Archives for October 2021

Focus

In our scattered multitasking world focus still matters. Our brains aren’t built to do multiple things at once, at least not well. This is a problem when we have tasks or projects requiring focus and attention.

You probably have tools or processes you use to try and focus. This may include closing your office door, putting your phone on do not disturb, or doing the work at a time or day (think early or on the weekend) when interruption is less likely. I find it easier to have uninterrupted time earlier or later in the day and I’m not the only one.

I saw a quote from Tim Cook, the CEO of Apple, where he said about beginning his day earlier than most “I do that because I can control the morning better than the evening and through the day. Things happen through the day that kind of blow you off course. The morning is yours. Or should I say, the early morning is yours.” I agree and have spent many early mornings working on matters requiring me to focus. Do you have a time of day? There is something to be said for doing important work when it’s less likely you will allow yourself to be dragged off track by email, calls, or something else.

This is important because it’s much easier to do high quality work when you can focus. If you think about recent tasks or projects you worked on, and are honest with yourself, you know whether you did your best work or not. People don’t pay me to provide legal services at a middling level. Clients expect I’m giving them my best always. I try, but know I fall short at times. We all do. But by thinking about how and when I work best and can focus, I have a better chance to hit the mark.

I encourage you to take the time to think about the setting, time of day, and other factors allowing you to focus and do your best work. Doing so is an investment in yourself, and what’s more important than that?

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Listen fully and then question respectfully

We live in a world of entrenched people and positions. Right now you may be thinking of politics and similar high level issues, but I am not. I’m considering this on a day-to-day level in relation to your work and personal lives in how you deal with people on any topic. For me it’s about my clients and who I have to dal with on their behalf.

I certainly deal with entrenched people and positions professionally dealing with opposing parties and attorneys who have positions directly conflicting with my client’s positions. I dread conversations where an opposing attorney is going to try change my mind through their words. Their positions come from the narrative they have been told by their client, many times contradicting the contracts, emails and texts underlying the matters at issue. Of course, when they speak with their clients they receive positive feedback on their apparent understanding of the their client’s narrative, thoughts and ideas, but their job is to listen, analyze and question. Accepting what someone tells you as the truth comes with great risk when their voice is not the only source of information. This moves no needle, changes nothing, and actually can be detrimental to the result ultimately achieved for their client.

I can’t give you any ideas on how to help change this in a large way, but I have some ideas on what you can do in your world to start moving the needle. This speaks to how to get along with the people you work with, live with, and deal with on a daily or regular basis, including, for me, those pesky opposing attorneys. It could be about which shop has the best coffee, the best route to get where you’re going, or, in my world, how to interpret a law or contract provision.

The most important thought I have is to think and act independently and constructively. Don’t get sucked into groupthink without analyzing the situation or issue yourself, even if you trust the person pushing a certain idea. I always say I trust what my clients tell me unless and until I review materials that make me question their version of the “facts.”

Even really smart people aren’t right 100% of the time. You can reality test ideas respectfully and constructively with questions, but you also have to listen to the answers. Again, this could be about a discussion with a co-worker on whether to hire a new employee or whether to switch IT vendors, or me questioning why my client’s position and a contract term don’t match.

Groupthink is the killer of innovation and ideas. When everyone piles on about how great an idea is without respectfully questioning it, opportunities are missed. If you jump on the bandwagon with your superiors, let alone friends and family, it may be at the price of your identity or personality. You may advance your career or a personal relationship by always being a yes person or team player, but notice the people who achieve professional success or seem to have healthy personal relationships can respectfully question or disagree with another’s thought or idea. Done in this manner it can result in better ideas and results, and serve as opportunities for learning and growth. It has helped me be a better advocate for my clients, set reasonable expectations, and achieve better results for them.

By asking the hard questions and not just agreeing with others you won’t end up being buddies with everyone. You will earn peoples respect as a thinker and as someone who doesn’t jump on the bus without thinking through ideas and issues. Up your game by thinking and acting constructively. It will make your corner of the world that much better of a place.

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Deliver outstanding advice

Delivering outstanding advice to your client or customer is what you should strive for. My firm has defined its culture and “Deliver outstanding legal advice” is fundamental #1 of the JW Way – http://www.jaburgwilk.com/mission-statement. Without this, nothing else we do matters because this is central to why clients hire us. The same is true of your clients or customers no matter the nature of your business.

To achieve the goal of delivering outstanding legal advice, I have to strive to meet the challenges of the other fundamentals set forth in the JW Way. The list is long, but without clarifying and managing client expectations (JW Way # 3), listening fully (JW Way # 5), walking in my clients’ shoes (JW Way # 4), demonstrating respect you (JW Way # 11), and otherwise following the fundamentals, it challenges my ability to deliver outstanding legal advice. You get the idea.

Delivering outstanding legal advice is what I want to be remembered for by my clients. When a client remembers me for this, it means I did my best to support and honor them, their circumstances, and their thoughts in relation to their issues. Isn’t this what you want of your clients and customers?

Sometimes it means I have to tell a client I’m not sure of the best course of action and want to think about it. Sometimes the best advice involves taking a moment to think through the options and their consequences before making a recommendation. It’s the analyzation of issues and client concerns, as well as caring about the recommendation I’ll make, that makes the difference between going through the motions and truly delivering what I believe to be outstanding advice and service.

Other times it means explaining to my client why their legal position isn’t good. In those instances I have to leave my ego at the door (JW Way # 9) and communicate to be understood (JW Way # 10), among others. This is another moment it’s good to think about what I’m going to say and how I’m going to communicate the message I want to convey. Taking a few minutes to prepare can go a long way in making a difficult conversation more productive and comfortable.

Clients and customers come to me and to you to make recommendations and direct them, whether it is legal advice or for a retail item sold where you work. In every interaction strive to be honest, direct, and clear. Your clients or customers will thank you and will be much more likely to tell others about the outstanding advice they received, as well as the outstanding experience even where, in my case, they may have been on the wrong side of the legal issues.

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