One of my very best clients was one of the feistiest, brook-no-nonsense, show-me-what-you’re-gonna-do-for-me senior executive leaders that I’ve ever worked with.

This person hired me and then proceeded to push back.


But I knew it to be an opportunity to stretch myself to a greater level of skill.  If I could just endure the discomfort of being on the tips of my learning toes.

There are distinctions, though, between a great client that’s merely challenging and one from hell that’s destructive.

Below are some questions to ask.

Are you uncomfortable because you’re on the edge of your own learning and expertise?  Or are you gnashing your teeth in frustration?

Is working with this client pushing you to become more competitive in the marketplace?  Or are your time and resources being drained at the expense of serving your other clients/customers well?

Are you accruing value as you deliver value to your customer/client?

My client was a great client for a host of reasons.  They pushed me to learn faster.  They tested me in ways I hadn’t been tested before, particularly around whether they could trust me not to be intimidated by them.  They got me to become more effective and versatile in finding inroads for connecting with a client to support them in reaching their goals.  Working with this person made my repertoire of skills grow.

They made me better.

A challenging client is not, by definition, a bad client.  But it’s important to be able to discern why.

And that client?  They went on to a giant promotion.


For more on working with me directly to elevate leadership performance, you can reach me at

I work with successful, talented, ambitious CEOs and senior executives who want to leverage their abilities to drive business outcomes, expand their roles and influence, and aspire to Magnificent Leadership®.

In addition to delivering keynotes, I lead panel discussions at national conferences and corporate events.  For more information:

New keynote in 2019!  Magnificent Leadership® and Building Self-Correcting Teams™.  If your audience members want to know how to build teams that can function without them, this is the keynote.

If you haven’t slotted your Q4 off site so that you can hit the ground running in Q1, now’s the time to contact me.  I’ll have openings in November.

Marshall Goldsmith calls it, “A great read for all leaders and leaders-to-be.”
You can find a copy of my new book, Magnificent Leadership, here on Amazon.   It’s filled with narratives about people who led themselves, and those around them, through challenge.