Archives for October 2022

Your perceived control is illusory

Whether you are an owner, manager, employee, parent, child, or whatever role you find yourself in the only thing you can control is yourself, which means your decisions, and your actions. When you try to control more than that and if you are aware, you realize your overall lack of control, Instead you realize whatever you have put in motion is subject to the responses and reactions of the others, whose decisions you’re trying to guide or control.

This doesn’t mean as an owner, parent, or whatever role you are in where are you are supposed to be “in charge” you shouldn’t make decisions that affect others. Instead, it means you need to understand how others react to those decisions may not be what you expect, let alone what you may be hoping for. And sometimes you need to make the hard decisions for what you feel are very good reasons. Other times, it may be in more important to speak with others where there is a trust relationship to obtain grounded feedback to help you make choices. Even when you do that, it doesn’t mean the actions of others will be what you want or expect.

This is brought home to me regularly in my role as an attorney. Many times I have a belief on the direction a client should take. Generally my clients listen to my recommendations along with the various options and follow the path I think is best. Other times they respectfully disagree and choose a different path. In my role there is a saying many clients and coworkers of mine have heard over the years. That is, as an attorney I make recommendations, but my clients make decisions. This type of situation applies to all situations where you are providing someone else with options, or even just a singular path. Your employee or child hopefully will listen with open ears, but the resulting action or response may not be what you hoped for or even anything that you considered as possible.

Of course, the seriousness of any situation is relevant to what we were talking about. Me directing a child to unload the dishwasher and being ignored, is different than making a decision with my partners that will affect all of the firms employees. Even if you spend time, considering an action or decision, or discussing it with others you trust, it doesn’t mean that, in the long run, it’s the right decision. Always remember that sometimes the fact of making a decision or taking an action is as important as the the decision itself. In hindsight you can decide whether it was the correct one. Indecision or inaction is the same thing or worse than a bad decision.

I suggest taking some time to think about recent important decisions or actions you took, which you believed to be important, whether in your professional and personal life. Think about what you did to come to the decision or action, and whether it worked out as you had hoped or expected. If it did, think about why, including whether the process you went through, including if you discussed it with others who were stakeholders in the decision, had any relation to the success or failure of the decision. If it didn’t turn out what you were expecting or hoped, analyze anything you could’ve done differently to achieve your desired result. Be open to the fact that the answer may be that you could’ve done nothing different and you are never going to achieve or reach a desired outcome.

Understand that everything is a work in progress because it generally is impossible to predict the reactions of the people your decision affects to fall in line with that decision or action. Spending the time to think about this is an investment in yourself and hopefully will lead to better decisions and better actions you have thought through when dealing with others in whatever roles you occupy.

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Talk less and listen more

I read somewhere when you are speaking with someone you should imagine them wearing a hat that says “Make me interesting.” The point is to ask questions that allow the other person to speak because the more someone speaks during a conversation, the better they think the conversation went. This is because people like talking generally, and talking about themselves specifically.

When you ask question make sure to listen to the answers. It’s a skill to fully listen to one or more people in a conversation. With new clients and others I test whether they are listening or, even if they are listening, whether they understood what I was saying, by asking them to repeat back to me the message or information I was trying to convey. You will be surprised at how often the other person wasn’t fully listening or took something from your words that is different than what you meant.

At times I struggle with active listening because my mind goes into overdrive on what I want to say or how I want to respond. In my role as an attorney I have to be able to think on my feet, immediately respond to questions from judges or clients, and all the while respond in a meaningful way that answers a question or drives home a position. This doesn’t help me be a better listener, but only a better advocate for my client. Turning this off in other conversations is difficult.

The struggle to listen is evident in conversations any of us have with clients, friends, and family. You may be thinking about a response to a question or position, or a story you want to share, but if you focus on what you want to say, you are not focusing on what you are saying. Maybe you are better at this than I am because I constantly am working to be a better listener and it is a work in progress.

A good reminder to yourself during a conversation is to remember that if your mouth is open, your ears are closed. You know the desire to interrupt someone to get a point across or tell them a relevant story, but you have to listen to really know what they said and what to say.

I notice when I focus on asking questions and on what the other person says my responses are more thoughtful and directed at what I understand the speaker is interested in discussing or trying to convey. I challenge myself to do this all of the time. Such a challenge or remembering to “Make me interesting” may help you to listen better in conversations too.

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Are you ready when opportunity is in front of you?

Don’t be too busy or self-important to miss an opportunity. Opportunities are everywhere, but you need to take notice and in the right case treat them like they can be life altering. We all have missed important opportunities. Of course you can learn from this happening, but looking back with regret is not a positive.

On the other had, if you are presenting me with an opportunity, grab my attention and blow my mind. Whether it’s for me or others I may know, you need to impress me, make me want to know more or invest in you, or spread what you have shared.

How do you make sure you don’t miss a great opportunity? It can be something general like just being nice to everyone. Was that millennial dressed more casual than you think she should be and seemingly on her phone too much a slacker or a tech innovator with a company more valuable than you can imagine. It is impossible to know and judging people on appearance will hurt you in today’s more casual world. Talk to someone and see what happens. The worst case is you waste a few minutes and cut the conversation short to escape. The best case is an opportunity you would have never had.

Sometimes a certain opportunity only comes along once. Don’t miss your chance.

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