Get out of your office!

Sitting in a chair all day and not moving is bad for you physically, bad for your brand and bad for your business. You may be thinking “I don’t have a brand.” But you do. We all do, and it is intertwined with our reputations. And if you stay in your office all day, how are you going to generate new business?

Almost all of us generate business by interacting and dealing with other people. You may be someone who deals with people out of state or outside the United States, and conduct business by phone and email. The rest of us rely on seeing people we know and meeting new people.

I hear people say that if they take the time to meet someone for coffee, lunch or a drink they won’t get their work done. But these types of meetings are part of your “work.” This work keeps our pipelines full and new business coming in. If you wait until things slow down, it is too late. It also means you are losing income.

Generating business is hard work and sometimes requires you to do things outside of regular business hours. This can include working at home in the evening or meeting a good contact for a beer. Know that whether or not you are putting in this time, you competition is.

You need to invest in yourself. Come up with a game plan on what you will do to get out of your office to network and market. No positive results are guaranteed, but we all know the results if you stay in your office and take no action.

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Hard decisions, easier life; easy decisions, harder life

I also look at this as being true to yourself. I say this because many times when you are faced with a difficult decision, part of the difficultly is that you will be letting someone down who you care about. Some great examples are taking a job for more money an no opportunity versus less money and the opportunity for growth, or staying in a job for the money. We all have faced these decisions or know others who have.

You may be happy in your current employment and really like your co-workers and superiors. This is the known. The great opportunity is the unknown. Many people stay where they are because it’s comfortable, even if the job offered has better growth and advancement opportunities. Staying in a job for the money usually raises a number of other issues.

I know some of you are thinking that some easy decisions make for an easier life. True. Nothing is all or nothing. But overall most people take the easier road to not upset the apple cart. Next time you or someone you care about are faced with a difficult decision think about the big picture, your life and where you want to be. If the opportunity will provide a better chance to get there, suck it up, make the hard decision and make your future.

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Clean up your own mess

If you spill, don’t just stand there, because you need to clean it up. Don’t expect or wait for others to clean up for you. This correlates with taking responsibility when you create a mess; don’t blame others for issues you cause or expect them to clean them up for you.

This was brought home to me this morning by a mess I made. I was in a hospital waiting room and spilled a large cup of tea. As the puddle of caffeine spread across the floor, causing many people to lift their feet up onto seats, I was, of course, horrified. I jumped up and started looking for paper towels to start cleaning up. A nurse told me not to worry about it. She had called maintenance, but I did find some paper towels and cleaned up as much as I could by the time the maintenance person showed up.

I had the choice to clean up my own mess or not. I had back up with the maintenance person coming, but, to me, it doesn’t feel right sitting by in such a situation. I certainly made the maintenance person’s job easier even though she may not have noticed. But this was about me doing what I think is right.

In business, we all cause messes that need to be cleaned up. I believe in taking the same approach and cleaning up what I can. It doesn’t mean you don’t let others help you, but it sure shows better to your team if they know you don’t expect them to do so without your help.

Of course, messes in our business and personal lives can be much messier than the spill I caused. This means it will take more effort and time to clean them up. The more effort you put into doing so, the better. It will help you resolve the mess as much as possible and reflect well on you at the same time.

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Follow through is a double edged sword

People are fast to commit, but then what? Some do exactly what they say they will. They email or call the next day. Others don’t.

This leads to two quick thoughts: (1) some people are organized and follow up and (2) some people are disorganized and don’t. I think there is a third thought that has to be acknowledged: many people say they will follow up when they have no intention of doing so. It’s the flip side to people making offers or telling people to follow up with them when they don’t mean it.

I have been thinking about this and have come up with my own rules for making offers and following up. If you took the time to think through these ideas you may like the idea of having similar rules, or not. My rules are:

1. Only make genuine and intentional offers.

2. Don’t say you will follow up or show interest unless your response is genuine.

3. If you make an offer and the person doesn’t follow up, note it and move forward without them.

4. If someone makes you an offer, follow up.

If you are challenged by organization, use tools such as calendar reminders or organization apps on your phone to prompt you to follow up.

The point is to be intentional in your actions. It also is to be genuine. It will save you and others time, which is our most valuable commodity.

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Patience: learn it, live it

We all know patience is important, but can lose sight of that in the moment. I currently am experiencing this first hand because we have a puppy in our home. Dealing with a puppy for the first time in many years has provided me with insight into patience with my children and with my work.

In addition to the puppy, and his training challenges, which include an interest in picking items out of garbage cans because it must be fun to chew on, there are children related challenges requiring patience. In these situations, patience can be a challenge on good days. Adding in not enough sleep or stress from work can result in unplanned blowups that really relate to something other than the situation at hand. This post may have been inspired by a reaction I had, when tired, to a puppy garbage digging adventure….

From there I thought about work and how it seems easier to be patient there than with a garbage digging dog. When delegating work to a younger attorney or an assistant, I can provide guidance generally and on timing, but that doesn’t always result in the timing or level of work product I expect. When that happens, I have the choice to be angry and react accordingly, or take a step back, exercise patience and turn it into a learning moment – yes, right now, this seems easier with people than the puppy. By taking this approach I help the other person learn and thereby help myself (and my clients).

Having now put thought into this topic, I hope to have more patience with our puppy Ghost, who is sweet and cute when not getting into puppy mischief.

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Embrace failure

I think we all need to embrace failure. There, I said it. And it’s true. Failure leads to life lessons that can’t be taught. The point is we all encounter failure in our lives and it helps make us who we are and hopefully to become who we want to be.

You can’t read or listen to the news these days without hearing about the college admissions scandal. In case you somehow have missed this news item, many well-heeled parents paid money to help bribe their children’s way into certain universities. In some cases this included cheating on the SAT, and in others having the child be “recruited” by a university sports coach for a sport the child never participated in. Some of the children knew this was happening, while others didn’t.

When I first heard about the scandal, I thought about the helicopter parent, safety-net parenting that is very common these days. No parent who is honest looks forward to their child not “winning” or facing loss or failure. But if that is how you parent you need to ask yourself how your child will deal with defeat, which we all deal with in the real world.

Most people didn’t get into every college they applied to. Most people probably have experienced not receiving a job offer they were hoping for. But these are real occurrences people have happen and need to be able to deal with. The cliché that you learn more from failure than success exists because it’s true. If you think back through your life you know this is accurate whether in relation to the college application scenario, employment, personal relationships and so many other situations.

So embrace failure. This doesn’t mean we have to look for it or hope it happens. But when it does, look at the lessons the situation presents, because they will be many. By doing so you will grow as a person and hopefully avoid similar failures in the future.

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Helping people makes you feel good

A lot of people want to go on their way and not be distracted from their path. Others spend their lives seeking opportunities to help people. Most of us do some of both depending on the day and what we are dealing with at work and home. Taking time to help others makes your part of your city a community. It makes a difference.

This doesn’t mean spending all day volunteering at a non-profit, though that is a good thing to do. It can be helping someone with directions or a restaurant recommendation.

Last night, while leaving my youngest child’s sports practice, a woman was having trouble getting past another vehicle that was not parked well. I happened to be walking by. I saw she was having trouble and was getting herself stuck on a curb. She was so stressed out about her situation, she didn’t hear me making a suggestion as to what she needed to do, but did ask for help when she realized I was walking by. I helped her, and a few minutes later she had squeezed by the other car and was on her way after thanking me for taking the time to stop and help her. I didn’t think it was a big deal, but then realized my son was watching. What a good lesson for him to learn.

Helping people translates to your business too. We all are busy, but hopefully helping others in the workplace is part of your culture. Today I also happened to have a younger attorney come into my office to ask a question regarding something she thought she may have done wrong in a case. She asked if I was busy. Though I was in the middle of a project, I told her to sit down so we could discuss her concerns. In the end she hadn’t done anything wrong, but I was able to provide some ideas and direction. This is part of my firm’s culture and part of what makes it a great place to work.

Another level of helping others is through networking and being a connector. This also feels good and can earn respect in your professional peer group. Every business person likes a referral or warm connection. These types of actions can help make your career.

When you have the option to help another person, it doesn’t seem like a hard decision which path to take. Despite this, many people just don’t want to be bothered. That bother could result in opportunities that didn’t exist the minute before you stopped to help. Of course, another reason to help others is someday that person needing help may be you and, when you do, you might find karma comes is different flavors. Which do you want?

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Deliver outstanding service

Most of us provide personal services to someone, whether a customer, a superior or a work team. It can be difficult to measure the quality of the services you provide or receive. It is different than judging the quality of a hamburger or a car.

For me, I provide advice. This advice can be life or business altering for my clients. Though it’s intangible, quality matters as much as that of the tires on your car. And it’s a challenge because every situation I face is different. It takes effort, constant effort, to continually provide sound advice.

All of us can personalize the service we provide and strive to make sure it’s quality service. You need to know and understand your client’s objectives and goals. Don’t assume. Instead, ask questions.

When I am explaining something to a client, I try to make sure they understand what I have told them. This includes the pros and cons of the existing options. It also includes making sure they understand what I can do to assist them, as well as what isn’t possible. It’s important to be transparent about what you can do and what you can’t do, i.e. it’s not good to over promise and under deliver.

When providing personal services, trust is the key. You only recommend people you trust, and so will your clients. If you deliver great service in a clear and understandable manner, you will build relationships that can last a lifetime.

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Are you taking up too much space?

This past weekend I was reading an article and saw a great quote: “If you’re not living on the edge, you’re taking up too much space.” I think this applies to all of us and it doesn’t matter what you do for a living. I read it as saying to always be looking forward and challenging yourself. If you rest on your laurels you become stagnant. More importantly, in our fast moving world not evolving leads to failure.

Moving forward and challenging yourself can take many forms. For me, I am always open to change and new ideas. At my firm, we all do business plans each year. I try to include at least one new action item and otherwise try new things related to my business, which I equate to living on the edge and not just taking up space because I always am looking for forward momentum.

That is how I came to write this blog. It was a new action item a number of years ago. The feedback was positive and it helped me make connections, as well as develop some new work. I sure didn’t know it was going to be a positive experience or that I would continue to do it further out in the future, but the point is I was open and willing to try.

I also understand that my “living on the edge” and your “living on the edge” may be significantly different. I am not climbing Mount Everest (though I always thought it would a cool), and you probably aren’t interested in what may be my current idea of living on the edge. I always say if we were all the same the world would be a more boring place. Importantly, we all gain ideas from what we see and hear about what others are doing. Your living on the edge doesn’t need to be a unique idea never tried before, but just something new to you that you think will move the needle in a positive way.

So take this as a challenge to find your version of living on the edge as you try not to simply take up space.

ps. In looking online, it appears a number of people have taken credit for the quote “If you’re not living on the edge, you’re taking up too much space.” My Google sleuthing seems to indicate it usually is attributed to Stephen Hunt, an author. Of course, it doesn’t matter who said it, but what it inspires you to do.

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Meeting Expectations

I currently have many really interesting matters I am working on. One of the matters had a large deadline a few weeks ago, which was then extended for a week. You can’t work on a large project without it impacting other work you have. The extension was a blessing and a curse because the pleading created was much better thanks to the deadline, but it certainly delayed me from focusing on other matters on my desk.

I know I can call a client to reset expectations and tell them my work on their matter is going to take longer than I initially explained, but I try not to do so unless it really becomes necessary. To me, the matters I am working on for different clients all are important. Even though deadlines can impact what rises to the top of my desk, I try to work in a timely manner based on the initial expectation I have set for a specific client.

For the last month, this has required me to work many nights and weekends to do what I have said I would within the time frames I set. I could have called clients to change that timing, but doing so would have just continued the problem of catching up while other matters with upcoming deadlines keep popping up and requiring attention. This also ignores new matters coming in, some of which require immediate attention.

By working in this way I have managed to meet my clients’ expectations. It hasn’t been easy, but part of it is meeting the expectations I have set for myself regarding how I work with and treat clients. It isn’t meant to be some sort of self-imposed torture forcing myself to work so hard. Instead it’s part of how I want to treat my clients and how I want to protect my reputation for doing what I say I am going to do by the deadlines I have set. By working in this way I am trying to manage and meet the expectations I have set for my clients and the expectations I have set for myself.

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