Show gratitude always

We are a week out from Thanksgiving. This is a good time of year to think of gratitude generally and what you are thankful for specifically. At the same time, it’s a great time of year to spread good feelings, which you can do by letting others know when you appreciate something they have done for you.

Those of you who have younger children (or older ones…) know that you end up reminding them to say “thank you” all of the time. That is because thanking someone or showing gratitude is a learned behavior. If it came naturally or from observing others we wouldn’t have to teach children to do so.

Hopefully you remember to thank people as appropriate in your daily life. In my day, this can be thanking someone holding the door for me when I get to my office, for holding the elevator for me, or for making a pot of hot water so I can have tea and get that needed caffeine injection upon arriving for work. Many of these situations are universal to all of us, but I notice when I hold a door for someone and they walk through without saying anything.

Of course, if you go through your day looking for when people should be thanking you, you likely will be disappointed. Instead, I think about how I want to come across to others, as well as ways I don’t want to come across to others.

We all have bad days, but most days we should recognize when thanking someone is proper and appropriate. Plus, it has the added bonus of making you or the other person feel good, making it a great way to go through life.

 

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Sit down and work

Many people wait for inspiration to strike them before doing something, whether it be work related or writing a novel. Those same people stop working once their inspiration wanes. It’s as if they are waiting for everything to be perfect, from how they are feeling, to the time of day, to whether the moon is full. You get the idea. The more hurdles they create for the timing to be right to get down to work, the less likely it is they will get much, if anything, done.

If you just take the physical act of sitting down and starting to work you have a significantly better chance to get your work done. It also helps if you cut out distractions. For instance, do not check your email, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc. when you sit down, as it only delays getting to work. If you have a big or special project, sitting down at whatever time of day is the time of day you work best, without distractions, will get you on the road to completing your project.

Like most things, if you make this your routine, you will find you knock out important work when you are fresh and ready to work. It also will help you meet the expectations of those you work with and for. Plus, you don’t need to worry, your email and social media will be there waiting for you when you finish that project.

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Do you have character?

Have you ever thought about this? Even if you have, how would you know? I once read a quote that said “the difference between the ways a person treats the powerless and the powerful is as good a measure of human character as I know.” The quote is from Robert I. Sutton, who is a professor at Stanford.

The quote reminds me of my first employer after law school and someone whose lessons still resonate with me today. This individual was nice and respectful to everyone, whether they were powerful (think federal judges) or powerless (think the janitors or security people at the courthouse). Watching these interactions as a young professional had a profound effect on me. Now, in hindsight, I think it helped build my character and in turn, be a better person.

A corollary to the idea of how you treat different people can be seen in business organizations. In some businesses, people are allowed to get away with abusing people, especially if they are “stars,” and may even be rewarded for trampling people on their way up. Other businesses won’t tolerate this type of behavior no matter how successful and profitable the bad actor is.

Think about what is acceptable or not at your place of employment. Is the culture one that is built on people having character and treating people well? Or is the culture one where everyone is out for themselves and character doesn’t matter? We are all different, so you may not be concerned with whether someone like me would think you and those around you have character.

On the other hand, I would like to believe that most of us think having character is important. The positives that comes from having character are endless. The next time you have an opportunity to speak with the janitor at your office, do so. It’s the sort of thing that people of character do, and it will reflect well on you even if you are the only one who knows the conversation happened.

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Everybody’s an expert

How are you an expert? We all have things we are really good at doing, and the possibilities are endless. You could be an expert in what you do for a living such as computer programming, medicine, plumbing or auto repair, or maybe you are an expert at something like Sudoku, stamp collecting, video games or Star Wars trivia. Maybe you are an expert in more than one area.

What you are expert in may be things that come naturally to you, or it could be something you learn. The easy example is if you are an expert in drawing versus Star Wars trivia.

For me, I feel am in expert at what I do for a living. I feel this way based my experience, the time I have spent learning about issues and law, the time I still spend learning about new law that may assist me in advising my clients and what I have learned from formal and informal mentor.

You should think about how you are an expert. You also should think about how you want to be an expert, i.e. is there something you can put in your 10,000 hours at learning or doing to become an expert? Focusing your interests, whether personal or professional, to become an expert may help you to have a better life experience. Plus, if you learn enough Star Wars or other trivia, you may be able to beat your friends and family at trivia games!

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Don’t spread misinformation

Ignorance rules, allowing misinformation to be a scourge on our society. Sometimes it comes by way of special interests. Many times misinformation is spread by people speaking about things as if they now what they are talking about, but they don’t. This only leads to disagreements in the future because no one can agree on a truth.

You can help this happen less. The first way is by letting people know when you are speaking about something you believe as opposed to something you know. The second is by questioning people about what they are telling you to determine whether they are speaking about something know or something they believe. You can do this in a respectful manner. It is similar to checking the facts.

I recently listened to a podcast of an interview with the guy who came up with Wikipedia. He explained why, at one point in time early on, they decided people needed to start including footnotes to sources when they were posting or editing entries.

It seems obvious why that is a good idea, and it’s no different than fact-checking during a conversation. If you do this, it hopefully will help stop the spread of misinformation, which is important because the facts matter.

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Without your health you have nothing

We all have good genetics and bad genetics. The thing is, we only find out what that means as we get older. And all of us will have adverse health issues at some point in time. So what can you do about it?

Take care of yourself along the way. Generally eat healthy and exercise. By generally, I mean that once in a while you should have that piece of cake or whatever it is you like that may not be the best for you. But if you eat healthy most of the time, that once in a while indulgence won’t set back your efforts to be healthy.

If you are not sure how to eat healthy, I encourage you to read on how to do so or see a nutritionist.  This is important because many people think they are eating healthy, but really aren’t. Two important things to keep in mind: (1) there are ways to eat healthy even if you don’t like a lot of fruits or vegetables, and (2) as far as your weight, it mostly relates to eating and a little bit to exercise (though there are many reason to exercise).

Despite what I just said, you should incorporate exercise into your life. Hopefully there is an activity you like. If you don’t have something you like to do, you need to try activities to find one or more things you like to do. You also need to find times in your week to do them. Most people seem to find that it is easier to make it a routine, whether going to a gym, running, mountain biking, etc.

If you start eating better and exercising you will feel better. This is true even if you feel good now. The benefit is that when those health bumps hit, and you are in good shape, it likely will make whatever you are dealing with easier to recover from. If you do these things for yourself, it will help you in the long run.

 

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Don’t be so stressed!

Yes, I know that this can be easier said than done. When I speak with people about their business, I usually hear how well things are going and how great everything is. Many times what I am hearing is true. Other times, further into the conversation, I learn the truth, which is, whether or not things are going well, the person is under incredible stress.

It is impossible to be stress free all the time, but living in constant state of stress is unhealthy. You could google it, but you already know it’s true.

What do you do to try and control your stress? If something doesn’t come to mind immediately, you need to find something. For me, it’s hiking. For others I know, it’s cooking, playing music, golfing, etc.

We all have interests outside of our work and you need to find yours. And while video games could be your thing, I hope it’s not just aimlessly surfing the Internet or falling down the rabbit hole of social media. But if that’s really your thing and it helps you relax, do what works!

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Find success in failure

We all have heard the saying “You learn more from failure than success.” The truth is you can learn from both your successes and your failures. You do this by examining what lead to the success or failure.

I don’t end up in what are referred to as beauty contests often. This is when a potential client is speaking with or interviewing more than one attorney or law firm from which one will be chosen. When I have, I have won some and lost some. When I have lost out on an opportunity, instead of just moving on or focusing on my current clients, I have reached out to the potential client and asked why.

I don’t do this to try and have them second guess their decision and hire me. I do this to find out whether it is something I can learn from to have a better chance when I have the next opportunity. Most people will give you a few minutes of their time. More importantly, I also believe most people will be honest with you too.

Next time you don’t get the client, project, sale, etc., ask why and thank the person for telling you. Also, if you did get the client, project, sale, etc., ask why and thank the person for telling you.

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Performance v. Expectations

Do you do what you say you are going to do? Do you have a plan? Or  do you just wing it and hope that you will achieve the results you are striving for? If you don’t have a plan, how do you measure your results?

You need to have plan for what you are doing in your business. It needs to include goals and the steps you will take to meet your goals. It can include long term and short term goals. You can even include personal goals, such as exercising or learning to play guitar. Research shows that you have a better chance to achieve goals when they are written down.

Of course, after you draft a plan, you actually need to look at it. Keep a hard copy on your desk or a copy on your computer desktop where you actually will see it regularly.

At my firm, all attorneys have to write a plan for each fiscal year. We also utilize one on one mentoring when attorneys want it. In addition to this, a few years ago, a partner of mine came up with a concept we call Path To Excellence, which has had great results.

We refer to it as PTE, and it can involve a small group from a practice area or attorneys in the same general experience range in practice. These groups provide accountability.

People don’t get in trouble if they don’t do what they said they would between meetings. PTE is not about shaming people, but holding them accountable and enabling them to better themselves and their practices. The results speak for themselves with so many young and experienced attorneys stepping up their games over the last few years.

Anyone can set themselves up to have accountability. If you work alone, find someone you know to be your accountability partner and help each other. Your mentor or accountability partner can be someone inside or outside of your organization. The point is that having one will provide you with a better chance to meet your plan and your goals.

And it’s not too late to write a plan now for your goals through the end of the year, along with the steps to accomplish those goals. As a famous old ad campaign said, Just Do It!

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Always deliver great customer service

I want to deliver a great customer experience to every client, every time I interact with that client. I try to be conscious of this no matter the type of communication I am having with them. I find that this is easier in person or on the phone than through email or text because I receive immediate and better feedback through what I am seeing and hearing than when communication only is in writing.

Every single one of us has one or more clients or customers. These clients and customers want to know we care. Luckily, there are many ways to show you care. For me, I can demonstrate empathy for my client’s situation, I can listening fully to what they are communicating to me and I can honor the commitments I make on getting back to them or completing a project or task.

Delivering a great client experience also means paying attention to the simple mechanics of customer service. For example, it is better to over communicate with your client or customer than the alternative. If you are communicating too much for their liking, they will let you know, hopefully in a constructive manner. It also is of the utmost importance to return calls and emails promptly. Nothing says “you and your issues are not my priority” than responding to people in an untimely manner.

I am in the legal business, but I also am in the customer service business. If I do not provide great service to my clients, there are a lot of attorneys in my area who will. The same is true regarding you and your business. What will you do today to make every client interaction a great customer experience?

 

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