Posts tagged - business

Work smarter

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 work smarter.

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 work faster.

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.

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The 2018 version of why it’s time for an annual “checkup” for you and, if you have one, your company

Over the past few years many of you probably read my blog regarding having a checkup for you and, if you have one, your business. This does not involve the doctor, but it does involve all the other professionals in your personal and business life. Since that time, I decided to make this topic an annual tradition. This is based in part on the range of feedback I receive every year.

Some of you said “What a great idea. I am definitely going to do that.” Other said “Sounds like a good idea, maybe I will look into that.” Most of you were busy with the holidays and all that they entail, and probably ignored my advice. To be honest, any of these responses is okay and ignoring my advice may not have had detrimental effects to you or your business.

The point of the advice is that you only know what you know. If you do not check in with your professionals and, for example, make sure contracts or your estate plan remain enforceable and up-to-date, that is where risk comes in. For example, I always check in with my accountant at the end of the year to ensure that all is right with taxes.

In 2016 I had a reminder related to a different item you should check in on annually, auto insurance. We had two teenagers on our policy and a number of vehicles, and the premiums always seemed so high to me. But my insurance person knows me and shops the policy every year looking for the best rates rates for policies with similar coverage from quality insurers. He did that for me at the end of 2016 and we ended up with a new insurer, with pretty significant savings.

With the time constraints of life, it is sometimes hard for me to move beyond the higher-level checkup, but when I do I usually end up with some benefit. Unfortunately, in our time-crunched world, the question of who to check in with at year end is expansive, from your estate planning attorney, to your investment person, to your insurance person, to vendors you may use such as a yard or pool maintenance company, or your cell phone carrier or your Internet provider. You may be surprised what a company will do in lowering monthly costs to satisfy a current or longtime customer. Try it and see what happens. A good one to start with is your cable or satellite television provider (assuming you haven’t cut the cable).

I know, I know, who has the time? None of us do, which is why the choices are yours. Are your contracts up to date? Did you pay enough estimated taxes or withholding? Are you paying the cleaning service at your office or your lawn service for your home too much? The choice of what professionals to consult, what costs to check or compare, and what services to put out to bid is yours. Choose wisely!

And for those of you seeking a reminder or who did not see it in years past, here is my original blog post on getting an annual checkup:

The end of the year is always a good time to take stock of where you are personally and professionally. This can be checking in with your personal accountant to make sure you have withheld/paid enough taxes during the year or planning for deductions to planning for large corporate expenditures on things such as upcoming projects, planned corporate initiatives or planned equipment purchases. But the one thing that is a constant is that we all should be doing this.

In the past I have mentioned why it is good to sit down with various professionals you or your company work with just to check-in, be they attorneys, accountants, insurance professionals, financial planners, investment professionals, etc. The list depends on you and your business.

This does not have to be a formal appointment unless you think that is appropriate depending on the nature of the planned conversation. Instead, it can be you offering to buy them lunch or a drink. The point is the better the professionals you work with know you, the more they are able to make recommendations aimed to benefit you or your company.

So don’t wait, start making plans today to meet with these people this year, or at least first thing next year. We all are busy this time of year, but if you take these actions it will help you now and in the future.

Happy Holidays!

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Don’t limit your imagination

The only person who can limit your imagination is you. What I mean is that if you think there are limits regarding what you can do or accomplish you will encounter self-created self-fulfilling prophesies. If you think about this you will know it’s true.

Negative thinking stops positive momentum. It doesn’t matter whether it’s me thinking I can’t do better than my opposing counsel at trial or a running back thinking he can’t get past the other team’s defensive line. If you approach a situation thinking you can’t, you won’t. Of course the opposite isn’t the same because if you think you can, you might, but you certainly will have a better chance of being successful.

It is better to be like The Little Engine That Could (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5TPUwrURo6M) than thinking the challenge ahead of you is impossible. The Little Engine said “I think I can, I think I can” and, what do you know – spoiler alert – it pulled that long train over that steep mountain.

Next time you have a similar type of challenge, tell yourself you can do it, and give yourself a better chance for success.

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Sit down and work

Many people wait for inspiration to strike them before doing something, whether it be work related or writing a novel. Those same people stop working once their inspiration wanes. It’s as if they are waiting for everything to be perfect, from how they are feeling, to the time of day, to whether the moon is full. You get the idea. The more hurdles they create for the timing to be right to get down to work, the less likely it is they will get much, if anything, done.

If you just take the physical act of sitting down and starting to work you have a significantly better chance to get your work done. It also helps if you cut out distractions. For instance, do not check your email, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc. when you sit down, as it only delays getting to work. If you have a big or special project, sitting down at whatever time of day is the time of day you work best, without distractions, will get you on the road to completing your project.

Like most things, if you make this your routine, you will find you knock out important work when you are fresh and ready to work. It also will help you meet the expectations of those you work with and for. Plus, you don’t need to worry, your email and social media will be there waiting for you when you finish that project.

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Do you have character?

Have you ever thought about this? Even if you have, how would you know? I once read a quote that said “the difference between the ways a person treats the powerless and the powerful is as good a measure of human character as I know.” The quote is from Robert I. Sutton, who is a professor at Stanford.

The quote reminds me of my first employer after law school and someone whose lessons still resonate with me today. This individual was nice and respectful to everyone, whether they were powerful (think federal judges) or powerless (think the janitors or security people at the courthouse). Watching these interactions as a young professional had a profound effect on me. Now, in hindsight, I think it helped build my character and in turn, be a better person.

A corollary to the idea of how you treat different people can be seen in business organizations. In some businesses, people are allowed to get away with abusing people, especially if they are “stars,” and may even be rewarded for trampling people on their way up. Other businesses won’t tolerate this type of behavior no matter how successful and profitable the bad actor is.

Think about what is acceptable or not at your place of employment. Is the culture one that is built on people having character and treating people well? Or is the culture one where everyone is out for themselves and character doesn’t matter? We are all different, so you may not be concerned with whether someone like me would think you and those around you have character.

On the other hand, I would like to believe that most of us think having character is important. The positives that comes from having character are endless. The next time you have an opportunity to speak with the janitor at your office, do so. It’s the sort of thing that people of character do, and it will reflect well on you even if you are the only one who knows the conversation happened.

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Everybody’s an expert

How are you an expert? We all have things we are really good at doing, and the possibilities are endless. You could be an expert in what you do for a living such as computer programming, medicine, plumbing or auto repair, or maybe you are an expert at something like Sudoku, stamp collecting, video games or Star Wars trivia. Maybe you are an expert in more than one area.

What you are expert in may be things that come naturally to you, or it could be something you learn. The easy example is if you are an expert in drawing versus Star Wars trivia.

For me, I feel am in expert at what I do for a living. I feel this way based my experience, the time I have spent learning about issues and law, the time I still spend learning about new law that may assist me in advising my clients and what I have learned from formal and informal mentor.

You should think about how you are an expert. You also should think about how you want to be an expert, i.e. is there something you can put in your 10,000 hours at learning or doing to become an expert? Focusing your interests, whether personal or professional, to become an expert may help you to have a better life experience. Plus, if you learn enough Star Wars or other trivia, you may be able to beat your friends and family at trivia games!

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Don’t spread misinformation

Ignorance rules, allowing misinformation to be a scourge on our society. Sometimes it comes by way of special interests. Many times misinformation is spread by people speaking about things as if they now what they are talking about, but they don’t. This only leads to disagreements in the future because no one can agree on a truth.

You can help this happen less. The first way is by letting people know when you are speaking about something you believe as opposed to something you know. The second is by questioning people about what they are telling you to determine whether they are speaking about something know or something they believe. You can do this in a respectful manner. It is similar to checking the facts.

I recently listened to a podcast of an interview with the guy who came up with Wikipedia. He explained why, at one point in time early on, they decided people needed to start including footnotes to sources when they were posting or editing entries.

It seems obvious why that is a good idea, and it’s no different than fact-checking during a conversation. If you do this, it hopefully will help stop the spread of misinformation, which is important because the facts matter.

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Performance v. Expectations

Do you do what you say you are going to do? Do you have a plan? Or  do you just wing it and hope that you will achieve the results you are striving for? If you don’t have a plan, how do you measure your results?

You need to have plan for what you are doing in your business. It needs to include goals and the steps you will take to meet your goals. It can include long term and short term goals. You can even include personal goals, such as exercising or learning to play guitar. Research shows that you have a better chance to achieve goals when they are written down.

Of course, after you draft a plan, you actually need to look at it. Keep a hard copy on your desk or a copy on your computer desktop where you actually will see it regularly.

At my firm, all attorneys have to write a plan for each fiscal year. We also utilize one on one mentoring when attorneys want it. In addition to this, a few years ago, a partner of mine came up with a concept we call Path To Excellence, which has had great results.

We refer to it as PTE, and it can involve a small group from a practice area or attorneys in the same general experience range in practice. These groups provide accountability.

People don’t get in trouble if they don’t do what they said they would between meetings. PTE is not about shaming people, but holding them accountable and enabling them to better themselves and their practices. The results speak for themselves with so many young and experienced attorneys stepping up their games over the last few years.

Anyone can set themselves up to have accountability. If you work alone, find someone you know to be your accountability partner and help each other. Your mentor or accountability partner can be someone inside or outside of your organization. The point is that having one will provide you with a better chance to meet your plan and your goals.

And it’s not too late to write a plan now for your goals through the end of the year, along with the steps to accomplish those goals. As a famous old ad campaign said, Just Do It!

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Network intensely

Professionally, you want to be known by as many people as possible. To do so, you need to network. This doesn’t mean going to events and collecting business cards. It means meeting people, consciously deciding who you want in your network and then nurturing those connections and relationships.

There are many ways to do this. You should think about and come up with ideas and strategies to ‘touch’ your connections. There are various ways to do this, such as by sending an email to check in, forwarding an article on a topic your of interest, or sending a book. Of course, you always can pick up the phone and call. The choice is yours, but you should know your connections sufficiently well to know what type of contact is best.

The idea of thoughtful acts or gifts isn’t new, but it is something else you should think about. I have a partner who is great at this. He will get to know people and send them thoughtful gifts. An example is when he learns a connection roots for a specific professional or college sports team, he sends a gift related to that. This is easy to do online. You can bet the people who receive those unexpected thoughtful gifts remember him. And these types of gifts are great because most people will keep them in their office and are likely to think of the sender more because they see it every day.

Another idea is to hold gatherings where you can bring your connections together. Certain of your connections are great connections for other of your connections, i.e. you need to be connecting your connections! You can hold a formal meeting, go to lunch or have a happy hour. The choice is yours, but people appreciate and remember when you are willing to help them by introducing them to your valued connections.

If you sit around hoping for work to fall out of the sky it will be a long wait. Instead you need to jump in feet first to networking. As you make new connections, the next step is deepening those connection. You should be working on your network every day.

What’s going to be your first step to do so?

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You get back what you put out to the world

I heard someone say this recently and it struck me because it is so true. If you put out positive energy you are more likely to receive the same in return from those you deal with. If you put out negative energy, you can’t be surprised when you have negative and adversarial dealings with others.

All you have to think of is how your mood or initial interaction with someone colors the rest of your conversation. If you smile and greet someone with pleasantries, you will get a different reaction than if you are negative and seemingly indifferent to seeing the person. I know sometimes you have just come from or are dealing with something negative professionally or personally, but you have the choice whether to bring your feelings and attitude into your next interaction or conversation, or not. If you can’t control your feelings it may be better to delay or not have an interaction until you can move past what you are dealing with. Calls and meeting can be rescheduled. I compare it to the response you draft right away to a nasty email and then, hopefully, save or delete so you can later respond when you aren’t upset and “in the moment.”

Some people equate kindness with weakness, which I don’t agree with. As an attorney who deals with attorneys representing parties adverse to my clients, I am in an adversarial position with many people I deal with every business day. I do not expect to become best friends with my opposing counsel, but I do expect (or many times can only hope) to have professional dealings with them, which also is better for our respective clients. In dealing with people in this manner, I remain assertive and looking to move my  and my client’s agenda forward, but I can do so while being kind and professional.

Sometimes I am disappointed and am dealing with negative attorneys who can be anything from argumentative to insulting to me or my clients. In those situations I am able to choose how to react in response, which can escalate or diffuse the negative nature of the conversation. If what I am doing doesn’t work, I have the choice to stay on the phone or end the call. It also provides me with choices in the future on how to deal with these types of individuals, i.e. trying to communicate mostly in writing by letter or email, or whether and when to be on the phone with them in the future. One particularly annoying part of dealing with people like this is that most of them are nothing but nice, personable and professional in person.

I have found approaching people I deal with in a positive manner makes my professional life much more to my liking. When dealing with other attorneys, our clients may have issues with each other, but it isn’t personal to us. I recently dealt with an opposing attorney who spoke and acted as if the bad actions he accused my client of had been taken against him, not his client. It made our dealings unpleasant. I was glad when the matter was completed and hope not to deal with him again in the future. Not only was he unpleasant to deal with, he made our dealings take longer and cost my client more in the situations in which I had to deal with him. In that case it didn’t matter how I responded to his attacks because he never changed his attitude or tack.

More importantly, I gain nothing  by making the interactions with opposing counsel negative without good reason. It doesn’t advance my client’s interest or help resolve the real issues. Instead, it only wastes my time and brings negative energy into my day.

We all have people we deal with where the easier road is to allow yourself to be sucked down into the negative vacuum they are stuck in. The next time this happens to you, make the choice to not let yourself get sucked in by trying to turn the conversation productive or choosing to exit the conversation. And if you are the negative or angry person coming into a conversation or meeting, only you can choose to step back and decide to approach it in a more positive manner, whether now or later.

 

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