Six months ago I found myself in a showdown with a client, trying to find an equitable way to bring closure to the relationship. We had worked together for a year-and-a-half, building and launching a new brand that had great promise. The client had an aggressive agenda and timeline but lacked the budget to keep pace with their vision. We believed they had the capacity to make it happen, so we stepped up to give them a jumpstart – serving pro bono on a committee, and offering our time and expertise on a payment plan.
The launch was a huge success and post-launch, there was a new slate of projects requested, again with limited budgets. Because there were still several invoices outstanding on original projects, I encouraged them to slow down or scale back the expectations. Because they had made promises to high-profile partners and potential donors, they were anxious to press forward.
It’s not an unusual spot for a start-up to find itself, but I was over-extended already and not in a position to finance the next phase of projects. So I suggested we part ways and they find another resource moving forward. They agreed and we handed off their assets so someone new could step in.
I never dreamed they would stop paying their invoices. But I had to call them several months in a row until finally, they agreed to meet. And then there were questions about invoices, concerns about what was ‘in the contract’ and disappointments about the work – months after it was called complete. Suddenly, we were on the defensive, making a case for monies owed.
As someone who scores high on the Lover Archetype, showdowns like this or conflicts of any kind are out of my comfort zone. I am wired for mutual understanding and harmonious relationships. My go-to strategy for resolving conflict is compromise. So while I disagreed with their analysis, I wanted to honor their point of view, end on good terms and put it behind us. I offered to meet them halfway, putting half of our final invoice towards a future sponsorship and asking them to pay the other half. In the worldview of a Lover, this was more than fair.
It was another two months before they responded again (a delay that is completely foreign to someone who wants to connect and resolve!). And then I found myself on a phone with the client flatly refusing to pay another penny.
I was astounded. They were unmoving. They questioned the clarity of our contracts and the competence of our team. They suggested we were trying to bill them for hours on their projects that should be considered ‘business development.’ They actually offered advice on how to run our business! WTF?
Clearly, this is a one-sided story; I only have my point of view. The goal is not to have you take my side. (In fact, I may have opened up my vulnerabilities as a business person to those who think the other side would be convincing.)
But I do think this story is a great illustration of Archetypal conflict. When our expectations got so misaligned, I had to ask myself – what Archetype was on the other side of the table? What did they need out of the deal? And how did my own behavior lead to getting stiffed with the bill?
I was dealing with Ruler Archetype – a strong Archetypal persona that confidently leads big initiatives, easily aligns with people of influence, accepts nothing short of excellence and is driven to win at all costs. Here are some of the ways the Lover-Ruler dynamic can create positive impact and some of the ways it can implode.
I should have pressed harder to get paid, but life is busy and small claims courts are expensive. What I did gain were some important Lover lessons:
And for any Rulers reading this post, a few insights on how to be a leader who is loved: