Posts tagged - business

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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Tell the truth

This is simple and there are no exceptions. Tell a lie once and all of your truths become questionable. Early in my career I heard a very experienced attorney say “a half-truth equals a whole lie.”  He was correct because anything not 100% true is a lie. Another benefit of telling the truth was summed up to me long ago by a friend who once said he never lies because it’s far easier to remember the truth than a lie.

I know some of you are thinking of situations where you may soften the truth to try not to hurt someone’s feelings. You are right that some situations are more nuanced than others, making a one-size fits all rule difficult. I am not speaking to those type of outlier situations, but to general day-to-day life in which your reputation is at stake.

Your honesty is part of your reputation. You may not be called out or caught every time you aren’t honest, but it will catch up with you. You may lose relationships or opportunities that you know you lost or that just don’t come your way because of your reputation.

Trust is important, and like your reputation, it’s earned. The difference is people will assume you are honest unless or until they believe you aren’t or hear you aren’t from people they trust.

Once trust is lost it will either take a long time to earn back or it can’t be earned back. Once that happens it negatively affects and taints relationships. People may still deal with you (mainly if they have to, i.e. family or in the workplace), but it won’t be the same. Even if it feels like it, a lack of trust permeates a relationship for into the future.

This goes back to “think before you speak.” Lying is a choice. You can call it embellishment or whatever you want, but if others think you stretch the truth, know you have just made your road forward harder.

 

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Turn on, tune in and drop out on your vacation: vacation ≠ work

Do you vacation at least once or twice a year? You should. Your body and brain need a break. Most of us work hard, but are not built to work every single day without a some downtime. If you have a family, they may even want to spend some time with you!

I was speaking with another attorney recently who was lamenting an upcoming vacation with his wife and kids. He was complaining about what he had to get done before his vacation, making sure things were covered while he was gone and the catching up he was sure he would have to do upon returning. I understand what he was saying because all of us face the same issues when we go out of town. Plus we live in a time when everyone – clients, opposing counsel, co-workers – expect immediate responses.

But you still have to make time to take a break, stringing together a number of days when you can focus on friends or family and activities you don’t get to do all the time. Taking yourself out of the grind, even for short periods of time, can help your mindset and motivation when you return. Of course, this assumes you actually take a real break when away, i.e. not checking email, voicemail or otherwise working. This includes the “excuse” of making your inevitable return easier by checking your email to weed out spam and unimportant emails, which I admit I have done. If you do this, you will see the more important emails and then feel you have to review and respond, and then you are sucked right out of vacation and relaxation mode into work mode.

To avoid this, you have to address your availability, or lack thereof, prior to leaving your office for vacation. You can try to do this by setting expectations on your availability and response time for clients, co-workers and others you deal with. Do this before leaving. The idea is to put yourself in the best place to have a break and enjoy yourself.

As I am writing this I also am remembering the attorney who complained to me about going vacation mentioning he knew he would be working while he was away if I needed to call or email him. No shock.

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