Posts with category - business

Being organized matters

In my world organization can mean many things including time management, having an organized office, or being organized in the work I am doing for cases generally and in relation to deadlines. As in all worlds, disorganization leads to disaster. It not only can make you late on your commitments, it can adversely affect your business and personal life. For me it can mean losing time (and therefore money) or malpractice if I miss certain types of deadlines. The point is we all have consequences if not organized, if we miss deadlines, or if we don’t meet the expectations we set for clients, customers, or our bosses.

We live in a “what have you done for me lately” world that demands that expectations not just to be met, but exceeded. These include your expectations of yourself. I consider myself to be well organized, but that is because I constantly am working on maintaining organization and control of my time, work space, and calendar. If you struggle in any of these areas you need to come up with SMART goals to help change this. It will be hard work, but you will be happy you did it if you stick it out and improve your organization skills.

Initially set your expectations low and gradually raise them. Becoming organized takes work. If you set the bar to high to start with you have a greater chance of failure and not improving, even incrementally. It also helps to let at least one other person know about your goals. Of course, doing this exposes you to potentially let others down in addition to yourself, but it also give you a better chance of success.

So how do you do this? It depends on you. Will lists and calendaring items keep you on track to meet or exceed expectations? Do you need another person, an accountability partner, to help keep you on track? There are many tools to better organize and keep on task. You have to know yourself well enough to know what will and won’t work for you. Of course, you then have to put what will work in motion and commit to it.

What can you do today, this week, this month, to better organize yourself and set yourself up for success on meeting and, hopefully, exceeding expectations? Answer this question, work it and see how it benefits you in business and generally.

If you are not sure where to start, I suggest you find someone you know who is successful and organized and see if they will formally or informally serve as a mentor or accountability partner for you. For insight on mentoring, I suggest you review an older blog post of mine: “Why Mentoring Matters?”

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We all bring different things to the table

A favorite saying of mine is “If we all were the same, the world would be a boring place.” I believe this to be true. Some people are more comfortable with people just like themselves. I don’t understand that manner of thinking because I believe diversity breeds innovation and opportunity and makes the world more interesting. It also can mean so many different things.

This comes into focus when you are in a group setting. It can be a team meeting at work, a non-profit board, or any other group setting. Having people with different backgrounds and experiences makes any group function better.

I always think of this when I listen to someone with a marketing or advertising background. Their ideas come to them easily and make so much sense, but my brain doesn’t work like theirs and I would never come up with the cool and creative ideas they do.

I bet many of you are thinking of diversity as a team with people from different racial or religious backgrounds. That is diversity and can bring different ideas and angles to a situation for sure. But how about people who grew up in different states, have different educational background, or more or
less professional experience. The world of differences is seemingly endless if you really think about it.

How you approach an issue or opportunity may be different between someone who grew up on a farm in the Midwest versus New York City, or someone with an engineering degree versus someone with a sociology degree, let alone no degree or college level education, or, in my world, an attorney with 25 years’ experience versus someone with 5 years’ experience. The differences can be endless, but they matter and make for better teams. 

If any of the terms or descriptors I used above describe you, your background, or your experience level, it is your individuality that makes you stand out to others. It also is your creativity and the ability to think
differently than others. If we all just fell into line with people just like us for the next corporate job or role where would innovation come from?

The point is to be open to ideas from others approaching the same situation differently than you. Listening well and thinking through ideas you never would have thought of will broaden your world and provide a better chance of success for whatever group you are in. Try it and see where things go.

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Do you talk too much?

Is this you? To honestly answer this question requires self awareness, which many people lack. We all know that person, the one you meet in a business or personal setting who cannot stop themselves from dominating a conversation or room. At the end of the conversation they think it went well while you hope not to run into them again.

When that type of conversation is over, you know too much about them (most people like to talk about themselves). At the same time they didn’t let you speak enough to learn about you to have anything substantive to remember. They may not even remember your name

I recently revisited an article about annoying personalities you find on display at all networking events. That author had nicknames for various types of characters. It made me think of different types of people. The person I describe above can be referred to as the “Chatterbox.” The Chatterbox may be that way for a number of reasons such as (1) ego; (2) lack of self-awareness; or (3) social awkwardness. The reason doesn’t matter, but what you should do does: exit the conversation because it will provide no value for you. Positive conversations are shared experiences, not a one-sided monologue.

When meeting someone for the first time make sure you try to learn more about their background and their business versus what you speak about and share. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t share about you and your business. If you focus on asking questions and learning about them, you will put yourself in a place to make a possible connection. There is a better chance they aren’t walking away thinking you talk too much and don’t really care about what they do or have to say.

I read another article on this subject a few years ago and I revisit it at times to keep its premise top of mind. The author of the article wrote about what he referred to as the Traffic Light Rule. It is another method to use to avoid talking too much. The idea is that the light is green the first twenty seconds you are speaking, yellow for the next twenty seconds and at the forty second mark the light turns red. If you talk through that red light you are talking too much.

The next time you meet someone new or are networking try to put these ideas into play. Don’t be a Chatterbox or run red lights. If you focus on the other person and not just on what you want to say you will put yourself in a better position to have meaningful interactions and make positive connections.

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Keep asking for more

Are you content with where you are in your career and, if so, why? Maybe you just want to do the same old and punch the clock. Sounds boring to me, but it could be your thing. For most of us we see there can be more. What that is depends, but, for you, there likely are many options. It’s like the books where you read a page and what page you go to next depends on the option you choose. The point is we each have the ability to choose our own paths.

You always can do more, move up, or maybe move out to move up. Determine your path or next step by always asking how you get to the next level, asking for more responsibilities, and what you need to learn. Asking let’s those you report to or who are above you know that you want to improve yourself and move forward in your career. You may think they assume you do, but if you don’t ask you are leaving it to chance. It’s likely others are asking and will pass you by if you are passive and show no affirmative interest. Of course those you report to could ask you, but may not. Know it’s up to you.

This isn’t about being “boss’s pet” or something similar. It’s about controlling what you can, which is showing interest, asking questions, and following it up with action. At the end of the day asking alone will get you nowhere, but your actions will, whether it’s a work related project or learning on topics you need to know to be able to advance in your given field. We all have blind spots and asking will help you eliminate some of them.

Once you have some answers or direction, it’s up to you to take the reins and ride into your future.

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The world begins at the end of your street

Go to new places and put yourself in new situations with new people. Don’t only stay in the places or with the people with whom you’re comfortable. You either get this or you don’t. If not, you need to think broader about the big world out there. No one grows by doing the same old with the same people every day.

When I heard “the world begins at the end of your street” the context was focused on travel to another city, another country, being exposed to other cultures and ideas. I think that context is important and everyone should try to go to new places. You can have a fun and interesting time in any city or town for at least a few days and nights. The point in this context is if you’re exposed to other places and people you may find somewhere you didn’t know and fall in love with. The person I heard say this is from Scotland, fell in love with Italy as a young man, and years later moved there. This happens.

In rolling the quote around my brain I was thinking about it in a more local and business focused way. Most people get up each morning, go through the same routine, go into their home office or where they work, later go home through their evening routine, and wake up to do it again. What if instead of following the worn path that may be your life you instead made plans to change it up?

This will mean different things depending on your line of work. For me I can get involved in other professional groups, whether made up of attorneys like me or a broader group of people, attend local or out of state conference related to the type of work I do, or join a recreational sports league or club. The options are endless depending on what interests you. The goal is to get into something new that expands you knowledge, circle of people, or opportunities. What that really means is up to you.

You should think about whether you’re in a rut and change could help you. Even if you’re not stuck in a rut, what can you do or change to expand you horizons and opportunities? Take some time to think this through and see what you come up with. If you find something or somewhere cool you think I would like, let me know!

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Overnight success is a myth

We all know the cliché “overnight success.” In the real world overnight successes have put in time and most people don’t even realize it. For instance, the Beatles are viewed as an overnight success. Actually their rise to the top took approximately five years, thousands of hours of practice, and hundreds of live performances. To think they didn’t put in the time and sacrifice to get to the top is incorrect.

Their first UK number 1 was in May 1963 and their first US number 1 was in January 1964, but John Lennon and Paul McCartney first met in 1957. Thereafter, Lennon asked McCartney to join the Quarrymen, who, other than Lennon, were not very good musicians. In 1958, after lots of practice and many shows, George Harrison joined the group. By 1959, only the three future Beatles remained in the band.

In 1960 they renamed themselves the Beatles. After that they spent a lot of time in Hamburg, Germany between August 1960 through December 1962. During that time they lived in one cramped room with a bathroom down the hall, practiced for hours each day, and playd clubs at night. They put in hard work and sacrificed to improve their skills. Obviously it worked for them.

You are asking yourself, “okay, but what does this mean to me?” It is this type of investment in yourself and commitment to whatever you are doing, whether alone or in a group, that gives you the best chance to succeed in any field. I could have told you the same story about entrepreneurs, professionals, etc. from every industry. The Beatles are a good example because everyone knows who they are, thinks their success was immediate when it wasn’t, and don’t realize the time and energy they invested in themselves leading to their huge success.

Stories of peoples’ different roads to success have in common a significant time investment and hard work. Of course, this alone doesn’t guaranty success, but it gives you a much better shot. You need to plan strategies for your business, career, networking, marketing, and whatever else you’re doing. This should be done regularly for both the short term and the long term. If you ask most successful people you know, you will get a good story about what it took for them to reach where they are. If you probe further you will learn those same people continually are trying to improve, because staying on top of the mountain is as hard as reaching the summit.

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Direct and honest communication matters

A lot of people sugarcoat what they say to save other’s feelings. This is good in theory, but detrimental to your business. If you cannot have honest, hard conversations with your peers and employees, what does that say about your business? Who are you training them to be (or not)?

It reminds me of a quote from Zig Ziglar: “The only thing worse than training employees and losing them is not training them and keeping them.” True statement. If you can’t be honest with peers and employees it will be an element of your company’s cultural. It likely will put your company on a path to harder times and lower results.

I have heard hard conversations referred to as “courageous conversations.” The truth is this refers to difficult conversations usually dealing with a performance issue, an attitude issue, a disagreement on an important business issue or something similar. These types of conversations need to happen in a timely manner to have the best effect, i.e. provide constant feedback in real time and not months later during a review process.

There is a mountain of information online and numerous books on this topic. What they generally say is that as part of sharing negative information, you also should accentuate the positive. If you manage people you should read and speak to others to learn how to have hard conversations, which do not come naturally for most people. That is how you can make difficult conversations constructive and a benefit to you, the other person, and your business.

Of course, you can and should tailor what you are going to say based on who you are speaking with. But don’t make ignoring or sugarcoating important matters part of your company’s culture. If you do, nothing will change and opportunities will be lost.

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Demonstrate respect

Being respectful isn’t just good manners. It’s a way to connect with others and try to understand their position or opinion. It may be about differences in how to approach the strategy in a case, a workflow process with those on your team, or dealing with opposing counsel. In all situations realize two important things: (1) the likelihood of you changing someone’s position by being disrespectful of what they think is zero; and (2) the reputation you will be building may not be what you think or would hope for. Your actions and words follow you and speaking in the heat of the moment or an adversarial conversation can be longer lasting than you can imaging.

It is easy to see this in everyday life. The divisiveness in our country is disappointing on many levels and follows up through work and our personal lives. People demean others they know and don’t know on social media and anywhere else they can leave comments. People physically attack others at protests and otherwise. This really is unbelievable if you think about it. In many ways, our country is coming apart at the seams and many people don’t respect the thoughts or opinions of others.

You should want to try to understand why someone you work with thinks differently than you. This isn’t so they can change your thoughts or you theirs, but to understand the other’s positions and try to work together to bridge the gap. Knowing why may help you better understand them. Plus, it may help you to debate and then align regarding how to move forward.

Relationships are everything. They enrich the quality of your life. Always remember that many of the co-workers, clients, and others you disagree with are people you like and know have good qualities. Demonstrate respect by listening fully to others, considering their opinions, and figuring out how to work together moving forward.

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Read, learn, and invest in yourself

This topic covers a lot of ground in my mind. Depending on what you’re reading, you may be escaping your day or learning something new. It may be pure fun or investing in yourself and your future.

It means reading news and knowing what’s going on in the world. It means reading books including fiction and non-fiction, which can include books related to my career and business. To me, reading for all of these reasons is important and adds value to my life, whether an entertaining fiction book, an article on an area of the law relevant to my practice, or a book on a general business related topic such as networking or management.

As for news, read whatever you like, such as the Wall Street Journal, the New Your Times, the Washington Post or other papers (or listen to news related podcasts). Better yet, read or skim two, preferably with different takes, such as being left or right leaning. Reading different points of view allows you to process issues, ideas and positions. It also will help you craft your own point of view coming from a well-read place because you’ve educated yourself on issues. You can create the time to do this by calendaring time with your morning coffee or for a mid-morning break. Knowing what is happening locally, nationally, and globally is part of being a citizen of where you live, and the bigger, broader world.

Reading books matters too. Reading the types of books you enjoy matters more. I rotate between fiction and non-fiction. For non-fiction books, I rotate between biographies and business related books. I usually use my time reading books as an escape from work and thoughts piled up from my day, but sometimes I hear about a business book I find intriguing and am willing to read something to make me think or try to improve some aspect of my live or business. You should read whatever motivates you to read. It’s not a contest to read the classics, or more business books than someone else you know. It’s your time, so choose what you read based on your interests.

The best part of doing this is taking time for yourself, but it has other benefits. It will help you be generalist on the current news and other topics you read about. It also will allow you to be a specialists in specific areas in which you have real interest. Both combine to make you more interesting to speak with at a networking event or in conversation with friends and family. You will be able to have a conversation with anyone, which will provide you with opportunities.

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Don’t envy others because walking in another’s shoes isn’t as easy as you imagine

Being envious of other does not help you in your life. A better title or having more money doesn’t mean the person is happy or has an easier life. Walking in someone else’s shoes for real would be eye opening to see they have worries and problems, just like we all do. No one has “perfect” life. This is why envy is waste of time and energy.

For instance, people you view as being “higher up” may hate the position they are in. People who seem to have money may be living on debt. You shouldn’t make assumptions, but that is a topic for another day.

Similarly, don’t be vindictive. Don’t try to get even. If you are in a situation where you think doing so is the right course of action, the only one keeping score is you. In that case, the one losing is you, for sure. It takes time to build a good reputation and mere moments to destroy it. Don’t be that person.

I have mentioned this before. Do your best at whatever it is you do and let what happens happen. But in doing so, do it in a way that is honest so you can look back with no regrets. If you don’t, the person you “run over” may be the vindictive sort. If that persons tries to get even it will waste your time and take your focus from the things you need to or would rather be focusing on.

Always look forward, not backward. Avoid envy and getting mired in keeping score or settling scores. Focus on yourself and you will set yourself up with a better chance to for whatever you see as success.