Saturday, March 10, 2007

Things We Should Have Learned In Kindergarten

"It is human nature to judge others by their actions and ourselves by our intentions, to remember their mistakes while forgetting our own."

This is a quote from yesterday's God Issues and it (once again) met me exactly where I was. It's the first part of the above quote that so affected me in these last few days when two different clients were upset with me for not returning their phone calls promptly. Granted I am not the world's best when it comes to returning phone calls. I detest the phone. I don't like talking on the phone. It makes me uncomfortable. That said, it's part of my business and I do return phone calls. I even initiate a few on my own at times. I'm a grown up now. These things should not intimidate me so. And I realize it's incredibly poor client service not to return phone calls. But my list is long (try coming back from your lunch hour to 22 new voice mails) and interruptions are constant and demands to attend to work on my desk are ever present, and then there's always (gag) billing. One of the voice mails was actually a threat to "get your billing done today or else your bonus will be withheld." Yes, bonus...that's the good news...or at least it was, until the reality of getting my billing done became an impossibility (somehow I don't think it's good form to tell clients, "sorry, can't help you right now, I'm working on billing you.")

So my point here is that while my intentions to return all of my client phone calls were good, some did not get returned. And while my reason for not returning them was valid in my mind, i.e. I had too much on my plate and I had to prioritize, this does not matter to each client individually, each of whom is just as important as anything else I might have been attending to. For this reason, I rarely offer up excuses when I am late in responding because frankly, I don't think they care that I was "busy helping someone else." Of course, I apologize for the delay, but I try not to go into a long-winded explanation. Thus, I am judged by my actions and not my intentions. And this hurts. It occurred to me that I tend to give people the benefit of the doubt in cases like this, because I have lived it. I wish other people would do the same. I wish people would assume the best in others instead of the worst. I wish people would be less self absorbed and see their place in a bigger world instead of the center of the universe. If I know the person, it's easier to give them the benefit of the doubt, or to judge their intentions moreso than their actions. Considering this, my goal is to develop the best personal relationship I can with my clients, so that they know that I truly wish to help them. Of course, actions speak loudly and we can't disregard them, especially our own.

And you know that bonus? It is a large bonus (1/3 of my annual salary..."large" is a relative term) and even if delayed until I finish my billing, I will get it. I should have been jumping up and down, happy, celebrating. But the fact that two clients were unhappy with me trumped all that. All too true is the old adage that money cannot buy happiness. Happiness comes from making others happy. I am never so happy at the end of a day as when a client tells me I have done a great job, or lets me know that I have helped ease their worries so they can sleep better at night. Not that what I do is curing cancer, but there are people out there who lose sleep over taxes and financial difficulties. If I can help to give them peace of mind, then I have done my job and a good day is when I know I've done my best. Still, it helps when others provide affirmation of that.

And the moral of the story? Judge others by their intentions. And as James Dennison reminds us...

But he remembers every act of godly service you have ever rendered another, every cup of cold water in Jesus' name (Matthew 10:42).

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At 6:44 PM, March 11, 2007, Blogger Eric said...

Your clients do not realize how fortunate they are to have an accountant who sees and values them as human beings instead of billable hours magnets.

At 6:48 PM, March 11, 2007, Blogger Rachel said...

I know how easy it is to focus on the upset "ness" of people judging you on your actions rather than intentions. Eric is right - Your clients are fortunate! Shows how much you care for them.

At 10:20 PM, March 12, 2007, Blogger Gwynne said...

Thank you, Eric and Rachel. I do appreciate the affirmation, but more important I suppose is that the bigger message be heard. :-)

At 8:52 PM, March 13, 2007, Blogger mis_nomer said...

TWENTY-TWO voice messages just over lunch hour?? Gracious that's crazy. How to get anything done with all these phone calls? Do you have a secretary?

"And the moral of the story? Judge others by their intentions."

That is a good one. I must remember that. Thank you.


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