What’s the Payoff? (Issue 1088)

In which we are encouraged to move clients forward by exploring their incentives to change…or not.

I’ve been away from my office for three weeks – some vacation, an industry conference, and some Covid quarantine time. After three weeks of life in bubbles, it was a bit of a shock when I returned to the office because…

My bookshelves are crammed full of interesting books and past issues of multiple magazines. I’ve got a file cabinet covered with bulging file folders. On the floor, there’s a baritone horn in black fabric case, a half-dozen briefcases, four conference swag shoulder bags, tourist literature from trips in 2016 and 2022, a pile of books I’d like to read, a box of CDs I want to give away, a frameless beach scene oil painting turned on its side, and two small oriental rugs.

On my desk, there’s the phone, the laptop, and a back-up hard drive, photographs of my family, a small pen and ink drawing by one of my favorite artists, a box of business cards collected at various conferences, and a stack of greeting cards sent to me by my family on various Fathers days and birthdays – I pick those up and read them from time to time. Nice to remember. There’s more, but I’ll stop there.

It’s a nest as much as it is an office and I’m very comfortable in it. And, some time ago, I had the thought, “You really should clear some of this stuff out.”

I work with a business coach. I talk to her every Friday morning for anywhere from 15 minutes to 30 minutes. And, because I’d had the idea that cleaning up the office would be important, we started including in our weekly discussion, “What steps will you take this week to clean up your office?“.

I made so little progress that, although she lives three hours drive from me, she offered to come and work with me to clean up the office. She referred me to one of her friends who lives near me who does this for a living.

For months, she asked me, “What are you going do this week to work on your office space?“ and each week I would do some small thing… but not much.

Several weeks ago, she changed the routine. Instead of asking me, “What are you going to do…?“, she asked me, “Should I take this question off the list?“

Great question! So, I said (you can see this coming, can’t you?), “YES! Take it off the list.”

Do you have clients like this? You can see they should change something. They can see they should change something but, no matter how much you nag them or share ideas, they don’t do it.

So, just before I left for my trip, my coach switched the question again: “Think about this while you’re away: What’s the payoff to you of having your office look the way it looks?“ She said, “Maybe solving THAT problem would be worthwhile.”

Just a thought.


Nick Miller trains banks and credit unions to attract and expand relationships with business clients through better skills, sales strategies, and execution. He is President of Clarity Advantage based in Concord, MA. Additional articles on Clarity’s web site.

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