Posts tagged - business

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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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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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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