where it was appropriate to his appointed task to take it.

We are called to follow him; not just in an abstract spiritual affiliation but in his toughness; to dish it out where it does well to do so; and to take it on the chest when things get tough.  Sometimes not easy, but always productive.

So a guy like you who is being knocked from pillar to post by his heavy clients and their imperious demands; he can sort the show out and be working to do good in the world as part and parcel of sorting things out.

You are doing no favours to the guy who wants to push you around by allowing him to do so. The first steps to a better place to live in and to do business in are in helping level out the ground and so prepare it for a lasting and beautiful ‘house of many mansions’ to be erected where humanity fitly might dwell.

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