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Hierarchy vs. Value

The first director of the FBI, J. Edgar Hoover, saw communist spies everywhere. That meant any FBI agent who didn’t interpret every data point as a part of the communist conspiracy, or even worse dared to point out the lack of evidence in baseless arrests faced being denied promotions, or being labeled as a communist infiltrator themselves.

If you feel like your (financial) security is tied to “keeping a client happy”, there is little incentive to speak honestly. Hierarchy stands in the way of delivering value. In Robert Anton Wilson’s “Illuminatus!” trilogy, he spells it out in Celine’s Second Law: Communication occurs only between equals.

And people

This means that although the client’s in-house people will always know more about the case than you do, their hierarchical relationship with their boss will often limit what they are willing to say to their boss. You not having that limitation is a large driver of your value to a client.

David C, Baker says this is why he started to charge 100% upfront – he caught himself wondering if telling the client everything they needed to hear would upset him, and therefore reduce the chance of David getting paid. He decided those kinds of deliberations were bad for everybody involved, as it reduced the value he can bring to a client.

Even if you rarely say it out loud, “I don’t work for you, I work with you” is a valuable mindset to maintain.

Want a real-world example of this?

Wanting to keep a client happy sometimes leads them to treat you like an awkward kind of employee, and this happened to my recent podcast guest Kelsey Frick. We talked about what happens when an unclear relationship with a client results in a deal that is in no one’s interest, despite good intentions from both sides, how the education system gets us to undervalue our work, and more topics you can find in the linked video’s show notes.

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