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Tune Up Your Business

In today’s complex business environment, the legal profession continues to experience industry consolidations, increasingly sophisticated client demands, and talent shortages.  The successful law firms are finding the best way to prepare for the future is to look inside at their talent. By looking inside and discovering their emerging leaders, leveraging and enhancing skills and competencies, firms create a motivated and energized force.  This unique culture will attract and retain new talent and clients.  

Tune up your law firm with four key strategies:  

Step 1 – Tune Up Your Seats: Now is the time to ask yourself if you have the right people in the right places. Lead your firm—make tough decisions and transition people who no longer have a place in the future of your firm. Low performers, culture misfits, and those who have outgrown their positions or your firm all affect morale and your bottom line. 

Step 2 – Tune Up Your Hiring: If you need to hire, make sure it’s the right fit. Top candidates are in high demand, and they know it. Create the right first impression with a smooth and timely interview experience. Identify the major responsibilities and expectations for the position, both short- and long-term. Assign a key stakeholder in the position to champion the recruiting process—to weed out candidates who are not a firm fit and shepherd those who are. Remember to integrate your new hire, no matter how experienced.

Step 3 – Tune Up Your Leveraging: Don’t add stress during lean times by asking your people to perform the work of several others. Serve your people, and your clients, well—or risk losing them. Utilize attorney and paralegal project staffing to manage overflow work and extra projects. Whether you need a seasoned attorney or a mid- to entry-level professional, project consultants add value to your team in skill, experience and energy. This is cost effective for the firm as it is seamless to clients and often generates revenue.

Step 4 – Tune Up Your People: Provide your attorneys and staff with opportunities to learn and grow, and it will pay dividends both for them and for the organization. Now is the time to implement a comprehensive training program to ensure attorneys, paralegals and staff enhance not only their legal skills, but their interpersonal skills as well. Your organization will be stronger and more versatile in meeting client needs, succession planning, and attracting and retaining top talent and strong clients.

How do you remain competitive during these economic times?  Make sure you have the right talent in the right places and leverage that talent.  Today’s law firms must create supportive work environments that foster employee creativity and innovation. Communicating, supporting, energizing, and training Attorneys and staff will give law firms the competitive edge they need to thrive.

The Secret is Out: Five Tips for Legal Marketer Success

A while ago, I was having a long lunch with a legal marketing friend.  Our conversation quickly turned to why the legal marketing function is still seen as a cost center in a law firm.  Some reasons my friend mentioned (the attorney isn’t a good speaker, the attorneys won’t listen to me or do what I suggest they do, the budget is limited, the resources are limited) are the most common we hear no matter the size, location or specialty area of the firm.  You, I am certain, can add even more reasons to the list. What is the commonality with these reasons? Do you notice the reasons all point out and away from the marketer?  

This thought, that your success depends solely on everyone else effectively carrying out your plan, is dangerous!  The legal marketing function has been touted as one of the most challenging areas in a law firm and remains one of the most volatile because of the mindset that there is no, or only so much, control.  Successful marketers today are careful to not fall into this trap. Guess what, we have found there is an overriding factor that is the true foundation for a marketing function’s success, YOU. The secret is out…You have control and influence over your success.

Here are five of the most critical tips that spearhead legal marketer success:  

  1. Be Visible. Stay in front of the key decision makers in the firm.  Know what the leadership is thinking for firm strategy, direction, opportunity and concerns so you can address, problem solve and creatively add value.
  2. Let Them Win.    That’s right folks.  It really doesn’t hurt you by letting a challenge to your idea come at you.  If someone else wants to be right, let them be. Instead of automatically going into defense mode, try staying open to communication while shifting the challenge slightly so it ends up supporting you.
  3. Emotional Intelligence. You have it – are you using it?  EQ has been described as the back wheel of a bicycle – the wheel that steers the power of the front wheel (likened to IQ).  Both are important to use the energy of the bike in the most efficient way. How effectively are you using your smarts, your intellect, your IQ?  Think about on a bicycle, when the gears are aligned, with the weight distribution, the pushing and pulling of the pedals, the steering – your physical energy output is minimal to get an increase in speed.  In other words, are you practicing what you preach? Do you know yourself? Do you know your strengths and possible weaknesses? Do you know how the professionals you work with might perceive you? Can you recognize who you are speaking to or working with and strategically adapt to be most effective in your communication?  
  4. Trends.  Stay up on trends both in your market and in other industries.  Bring value to your role and your firm by watching and listening to what other firms are doing and what other industries are doing.  The most cutting edge ideas in the legal environment are ideas adapted from other industries.  
  5. Be Direct.  No one knows what you do unless you tell them.  It may seem obvious to you and the truth is, it is not obvious to others.  Make it simple, easy and consistent. Numbers, facts, measures – all important to remind people what you do and have done for them lately.

Practice these five tips for 21 days to form a new habit – you will see the results, secure your position and increase the fun meter in your day-to-day!

Time Management

How to work smarter, better, and get things done faster

Time is a non-renewable resource, and as such, one of the most precious ones we have.

As a lawyer, executive, and a professional, you’re probably wearing multiple hats in your effort to get everything done.  However, wearing all those hats makes it incredibly easy to get distracted, lose focus, and waste valuable time on things that are not mission-critical. Here are ten tips to help you stay on track.

1. 80% is good enough and still better than most.  Remember this key phrase from Sheryl Sandberg: Done is better than perfect.  As a driven leader, you’re likely a perfectionist, which means that you might be getting in your own way. Remember that not every activity carries the same value or weight.  Focus on turning out results by giving yourself deadlines according to the value of the activity and sticking to them.

2.  Live by High Value Activities.  Resolve to never have another day that ends with you saying, “I didn’t get anything done today.”  Plan the three most important things you can do each day to make the biggest impact on your business, and then be willing to make changes in your schedule to ensure you do those three things first or as early as possible in the day.  Once those three things are done, you can give attention to the other items on your to-do list, handle the interruptions, and attend meetings– and you will still leave the day knowing you accomplished something.  

3. Schedule ALL Action Items into Your Calendar.  Don’t wait until you “have time” to complete important things. You will never have that “time” you are waiting for.  If you have empty or “free” spaces in your calendar, people will fill them (either you or someone else). Just like water, unimportant activities will expand to fill the available space.  Block off time in your calendar for research, preparation, working out, and travel time– and then just follow your day.

4. Don’t Multitask.  Many studies show that multitasking is ineffective. (Take my word for that–you don’t have time to go look it up!) You will be more efficient and productive if you focus on one thing at a time.  Give your tasks a measurement of time, quantity or dollars. Then tackle that one item for the measure you assigned. Be sure to communicate through your calendar, a sign on your door, an auto email message, or the do not disturb button on your phone to let people know when you are (and are not) available so they too can self-manage and know what to expect.

5. Delegate everything that is outside your Strength Areas.  Focus your time and energy on profitable activities.   Surround yourself with people who are smarter, better, faster, and more experienced than you, and then delegate to them!  You’ll be glad you did.

6. Block out your schedule in chunks or by the day.  Monday is my admin and business-building day–it makes it easy for me to know where I need to focus and what is most critical for me to do that day. I don’t have to think about it, or wonder when I’ll get other things done. Those other things all have their places in my business and in my week. You can easily do the same by “chunking out” your schedule.

7. Save time-draining activities for the end of the day.  You know your personal time-drains: social media, email, etc. Whatever wastes your time the most (but still needs to be done) should be done at the end of the day. This way, you’re not wasting valuable, productive time on things that are not profitable, important, or need your full brain power.  

8. If you’re really stuck on something, take action.  When you’re not making progress, take action by moving on, letting the stubborn item rest, or getting help.  Stop banging your head against the wall. Giving yourself some space often provides a much-needed different perspective.  If possible, let it sit and do something else – ideally something physical or in nature (i.e., a walk outside). If a new perspective doesn’t arrive, seek the guidance of a valued advisor.  

9. Hire a coach or mentor to keep you accountable.  A good coach or mentor will keep you accountable, provide support where you need it, and help you see when and how you’re sabotaging yourself. We all need help, and none of us can evaluate ourselves with perfect objectivity. Hire someone you trust who will hold your hand AND give you tough advice when you need it. Both are necessary.

10. Establish a regular schedule for yourself based on your body’s natural rhythms.  You have to take care of yourself physically as well as emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. If you don’t, you won’t be nearly as good at everything else you do.  Establish and adhere to regular exercise, meditation and fun times that feel right for you and your schedule – your productivity and happiness will soar.

To get started, just pick one or two tips above to incorporate into your routine.  Once a habit is formed that is working to save you time, come back to this list to see if there is anything else you can incorporate to save you time, work smarter and get things done faster.

Time Management

How to work smarter, better, and get things done faster

Time is a non-renewable resource, and as such, one of the most precious ones we have.

As a lawyer, executive, and a professional, you’re probably wearing multiple hats in your effort to get everything done.  However, wearing all those hats makes it incredibly easy to get distracted, lose focus, and waste valuable time on things that are not mission-critical. Here are ten tips to help you stay on track.

1. 80% is good enough and still better than most.  Remember this key phrase from Sheryl Sandberg: Done is better than perfect.  As a driven leader, you’re likely a perfectionist, which means that you might be getting in your own way. Remember that not every activity carries the same value or weight.  Focus on turning out results by giving yourself deadlines according to the value of the activity and sticking to them.

2.  Live by High Value Activities.  Resolve to never have another day that ends with you saying, “I didn’t get anything done today.”  Plan the 3 most important things you can do each day to make the biggest impact on your business, and then be willing to make changes in your schedule to ensure you do those 3 things first or as early as possible in the day.  Once those 3 things are done, you can give attention to the other items on your to-do list, handle the interruptions, and attend meetings– and you will still leave the day knowing you accomplished something.  

3. Schedule ALL Action Items into Your Calendar.  Don’t wait until you “have time” to complete important things. You will never have that “time” you are waiting for.  If you have empty or “free” spaces in your calendar, people will fill them (either you or someone else). Just like water, unimportant activities will expand to fill the available space.  Block off time in your calendar for research, preparation, working out, and travel time– and then just follow your day.

4. Don’t Multitask.  Many studies show that multitasking is ineffective. (Take my word for that–you don’t have time to go look it up!) You will be more efficient and productive if you focus on one thing at a time.  Give your tasks a measurement of time, quantity or dollars. Then tackle that one item for the measure you assigned. Be sure to communicate through your calendar, a sign on your door, an auto email message, or the do not disturb button on your phone to let people know when you are (and are not) available so they too can self-manage and know what to expect.

5. Delegate everything that is outside your Strength Areas.  Focus your time and energy on profitable activities.   Surround yourself with people who are smarter, better, faster, and more experienced than you, and then delegate to them!  You’ll be glad you did.

6. Block out your schedule in chunks or by the day.  Monday is my admin and business-building day–it makes it easy for me to know where I need to focus and what is most critical for me to do that day. I don’t have to think about it, or wonder when I’ll get other things done. Those other things all have their places in my business and in my week. You can easily do the same by “chunking out” your schedule.

7. Save time-draining activities for the end of the day.  You know your personal time-drains: social media, email, etc. Whatever wastes your time the most (but still needs to be done) should be done at the end of the day. This way, you’re not wasting valuable, productive time on things that are not profitable, important, or need your full brain power.  

8. If you’re really stuck on something, take action.  When you’re not making progress, take action by moving on, letting the stubborn item rest, or getting help.  Stop banging your head against the wall. Giving yourself some space often provides a much-needed different perspective.  If possible, let it sit and do something else – ideally something physical or in nature (i.e., a walk outside). If a new perspective doesn’t arrive, seek the guidance of a valued advisor.  

9. Hire a coach or mentor to keep you accountable.  A good coach or mentor will keep you accountable, provide support where you need it, and help you see when and how you’re sabotaging yourself. We all need help, and none of us can evaluate ourselves with perfect objectivity. Hire someone you trust who will hold your hand AND give you tough advice when you need it. Both are necessary.

10. Establish a regular schedule for yourself based on your body’s natural rhythms.  You have to take care of yourself physically as well as emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. If you don’t, you won’t be nearly as good at everything else you do.  Establish and adhere to regular exercise, meditation and fun times that feel right for you and your schedule – your productivity and happiness will soar.

To get started, just pick one or two tips above to incorporate into your routine.  Once a habit is formed that is working to save you time, come back to this list to see if there is anything else you can incorporate to save you time, work smarter and get things done faster.

Today’s Most Critical Workplace Challenges

Employee commitment, productivity, and retention are emerging as the most critical workplace challenges of the immediate future. For many organizations, “surprise” employee departures can significantly affect the execution of business plans and may eventually cause an unexpected decline in productivity. This is especially true during times of economic uncertainty and related organizational downsizing when the impact of losing key talent increases exponentially. 

Consider that: 

  • The most difficult time to retain and motivate employees is during organizational change.  
  • Highly engaged and motivated employees can increase the performance and productivity of an organization by as much as 400 percent.
  • Losing and replacing an employee may cost up to 2.4 times an annual salary. 
  • The largest factor in retaining and motivating employees is not money, but the relationship with their immediate supervisors. 

So, what can you do today to overcome or avoid these critical challenges and be the “employer of choice” for tomorrow? Wherever your organization is now, you can take steps to attract, inspire, and retain top talent. The organization must address five key performance elements: change, listening, traction, investing, and communicating.

Change. To paraphrase Franklin Roosevelt, “The only thing we have to fear is fear of change.” Change is constant; embrace it. Fear of change is no longer an excuse to avoid exercising strong leadership, making tough decisions, or implementing ideas. The members of your organization are counting on you to lead, direct, and manage effective change. Change today usually means transitioning to a new role, taking on greater responsibility, or leaving the organization. Support change with encouragement and reassurance. It is an opportunity to embrace individual growth and development while strengthening the team and the organization.

Listen. Listen to what you are not hearing—those quiet voices of the introverts, of the newer generations, of your most seasoned, of your diverse employees, of your staff, and of your clients. Are you hearing their ideas, questions, concerns, and solutions? They will tell you exactly where you are doing things right, what’s not working well, and what you need to do to keep them. Listening also strengthens your internal relationships with colleagues and teams. Identify the strengths your organization has and leverage your talent for individual development and strengthening client service. Now is the time to set up lunch-and-learns, roundtables, and team-building exercises. Creating a community within your firm begins with listening.

Traction. The strength of an organization is based on sharing a vision. Has your leadership taken the time to establish the organization’s purpose, values, and goals, and make them known to everyone in the firm, and to your clients? Are key business decisions being driven by them? Are you hiring, promoting, transitioning, and business developing according to the organization’s values, goals, and purpose? Loyalty, commitment, and accountability start with the building blocks of the organization—who and what you are now and where you are going. It is only with this foundation in place that you will attract, retain, and maximize the performance of top talent that is right for your organization.  

Invest. Are you offering training and development to your leaders, management, and staff?  The firm next door is. Most C-level executives have worked with a professional coach. The days of “figure it out on your own, I did” are gone. Organizations today cannot afford to wait for employees to figure it out on their own, and the new generations will not support this old model. They expect training, mentoring, and guidance from their leaders and they will not hesitate to go where their friends are finding exactly that. It is important to provide quality training beginning early in the career to grow and develop your new leaders. New hires are trained on interpersonal skills such as professional dress, presence, a successful handshake, and client communications. Emerging leaders are coached on business development, presentations, effective delivery of tough messages, and expectation setting. Highly effective professionals need to know much more than simply the tasks associated with their positions. Don’t rely on skill development programs to be the extent of your professional and leadership training. 

Communicate. Is your communication system clear, simple, and consistent? Do people know what is expected of them? Current research indicates that the supervisor most influences a person to depart from an organization. Other reasons, in order of frequency, are inability to use core skills, not being able to affect an organization’s goals, and inability to grow and develop within the organization. An effective communication system can bridge the gap between supervisor and employee. Enhanced communication helps supervisors better understand the motivational drives and interests of each individual, provides feedback on performance and style, and highlights development opportunities. Managing and measuring the needs of employees or teams helps them build productive relationships with their co-workers, supervisors, and clients. People who feel engaged will put in the extra effort to get a job done and do it well. Instead of catching the 5:00 bus, they won’t mind catching the 6:00 bus to support the team and the client.

Successful organizations realize retention and talent management are integral to sustaining leadership and growth in today’s marketplace. In fact, a stable workforce becomes a significant competitive advantage. An organization with unstable conditions is forced to invest thousands of dollars in recruiting, orientation, training, overtime, and supervision. Organizations without continuity don’t have ongoing close relationships with customers. Loyalty is fragile, stress is high, conflict is more likely, and efficiency is hampered. These challenges make it difficult for an organization to compete. 

Support change, listen to your talent, know and share your organization’s vision and core values, and provide development opportunities so people are engaged and know they make a difference. You will then be an “employer of choice.”

The Emotionally Intelligent Lawyer

We live in a time of change. Among the most visible changes are globalization, technological advancement and multigenerational workplaces. Similarly, the nature of leadership is also changing. The best new leaders develop and implement the emotional intelligence characteristics of agility, creativity, community and contribution.

In the legal profession, specifically, change is also prevalent: firm mergers are commonplace, lateral movement is at a record high, the lock-step partnership track is being replaced by competency models, and more firms and companies rely on staff attorneys and project attorneys. In this time of change, a key predictor of a good lawyer is emotional intelligence (see, e.g., The Prediction of Professional Effectiveness, Schultz and Zedeck,) versus the GPA. A well-developed emotional intelligence allows a lawyer to more effectively serve clients and more easily adapt to this era’s changes.

The fact that studies have now proven success predictors are linked to emotional intelligence (EQ) versus intellectual intelligence (IQ) is exciting. EQ is something that can be improved and developed. Broadly defined,EQ addresses the emotional, personal, social and survival dimensions of intelligence. For daily functioning, EQ is as important, if not more important, than the traditional cognitive aspects of intelligence. Emotional intelligence is concerned with understanding oneself and others, relating to people and adapting to and coping with your immediate surroundings. Emotional Intelligence is an accurate predictor of success because it reflects how a person applies knowledge to the immediate situation. In a sense, measuring emotional intelligence is similar to measuring common sense– the ability to get along in the world. It is not that IQ is no longer important. Rather IQ with EQ can make you a better lawyer, a stronger leader, give you greater career satisfaction and provide better relationships throughout your life.

Specifically, how is EQ relevant to a lawyer? Knowledge is power. If you are tuned to the emotional, personal, and social ramifications of a situation, you can make better decisions and have greater influence. Similarly, a well-developed EQ improves one’s decision-making while under stress. As a general rule, high stress leads to less effective cognitive function and more irrational decisions. Conversely, a well-developed EQ allows a person to be aware of and tolerate increasing stress levels, and the effects of stress, both on themselves and others. An acute EQ under pressure will increase one’s ability to stay rational, improving access to one’s cognitive thinking (IQ), allowing for better decision making.

It is a certainty that your most successful colleagues rely on emotional intelligence to make decisions, problem solve and strengthen client relationships. Here is a practical three-step process to use EQ to increase your success in developing client relationships.

STEP 1. KNOW YOURSELF.

When asked, “What do you do?” most lawyers simply describe (sometimes in great detail) their practice area. But what the person asking this question (client, prospect, potential hire or board member) really wants to know is “Who are you?” However, you cannot tell people who you are if you haven’t answered this question for yourself first. Clarifying your response to this question is simple, but not easy. It takes understanding yourself, brainstorming, testing with others, practicing, honing the message and then perfecting the answer. You will know you have your answer when it is both genuine for you and the response of the listener will be a follow-up question to know more.

STEP 2. YOUR UNIQUENESS.

You must be able to describe yourself and your work clearly and concisely. One exercise that may help this process is to consider what three adjectives best describe you and the experience you give clients. The combination of these three adjectives is what makes you unique in the market. This combination of three adjectives also determines why people work with you and which people work best with you. In knowing how to describe yourself, you help people decide whether they want to engage you further and you help yourself determine how, with whom and where to spend your time. Keep in mind that most people don’t really want to hear about how you do what you do. People do want to know, “What can you do for me?” They want to hear about what you have done for others like them. So when asked “What do you do?” be ready to state how you solve problems, fix issues or save the client time or money.

STEP 3. PERSUADE THE CLIENT.

Potential clients, like all people, love a good story. If you want to effectively persuade a potential client to hire you, tell the potential client a good story that is relevant to their issues.

1) Explain how you effectively worked with a similar client.

2) Describe your past successes solving similar problems.

3) Briefly tell the potential client about how you solve those problems. And, above all, the potential client must know how you will make him or her sleep better at night.

Finally, you must take the initiative to move the relationship with the potential client forward. Take action — suggest a next step at a particular time and place. Do not leave the next steps open ended and vague. Don’t wait for the potential client to take the next step. Giving someone direction with time and dates actually triggers a positive comfort response in the brain. Suggested action with a date and time indicates confidence, clarity and accountability. No one seeks out mediocrity. Clients seek solutions. People work with attorneys who instill confidence and trust. Whether you are in private practice or an in-house legal department, a key factor in success is the ability to develop and build effective relationships. Whether one is developing new business, presenting to a board, advancing a career, interviewing, or leading a productive team – one’s success in all of these activities boils down to effective communication, aka interpersonal skills, aka one’s emotional intelligence.

Are You Ready?

The 40-year service anniversary. The 8:00-5:00 daily grind. Climbing the corporate ladder. Are you living the American dream? Are you prepared for your opportunity to live the dream? Thanks to economic factors, technology, political unrest, and the changing attitudes of employers and workers, the employment landscape is evolving at a rapid speed. Organizations of all sizes commonly plan, prepare and adapt for strategic growth to positively impact their bottom line. Individual professionals, however, too often achieve a level of success and then mistakenly take a seat in the waiting room – waiting for their environment to change or someone to trigger their next step of continued growth.

Now is the time to drive your opportunity, your American dream, your destiny. In practical terms this might mean for you, keeping a client, securing a new client, delivering an effective presentation, conducting a successful interview, facilitating a meeting. The point is, all of the disruption happening around us right now is also creating tremendous opportunity. If you are sitting on your haunches, waiting for something to fall in your lap or tap your shoulder, you will be left sitting in the waiting room alone – not because opportunity doesn’t pass by you but because you won’t recognize it when it does.

Follow these simple action steps to create your next opportunity or at the very least recognize when it passes by.

Step 1. Know Thyself.

If you don’t know who you are or what you want, no one else will either. This is your job – not the boss/employer, not the client and not the interviewer. Regularly ask yourself who you are, what is important to you and what you want in your life/profession and then put your responses on paper. Whether it is using a vision board, a notebook, a napkin –your written answers will be your foundation and provide objectivity when you are making decisions such as next job selection, client fi t and association participation.

Practical Use: Increase your effectiveness by 2-5 minutes prior to a meeting. Take some quiet time and on a notepad write down your greatness, your strengths, who you want to be in the meeting. Write each thought three times. Then get up, stand up straight, toss the paper in the trash and go for it!

Step 2. Ask the “Right” Question.

The answers to Step 1 will allow you to identify what is worth asking for so you can then focus on asking the “right” questions. This refers both to the questions you ask yourself, (i.e. What outcome do you want? How are you going to get there? Who are you going to be in the conversation?), and the questions you ask of others. The simple act of asking can build a team, solve complex issues, direct your decision path, create collaboration, identify opportunity, secure new business and make new friends.

Practical Use: In any conversation (client, interview, employee, friend) notice when you are assuming. Assuming is the trigger to know there is another question to be asked. Clarity lies in the answer to the next question.

Step 3. Your Network.

Paul Revere is credited for traveling through the night, announcing the arrival of the British so the Colonies could assemble and defend itself. William Dawes, a second man, traveled further in the opposite direction of Paul and actually talked with a greater number of people. Yet it is Paul’s name we remember. It is said that Paul’s network was more diverse and made up of power players so Paul’s contacts were the start of several webs of people who all spread the word to more people. Paul didn’t do it on his own; he spoke with a few key players in his network who had their own individual networks. What does your network look like? Who is in it – does everyone look like you? How diverse is it? How big of a reach does it have? When you need something, where do you go? Who do you go to? Expand your network by building a variety of circles…work, community organizations, associations/non-profits within your interest areas (religious, sports, animals).

Practical Use: In your chosen circles, demonstrate who you are and what you can do by taking on the challenges or “dirty projects” within those groups. People will begin to know you, experience you and remember you.

We live in a world of opportunity. Living the American dream is still possible. Be on the offensive in your life and career. This is not a dress rehearsal. Be ready now and…

• State: Who you are

• Identify: What I am

• Ask: How can we help each other?

Employment Success with the Pause, Plan, Practice Process

We often hear “Top organizations want to attract top talent.” And, “Top talent wants to work with top organizations.” True enough, yes? I wonder then, what defines TOP? How do you know TOP when you see TOP? Is there a limited number of TOP? With no e-harmony for TOP, how do you connect? How does TOP find each other? Is everything not TOP less than?

We live in a world that is unpredictable, ambiguous, uncertain and many factors, technology being one of them, are demanding that we change faster than our comfort level. I pose that the question more accurately reflecting the wants and needs of organizations and individuals is: 

Who/Where Is Right For The Right Seat At The Right Time?

Jim Collins said it well in “Good to Great” with “right person, right seat.” And, we have evolved to require the addition of “right time.” We said our world is unpredictable and experiencing radical change – in this climate, our organizations and individuals are experiencing the same. What is right for both is not only unique but also changes as fast as everything else. Gone are the days of old definitions of stability, longevity, and loyalty. We are in the days of fluidity, growth, and expansion.

Why is this important? Because with the TOP requests, everyone is looking for the same thing and the same thing is not right for everyone. I have heard for almost 20 years the same comments from organizations and individuals in the hiring or career changing mode. Organizations say, “I want a lawyer from a top law school with top grades working at a top organization.” Individuals say, “I want to work somewhere that appreciates me, where I can have control over my time and make enough money.” The question mistakenly forgotten is “What is right, specifically for you?” In other words – the mating dance for a successful employment connection requires each side to know themselves first. It requires each side to ask of themselves: Who are you? What do you need/want? How will you know it when you see it? Or, I like to say, the pause, plan, practice process to successful employment.

Pause

Always going somewhere and yet never being anywhere – sound familiar? Richard Leider claims we have a new epidemic among us, “hurry” sickness. If we are running at high speed while pursuing our career steps or hiring in our organizations, we get the wrong results (“They aren’t doing what I thought they would do when I hired them.” or “This is how I felt in my last position.”) What is the cure? A well-accepted opinion in academic circles is simply to “pause.” This is the first step to employment success – it starts with you. This step is the most forgotten step with organizations and individuals and yet is the most critical. Taking a minute to recognize who you are will determine the outcome you get. Questions to ponder include: What values do you use to make decisions? These are your core values. Identify them and write them down. What are the priorities you are meeting with this position? Write them down. What behaviors do you expect to see? What would you be disappointed to see? Again, write it down. Now, look at it – this is what you are looking for – this applies to an organization looking to fill a position or an individual looking for a career step.

Plan

What process are you going to use to find the fit? What questions will you ask? What answers/examples will you give? Who will be involved? What are your strengths? What are your snafus? Your differentiators? Your uniqueness? The mistake organizations commonly make in this step is they try to pull the plan together at the last minute with whoever is available. This mistake can be costly as a weak first impression is lasting and can be the difference between an offer being accepted or declined. For the individual, the common mistake is stopping the plan at the search effort. In other words, once a resume is sent, they stop the proactive role and move into the “go with the flow” of the organization. There is little opportunity to differentiate oneself from a passive position.

Practice

Have you ever heard a good speech? How about a good impromptu speech? What do they both have in common? Practice. That’s right. Most good “impromptu” speeches have been rehearsed in some fashion. In an interview situation, both parties know it is going to happen and know what the other will want to know about them. It is not a mystery. Yet, both sides commonly approach an interview like it is an impromptu speech with no rehearsal. You have taken the pause time to figure out who you are and what you need. You have taken your time to plan your questions, answers, approach. The practice step is the opportunity for you to bring all the steps together. A chance for you to get feedback, clarify your messages, match your non-verbals. You waste your time by not doing this simple step.

So, whether you are on the hiring side of the table or the interviewee side of the table – you both want the same thing – to identify the right fit so you can be happy in this dynamic world. That is good. Research has proven time again that if there is happiness in the organization and the individual there is a legal talent management firm that provides cost-effective legal recruiting for culture fit, as well  as communications workshops, team-building exercises, leadership coaching, management training, CLE presentations, and firm and client building programs. As a trusted strategic partner, Jodi helps law firms and legal departments develop a cohesive approach to selection, development and retention of talent, directly impacting the bottom line which is vital to their success. Hundreds of clients across the country rely on Jodi’s expertise. Organizations are different and people are different. Using the pause, plan, practice process will position you in your mating dance, allowing you to identify the match that is right for you right now.

References – The Secret Weapon to Career Success

References – please submit your references. Do you have any references? How many times have you been asked for references – proposing to a new client, bidding on an RFP, interviewing for a new job, applying for membership or a board seat. We all get the same question, but our reaction to the question makes all the difference. References can make you, break you or keep you in neutral. In this hypercompetitive, constantly evolving environment, find out how to make references your secret weapon in achieving career success.

What a Difference a Reference Can Make.

There are three kinds of references: Make You, Break You and Keeping You in Neutral.

References that MAKE YOU

This reference happily reports his or her experience working with you and provides detailed examples which also meet the requirements of the new position or project you are seeking.

It is not enough for a positive reference to simply know who you are when someone calls on your behalf. Make You references are those that can speak to specific examples of performance, the difference you made or a success you contributed to. They are the

references that can share a story demonstrating who you are in the workplace. They create the confirmation that your interview process has already established, and give the extra push employers need to want to hire you.

References that BREAK YOU

This reference either merely confirms your dates of employment, title and compensation, or worse, this reference remembers working with you for all of the wrong reasons – and

boy, do they remember every detail of working with you! OK, everyone thinks: “Who would give out a reference that wouldn’t say good things about you?” Guess what – it happens, especially in the Midwest where passive aggressive communication is common. To your face someone may say, “Sure, I will be a reference for you,” but then when the call comes, and pressed with “Off the record, tell me how it really was working with them,” they do tell, but with selective memory. Our perceptions are powerful and while good experiences become better, bad experiences become worse. Much worse.

References that Keep You in NEUTRAL

This reference confirms you did the job. It was fine, but unremarkable. Sure, they’d work with you again, but you’re somewhat fungible. These are the standard, “everyone gets the same response, we are going through the motions and checking off our to-do list” references. They don’t forward your candidacy and they don’t necessarily hurt your candidacy. But consider whether they are a missed opportunity – could a Make You reference have been provided instead?

Your job in compiling a reference list is to determine who will be your best cheerleaders. Realistically consider whether a potential reference is actually good or merely neutral, and confirm you aren’t providing any Break You references.

Preparing MAKE YOU References

When employers or potential clients ask for references, they are primarily asking about two basic characteristics:

1. substantive and technical ability – do you have the hard skills, knowledge or expertise for the job

2. organizational “fit” – the soft skills – are you good to work with as defined by that organization’s culture, values, etc.

When evaluating a potential reference, applicants should consider who in their professional lives can speak both to their expertise and to their interpersonal skills. This group can include current and former supervisors, peers and clients. Others sources are volunteer or community groups where you have a significant responsibility, like a seat on a charity’s board of directors. In all instances, employers want to hear stories about your performance, how you helped achieve a difficult goal, met or beat a deadline, managed challenging personalities, and yet were always pleasant to work with.

Ask First; Plant the Seed. Once you identify a list of Make You references, confirm a reference’s willingness to serve – yes, you have to ask them! This highlights the upcoming change and weeds out potential Break You references. That said, the best time to ask for a reference is before you need it, following the close of a successful project. When you ask later for a specific opportunity, it is easier to say yes again.

Prime the Pump. Lawyers are good at asking leading questions; this is the perfect time to employ that skill. It is critical to prepare your reference for the questions he or she is likely to be asked by the employer. You also want to identify the exact traits you want them to advertise about you, specifically tailored to the job you are seeking. They may have plenty of stories about you, but you want them to share the right stories for this opportunity. “Bob, remember when we worked an all-nighter to get that brief done? You told me you really valued my persistence and attention to detail.” Remind them of the stories you want them to share – it makes it easier for them to take the inevitable call and helps shape that conversation in a beneficial manner.

Presentation Matters. Don’t just email a list of names and numbers. Frame the contact information so it is easily digestible, perhaps as a direct response to an interview question. “I have provided Bob Harper’s phone and email. We worked on a challenging litigation matter where my persistence and attention to detail really paid off.”

Return the Favor. If it makes sense, offer to serve as a reference for your reference.

The Power of Breathing

Did you know that you can increase your personal effectiveness by simply increasing your breath awareness? Research shows that the average person wastes 5 1⁄2 hours a week due to unclear communication. Research has also linked breathing with increased influence, confidence, presence … all leading to career advancement.

If you’ve ever breathed a sigh of relief or gasped in pain, you know that even our language recognizes a close connection between the way we breathe and how we feel.

In fact, when you understand how respiration interacts with your mood, you can train your breathing to help you handle your emotions. The right breathing technique can calm you when you’re feeling tense, enable you to really focus on a task or keep you from blowing up at someone. It can also help dramatically change the way you sound, since breathing patterns are the foundation of vocal production.

You experience this powerful mood and breathing connection every time you get highly emotional. When you’re depressed or sad, your breathing tends to be very shallow with frequent sighs. When you’re feeling anxious, frightened or angry, you unconsciously have pauses of varying length between your breaths, or even hold your breath.

Athletes, martial arts practitioners and singers all know that breathing is the key to physical performance. The way we breathe – whether it’s short, shallow breaths through the chest or deep, slow breaths from the diaphragm – directly communicates with the powerful vagus nerve that runs through the chest cavity up to the brain. The vagus is linked to nerve receptors in the lungs, and is connected to the limbic center in the brain, which controls our emotional reactions. Making your breathing calm and steady, instead of shallow, jerky or full of prolonged pauses, can help make your mind calm and steady and can help you achieve increased relaxation, concentration and vocal control.

If you often feel tense, you may be breathing from your chest rather than from your diaphragm. The diaphragm is the strong, cone-shaped muscle that forms the floor of the chest cavity which helps move oxygen in and out of the lungs. Check your pattern; place your hand on your upper chest. If it rises when you inhale and contracts when you exhale, you’re chest breathing.

This type of breathing pattern is very common, and less effective. It gets in huge amounts of air at once and activates the fight-or-flight alarm reaction – good in an emergency but not otherwise helpful. If you chest breathe regularly, you keep your body in a state of chronic stress. Chest breathing fills only the upper lungs, where oxygen-absorbing blood cells are sparse. The result: you breathe faster to meet your body’s oxygen needs and cause the limbic center of the brain to dump stress-related chemicals into the bloodstream, such as adrenaline.

In contrast, diaphragmatic breathing tells the body that everything is calm and alright because air goes into the lower lungs, which are rich in oxygen-extracting blood cells. The vagus nerve, going from the lung to the brain, then transmits a message of relaxation, and you are able to breathe more slowly. The next time you are feeling pressured or stressed, practice this type of breathing.

To breathe from the diaphragm, place one hand on your upper stomach, keeping your entire hand above your belly button. Inhale as if you’re filling a small balloon inside your stomach. Your stomach should gently rise as you inhale (as the diaphragm pushes down to make room for the expanding lungs) and fall as you exhale (as the diaphragm moves up to the lower chest to push the air out of the lungs). Your upper chest and shoulders should stay motionless. Once you’re breathing from the right spot, focus on making your breath as even and steady as possible. You’ll find your tension dissipating within about two breaths. With practice, this skill becomes automatic.

Be aware that at first, this breathing pattern may feel unusual or strange. It may even feel backward to you! If that’s the case, it means you have been chest breathing so long, you’ve forgotten how to belly breathe. If you’ve ever observed a sleeping infant, however, you saw that they innately belly breathe from the diaphragm. That’s how we all begin, but stress causes us to move the breathing pattern up into the chest.

You can further expand your stress-busting expertise by slowing your exhalation. Exhaling slows the pulse rate, when your breathing becomes balanced and even, slow your rate of exhalation until you are breathing out twice as long as you breathe in. Count to six as you exhale and three as you inhale. Do 10 to 20 repetitions of this breathing pattern in meetings, traffic or when otherwise stressed out. The workplace today forces us to over-schedule our lives. Calming your breathing pattern allows you to take time for yourself so you have the resources to deal more effectively with others. Try it today. Increase your breath awareness in meetings, depositions, interviews … and observe how your personal effectiveness increases.