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
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.
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.
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?
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.
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
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.
Everywhere you look you are told hard work pays off. This is
true, as is the fact that hard work is required to become successful. But as
you gain experience and have success, the formula should change and you should
By working smarter I mean a few things. The first is that
you should be able to streamline much of what you do. This may be through
utilizing technology that saves you time or keeps you more organized. It also
could be that your experience allows you to complete certain tasks or types of
Second, you should be delegating work. This allows you to
push work down to younger or less experienced co-workers. In my world that
means having associate attorneys do certain projects such as research and
writing, which saves me time and the client money. It also allows you to focus
on higher-level tasks. By delegating work you can choose the work you enjoy
more or create the time to develop more work.
Third, choose to work when you have the most energy. When you are first working you it feels like you have to be in the office when your superiors show up in the morning and when they leave at night. As you gain experience and the people you work with and for know you get your work done, you hopefully can schedule how you work.
If you aren’t a morning person, having to be in the office and working by 8 am won’t help you get more done. I know someone like this who starts work after 10 am each day, but then works into the evening. If you are a morning person or the opposite, try working to your body’s rhythms and see if it helps you get more done. It also may help you feel more rested and maybe even experience a touch less stress.
These are just a few ideas for working smarter. We all should be open to trying new ideas and strategies that may help us do so. If you do, hopefully you will find a few ideas that will work for you.
Picture this: you are working on an important project with a fast approaching deadline when suddenly an email comes into your inbox and your computer makes a sound alerting you to this new email. What do you do? You know the answer for most people is that they open the email, thereby interrupting their work and train of thought on the time-sensitive project. We all have been there and the new email is hard to resist.
I have been speaking to more and more people, who, though clearly in the minority, ignore the new email and plow forward on the project in front of them. You probably are thinking “what do these people do with their email?” They tell me they actually set specific times of the day to review and respond to email. One person told me he reviews email at 8 am and 2 pm each day. Another told me he does so at 11 am and 4 pm each day. These two and others I have spoken with swear it works. They all believe it allows them to truly focus on the things they want and need to work on .
I like the idea, but worry about what time-sensitive email I will miss if I turn off the email notifications and only check it a few times each day. Of course the answer is to retrain people to call you if they have a true emergency or time-sensitive issue at hand. I still am trying to wrap my head around whether this idea may work for me, but I could get there in the future.
In a day and age when everyone expects instantaneous response times for emails and other electronic communications, it’s hard to bite the bullet and be less in touch. But it also could be a differentiator. In my case, maybe my clients would appreciate the notion that when I am working on their matter I am focused on it and nothing else.
If any of you work this way or decide to try to do so, I would appreciate feedback on your experience and what feedback you receive about doing so from your colleagues, business partners and clients.
It is important to provide people with feedback in the
workplace. Feedback should be positive or in the form of constructive
criticism. Purely negative feedback accomplishes nothing and is the sign of a
poor corporate culture.
If you are providing positive feedback, make it meaningful. You should praise someone’s work or actions when it’s really deserved and you mean what you say. Being overly complimentary all of the time won’t help morale or people improve in the long run.
In our participation trophy world, praise can be handed out too much and in situations where it’s not warranted. Don’t give positive feedback when it isn’t deserved. If you do it only will cause problems down the road.
In a similar vein, people withhold praise when it would provide validation for an employee who did a good job and deserves it. I know it can be hard to always know how complimentary to be or when to provide some constructive criticism. The better you know the person the easier it should be to know how and when to provide feedback.
If you start thinking about providing feedback more often
you likely can find the balance in trying to provide the right amount of
feedback to your co-workers. Try it and see the positive effect it can have on
you and your workplace.
Consistency and organization matter. The idea is to have a plan and put it into place. What that plan is and how you put it into place will be different depending on you, your business and how you like to work.
For instance, I use a hand written to do list, but also rely on calendaring and tasks in Outlook. This can result in redundancy, but with some of the types of deadlines I am dealing with, I like that.
Others I know block out certain times in their day for specific activities. This can include blocking out a block of time to review email, and not constantly monitor it. At times, I do something similar in part by blocking out time for specific projects that may take longer and on which I need to really focus.
Also, for me, this is an evolving process. I am always looking at how I can better plan and be better organized. It is very important in my day because many times I am working on a significant number of legal matters during the same day, which can negatively affect my focus if I’m not careful.
Think about how you plan your day to work on or be in touch with the projects and people you want and need to. Then think about how we can plan to be better organized to do so. Last, share the insights that work for you with others and pass it on.