Better Working Relationships: The 100/50 Rule


Better working relationships produce better results. Better working relationships with our clients mean more trust, and higher client retention. It means earning more respect with our internal team members, and being a team member that people want to work with. Better working relationships with our bosses mean being viewed as an asset that’s not easily replaceable.

Because any relationship can be complicated, we’re dedicating a whole series to the pursuit of better working relationships. Each week I’m going to walk through a specific idea or tactic that will hopefully help you in this pursuit.

Without further ado, I present to you concept #1:

View the relationship with the 100/50 rule.

All relationships are a two-way street. But is this really true for an agency-client relationship? (For the purpose of this example, I’m going to use an agency-client relationship. Insert your own relationship, whatever it may be, and the principle still applies.)

In an ideal world, we would all have a nice 50/50 partnership with our clients. Clients would provide us the info or feedback we request in a timely manner, and we can continue to work as scheduled. But I’m sure we’ve all experienced a scenario like this:

You send an email to your client like this:

“Hey, can you provide me with X? I’ll need that in order to get ____ finished for you by next week”.

You hit send, and then move on to other projects expecting a prompt reply. But a day passes, and no response. Then a week, then two more weeks.

All of a sudden, the project is falling behind. When you realize this, you might immediately jump to the thought: “This is their fault! They never got me what I needed!”.

This is the natural response, but is it the most productive response? Is this response going to strengthen or weaken your relationship with your client?

This problem is widespread, and occurs on an almost daily basis in one form or another. So what’s the solution to this?

Allow me to introduce you to the 100/50 rule. Unlike with a 50/50 rule, in which the success or completion lies equally on both parties, in a 100/50 relationship the first party (you!) holds the greater responsibility for moving things along.

Notice that this is not the 70/30 or even the 90/10. Both of these still allow you an out clause to pass responsibility to someone else for any issues that may arise. And these would also suggest that the expected output of the second party should go down as the primary party’s effort goes up, which I am not advocating either. We cannot control our clients (or team members, or bosses), so let’s keep their portion here at 50, and level ourselves up to 100. Because we are the only thing we can control.

“But! But! How can I complete things 100% if the client is unresponsive?!” You might ask.

Ah yes, I knew that was coming.

The 100/50 rule does not require that you complete things 100%, it simply requires that you have a mindset of 100% responsibility for the task at hand. This means:

  • If an email goes unanswered, send another.
  • If two emails go unanswered, pick up the phone.
  • If a voicemail goes unreturned, have a serious discussion with your client about responsiveness.

If you do these things, you will have fulfilled your obligation under the 100/50 rule. You will have taken the high road instead of the easy road. You will have gone beyond what is “required,” and put a legitimate effort into picking up the slack that exists.

More importantly, all these actions will help create a stronger working relationship moving forward. Eventually, your client will respond. In most cases they will be embarrassed about their non-responsiveness, and will be appreciative of the extra effort you put forth here.

So we see how this rule applies to the “sticking to a timeline” category, but how does it apply elsewhere? Here are a few quick examples:

  • Take the first step. Are you waiting on color scheme before you get started on a design project? Pick a color scheme you think would work, and send it over for feedback.
  • Offer solutions. If an unexpected challenge arises during a project, don’t wait for someone else to fix it – be the first to offer a solution.
  • Own your zone. Whatever your specialty may be, design, copywriting, development, etc., is yours. Understand that you are the expert in that area, and take initiative within this. If you receive instruction from a boss or team leader that is not the best way to do the given task, speak up and offer a better option.
  • Keep complaints out. Complaining is the enemy of the 100/50 rule and adds zero value to any productive situation. Instead of complaining, figure out what’s at the root of your frustration, and offer a solution to fix it.
  • Be proactive. One of the most valuable tools you can have as a member of a team is proactivity. Anticipate what’s coming next, and get ahead of the ball. Get something done before you were even asked to do it.

You’ll notice that all 5 of these examples are really just different versions of the same principle. It’s the practice of going a little above and beyond the standard requirement. It’s the practice of being solution-oriented, even if it means you putting in a little more effort than the other party. It’s the practice of offering value to any situation you are in.

It’s the 100/50 rule. Embrace it!

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T Fortune

Currently serves as the Director of Project Management for CM, he splits his time between managing CM's team of Project Managers and support staff. While supporting business-development team and driving results for the clients he manages directly.