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Ask what your client wants

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in Leaders & Managers,Workplace Communication

Early in his career, Michael Critelli, now CEO of Pitney Bowes, failed to make partner but learned a useful lesson from a painful episode.

The company assigned him and a co-worker to handle the firm’s largest client, whose owner was fighting complex legal battles involving construction. Critelli worked hard and won big money for the client while his co-worker spent his days fixing traffic tickets for the client’s family.

Stunned when the ticket-fixer made partner and he didn’t, Critelli asked why. The managing partner replied that their client had more wealth than Midas, and it wasn’t the litigation but his family that drove him nuts. The ticket-fixer understood that, acted accordingly and made partner.

From that decision, however irrational or unfair, Critelli learned an important lesson: “It’s the customer who decides what delivers value.”

Lesson: Customer service can be expensive. To win, figure out if your interests align with your client’s.

— Adapted from Michael Critelli: Not Your ‘Celebrity CEO,’ Knowledge@Wharton,

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