Posts tagged - communication

Meeting expectations shows clients you care

I previously have mentioned that my firm has 21 fundamentals that are the foundation of our culture. We call it the JW Way (http://www.jaburgwilk.com/mission-statement). JW Way #3 is Be Passionate About the Client Experience. Without clients or customers none of us would have a job.

We all have them. Whoever you work for is your “client.” For me, I have clients. You may have customers. If you work at a company and report to an internal higher up, that is your client – if this is you, you may be thinking “Manager Jones isn’t my customer or client,” but if that is who oversees what you do and provides feedback on whether you have met required goals or expectations, they are your “client.”

I am big on meeting or exceeding my client’s expectations. I do this a number of ways, with the focus always being on delivering outstanding legal advice, which happens to be JW Way #1. The day to day situations where expectations come in for me is on deliverables, such as draft letters, agreements or pleadings. If I tell a client I will have a draft letter for their review on Wednesday and I email it on Wednesday, I meet the expectation I set for them. If I send it on Tuesday, I have exceeded the expectation. But if I get it there on Thursday or Friday, I have failed. I would much rather under-promise and over-deliver than the opposite.

Even if you under-promise to make sure you can meet a deadline or expectation, it doesn’t mean you always will be able to do so. When that happens, you know in advance you need more time. So pick up the phone, let your client know and set a new deadline you believe you can meet. Things happen. Of course, if you reset deadlines all of the time, the client will think you either over-promise consistently, don’t manage your time well, always move this client’s work to the bottom of the pile or all of the above. If you do this often to enough clients, you won’t have to worry about time because you likely will be working for fewer clients.

Meeting expectations is an important facet of being passionate about the client experience. When you do this, it shows you care about what you do and your clients. This is the image you should want to project. And, if you are honest with yourself, you know it is what you expect when you are the customer.

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How to have difficult conversations

Things that are hard to say usually are the most important. Because of this many people avoid the difficult conversations in business and their personal lives. To effectively manage people in business or personal relationships you need to be able to speak about important matters. Letting import matters go unspoken is problematic for numerous reasons.

The problems include the potential for people you manage to continue to take actions or work in ways you think need to be tweaked or changed. If you don’t have these conversations timely, they only can result in continuing issues in the future, making for even harder conversations and a lot of wasted time. It also includes the likelihood of a wedge being driven between you and whoever the other person is because, even though unspoken, these issues usually are apparent from body language and other indirect feedback. This can result in strained relations and passive aggressive behavior related to all things unsaid.

If you are uncomfortable having difficult conversations, there are ways to try and ease your discomfort. You can outline the points you want to get across and practice your side of the conversation. This can include what you want to say depending on the response your receive. As with preparation for a presentation, knowing your talking points will help. I usually am not a fan of spending time on a “hypothetical conversation,” but with difficult conversations, preparation can help. Plus, what occurs in most situations is that even though the conversation may be uncomfortable, it is not as bad as you anticipated.

Another idea is to work on your talking points and the conversation by practicing with someone else you trust. This can help to hone your points or how you will respond to various responses, questions or defensiveness during the real conversation.

The point is to prepare then take hard conversations head on. If honest, most people will tell you they really want to know where they stand and what others are thinking, whether it is with a peer, a superior or a significant other. So don’t let the import subjects that need to be discussed fester and turn into a real negative by having difficult conversation timely and in a manner to allow them to be as non-adversarial and productive as possible. For instance, if you have feedback on this or any of my blog posts, whether positive or negative – read: constructive criticism – I always am open to hear it.

I hope you will take the next difficult conversation you need to have head on and figure out what works best for you to prepare and participate in these types of conversations.

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Fitting in is highly overrated

Peer pressure starts when you are young and can impact you throughout your life if you let it. We all want to fit in and be in the “in” crowd, whether it is in high school or in our professional lives. You know what I am talking about.

Fitting in can get you places at times, but in the long run it usually means you are one of the pack and don’t “stand out.” Most leaders do not become leaders by being one of the crowd or a follower.

This doesn’t mean you can’t learn from spending time with the crowd, but if you let yourself get trapped in its orbit, that is how people will know you. It usually means something along the line of people thinking of you as one of a group and not individually.

So what is the answer? Be you.

By being you, it may mean being part of the crowd. There is nothing wrong with that, but if you aspire to be a leader or stand out, you have to do more. So do you want to be part of the status quo fitting in, or do you want to excel? Knowing the answer to this question can help guide you with goals and aspirations.

No matter your answer to that question, if you work on being the authentic you, you will have a better chance of happiness and success, whatever that means to you.

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Be relentless about continuous improvement

This is so important for all of us. No matter what you do, you can always improve yourself and your team. In our world it can mean learning related to what you work on or improving processes or procedures for your team.

Constantly evaluate every aspect of your job to find ways to improve. Share what you learn so that others can benefit as well. This type of investing in yourself makes you and those around you better at what you each do.

I continually try to work on organization and making sure I am getting various tasks done timely. I have tried everything from handwritten to do lists to setting appointments on my calendar to a mix of both. Each time I think I have a system I will keep, but when I look at it I always am working to improve it, which is good for me, my team and our clients.

What is it you can learn or work on to improve your time on your business? If you can’t think of anything you are not thinking hard enough. I challenge you to take some time this week to think about something you want to learn about or an aspect of your job or business you can work to improve.

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The Facts Matter

A fact is defined as a thing that is indisputably the case or a piece of information used as evidence or as part of a report or news article. This is why it is important to know the facts or check facts you hear before relying on them or passing them; don’t simply take them as true.

We live in a world where most people blindly believe what they read on the Internet or hear on television. But facts and truth matter, whether in the news or for you. In my world the facts, and the details related to the facts, make differences as to whether my clients have a chance of success or not in disputes and lawsuits. If I make an unsupported statement in a legal pleading or in court, in addition to not helping my client, I hurt my credibility generally and specifically – judges are smart and remember attorneys who do not support their positions well, let alone make outright misrepresentations in an effort to win for their client.

The idea that facts matters hit home for me recently when ESPN reported that my alma mater’s basketball coach was implicated in the FBI investigation into corruption in college basketball. The story was based on facts that ESPN failed to check, which included alleged wire tapped conversations and what was supposedly discussed in those conversations. But ESPN did not confirm the accuracy of what they were reporting, or its source, before repeating the story over and over again. Instead, less than forty eight hours after the initial report, it is clear that no one at ESPN (or any other news outlet) has heard the tapes and that the “facts” they reported and how they interpreted those facts do not make sense if a simple time line is done. Importantly and interstingly, ESPN has generally been radio silent on allegations since twenty-four hours after they first reported them.

Now, this does not mean the coach did or didn’t do anything improper or illegal, but the damage is done. The University of Arizona has already lost one high-level basketball recruit. It is in a no win situation with the coach because his reputation has been significantly damaged, and therefore so has his ability to recruit top high school players. He may not be able to coach again. If he did something wrong then that is a good result. If he didn’t, his life has been ruined by people reporting hearsay information in a rush to be the first to report the story. How would you feel if happened to you or someone your know?

The point is that you need to make sure you have the facts straight in all situations. Each of our reputations relies on people believing us and relying on what we say. If you have the facts wrong, or don’t take the time to confirm you have them right, you are doing a disservice to the people you are dealing with, whether paying customers or clients, or friends or family. People will question what you say if you ignore the facts, or in some cases, the lack of facts. So always do your best to get the facts straight.

 

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Be persistent and believe in yourself

Believing in yourself sounds easy, but we all have our own insecurities to overcome in given situations. Sometimes the easiest road is to fold and not move forward. Taking the easy way generally is the path to things staying the same or getting worse, but we all say we want to do better and be successful. I think part of the reason is persistence. Some people have it and some people don’t. For those who do, they know it pays off, and that persistence beats intelligence, education and degrees, and talent.

As I am sure you all know, last Sunday was the Super Bowl in which the underdog Philadelphia Eagles defeated the perennial champion New England Patriots. Some of you know the story of the Eagles’ season, but others won’t. Lead by an MVP candidate quarterback named Carson Wentz, the Eagles sprinted out to the best record in the league. Then the unthinkable happened – near the end of the season Wentz was lost to a knee injury.

The Eagles could have folded then and there. Star quarterback out. Backup quarterback in. The excuses to give up were built into the scenario, but that day they rallied to beat the Rams. The rest of the regular season was bumpy.

The backup quarterback was a sixth year player out of the University of Arizona named Nick Foles. In his first five seasons he played on three different teams, including the first few years on the Eagles. In 2016, he was at a crossroads on where his career was and whether to retire. He had to be aware of the naysayers across the country saying he couldn’t lead the Eagles to a playoff win, let alone the Super Bowl. But he proved those people and the Las Vegas odds makers wrong by being persistent. He came back to he Eagles as a bench player, lead the Eagles to three playoff wins, a Super Bowl championship and was named Super Bowl MVP.

You know he and his teammates believed in themselves to accomplish what they did. After the big win, Foles said

“Don’t be afraid to fail. Failure is a part of life. It’s part of building character and growing. Without failure, who would you be? I wouldn’t be here if I hadn’t fallen thousands of times, made mistakes.”

That translates into he is persistent and believes in himself. Retirement would have been an easy road to take. He stuck with football, and worked harder than ever despite the negative statements being made about him, and succeeded.

Another Eagle, Jason Kelce, said “persistence has summed up my whole career, my whole life.” His grandfather gave him a Calvin Coolidge quote when Kelce was 18 years old and was not given a scholarship by any Division I university (the highest level college programs, in case you don’t know). The quote is:

“Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan Press On! has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.”

This translates to business and has for me in building a legal practice. I have “won” and “lost” on many occasions related to building my business, but I know if I had not been persistent all of these years there would be more losses than wins. Importantly, many of the “wins” have involved being retained by a new client over attorneys I consider to be smarter or more experienced than me, but my belief in myself must have shown through to the potential client.

Try it and see what happens. If you don’t, don’t be surprised by your results, or probable lack of results. Persistence and belief in yourself opens the door for opportunity and success – which side do you want to be on?

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Be authentic

Be you. Not who you think you should be. Not what others want you to be. Be you, just you. You are not an actor or actress, you’re not playing a role. If you do, you’re doing yourself a disservice.

Less experienced people are more likely to embellish their experience or tell you they know something they don’t. They want others to think they know more than they do and have greater experience than they do. But most times these “fibs” will catch up with you. It may be when someone else immediately realizes you don’t know what you’re talking about, which is a bad impression to make, or it may be they figure it out later, after working with you, which will not have a positive effect on their opinion of you.

Being yourself and authentic is easier than a facade because it’s hard to maintain a facade. It’s similar to why lying is such a bad idea; it’s easier to remember the truth than to keep up with a lie. Just play it straight up. Be honest about what you know and what you don’t. Perhaps when you admit you don’t know something, the other person will show or teach you, or become your mentor. Or, of course, if you are not authentic you may lose – a lot.

Being the authentic you is how we all should make our way through each day. I once heard an attorney include the following in a closing argument: “A half-truth is a whole lie.” True statement. Being true to yourself and others is being honest. Isn’t that how you want to be known?

 

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Turn you New Year’s resolution into a SMART goal for a better chance to be successful

It is the first week of January. We all are back at work trying to recover from the holidays as the new year kicks into high gear out of the gate. Many of you likely made New Year’s resolutions. It could be one of the standards such as losing a certain amount of weight, starting an exercise program, drinking less soda, eating less candy, etc. Maybe it is something different and more personal to you. Or maybe it is work related such as meeting new professional contacts, listening better to others, or having more balance in your life.

The problem is resolutions are hard to keep. How many times have you had a resolution and it last for a week? Or maybe it lasted a month? Odds are you were not keeping the resolution by the end of that year (assuming it was something that would take a year to accomplish or was a permanent change you were trying to make to a behavior or habit).

If you made a New Year’s resolution, I propose you try something new. Have an action plan on how to stay on task to meet your resolution. To do so, make your resolution a SMART goal. I know many of you have heard this acronym before, and maybe even have set SMART goals in the past.

For those that haven’t, it stands for:

Specific

Measurable

Achievable

Realistic

Timely

Resolutions generally fail because trying to do something or stop doing something by sheer force of will is a recipe to fail. If your resolution doesn’t fit within the SMART goal parameters, revise it so that it does – you will have a much better chance of success.

Know that your SMART goal/resolution may be achievable in less than year – remember one element is the time you think it will take to reach your goal. If you meet your resolution, come up with a new SMART goal. It doesn’t matter if it is January 1 or May 22. You should constantly look to improve yourself, your business, your life – well, you get the idea. Try it and see what happens.

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The 2017 version of why it is time for an annual “checkup” for you and your company

Over the past few years many of you probably read my blog regarding having a checkup for you and 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 the 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.

This year I had a reminder related to a different item you should check in on annually, auto insurance. We have two teenagers on our policy and a number of vehicles, and the premiums always seem 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 this again this year and we have a new insurer as of yesterday. And the savings were pretty significant.

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.

I know, I know, who has the time? None of us do, which is why the choices 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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Never underestimate the handwritten thank you

Most of you remember when “the usual” was sending anything and everything by mail. People do things for you, oftentimes going out of their way, all the time. Do you acknowledge these people? If not, why not? If so, how?

If someone does something meaningful, you need to let them know. I understand not all people are doing things to receive thanks, or even comfortable with praise at all. But you know when someone deserves your gratitude, and an email or a text may not be the most appropriate way to express it; they can be low-impact and quickly forgotten. Thanking someone in person may work well, especially if you know you’ll see the person. Other times, you won’t be seeing the person for a while and that’s when you should go with the handwritten letter: a high-impact personal touch that won’t be forgotten in a digital age.

I will admit I don’t handwrite thank yous as much as I should, but I try. I was recently in New York and my aunt and uncle, who live northeast of Philadelphia, took a train to Manhattan to go to dinner with me. That was above and beyond given the amount of time spent traveling in one day, not to mention, they’re not exactly young. When I got back to Phoenix the next week, I bought a card and sent them a heartfelt personal note of thanks. People appreciate this sort of thoughtfulness.

The point is to try and let people know when you appreciate them or their actions, and you don’t have to buy a card. You can write a letter on lined paper, computer paper, or sticky notes. It doesn’t matter how you do it and won’t to the recipient, who will be touched because you took the time to personally pen your thanks and acknowledge what they’ve done for you.

To me, it’s like volunteering for a non-profit. Even though the point is doing something for others, it makes you feel good. Try it and see.

 

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