“This book tells you all you need to know about how to get on.” The Times

“Relatively few books have been written with assistant solicitors in mind, about how to succeed at the business of being a lawyer… fewer still have devised a programme for so doing that runs alongside a book. This book does both.”Law Society (The Law Management Section)

5 star rating HR Magazine

The Big 3 (brand, business & leadership) Blog

Want respect? Ask for it

In his book Life Strategies, Dr. Phil McGraw suggests that we teach people how to treat us.  In every interaction, we play a role in how the other person behaves because we choose to either accept or reject their behavior.  If we accept bad behavior and don’t communicate how we feel about it, then we can’t expect positive results—and it’s partly our own fault.

I was recently coaching a lawyer who was stressed out because she felt completely unsupported by her boss.  Projects were dumped on her desk and she was given responsibilities far more demanding than she thought she could handle.  She felt that she was sinking fast under a weight of impossible expectation; and her boss was never around or available to help.  As we talked through her issues I learned that this was not the first time that she had endured this problem, and that in fact, she had felt unsupported by most of her bosses.  In fact, to me this was beginning to look more like a lack of communication from my lawyer friend than a fault on the part of her boss.  (Which is not to say that her boss shouldn’t have been more supportive, but that my friend clearly needed to be more assertive about her needs.)

Fortunately, she figured this out and began proactively communicating with her boss.  And guess what?  That “horrible, difficult” boss turned into a generous and supportive one!  The moral is obvious:  ask and you just might receive.

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Great presentation requires practice

I’ve been doing a lot of presentations lately and it’s not unusual for someone to come up to me afterwards and tell me that they just couldn’t possibly give such a presentation, not through lack of ideas but because of public speaking nerves.  I’ll tell you what I always tell them.  There are a few people born to do great presentations, but I’m not one of them, and you may not be either.  For most of us it just takes planning and practice—and lots of rehearsing.  Rehearse your presentation over and over, leaving nothing to chance.  You need to know your message so well that you never have to hesitate or worry about what’s coming next.  In fact, you should spend even more time practicing your talk than preparing it! 

And then once you do your presentation, do another one.  Only by addressing audiences again and again can you change from someone secretly wishing you were finished and back safely ensconced in your seat to someone communicating (and giving!) enjoyment.  It’s exactly like learning a foreign language, or taking up a new sport.  An accomplished tennis player doesn’t pick up his racket once a year, hoping for the best, but works hard at the game on a consistent basis.  As the saying goes, “the more you practice, the luckier you get!”

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Get out of your head

I had lunch a while back with a lawyer friend who was worried about her job.  So she spent most of our lunch playing “What if.” (“What if I lose my job?”  “What if I don’t find another one?”  “What if I can’t pay my mortgage?”)   Thinking about the conversation later I was reminded of a remark once made by Mark Twain that he had been through some really rough times during his life, and in fact some of them had actually happened.  We all do this.  I call it “awfulizing”, meaning, taking a situation and contemplating its worst-case scenario.  We can put ourselves through hell and usually for no reason— because in most cases the worst case doesn’t happen. 

Instead we should be living in the moment, because in reality, that’s really all we definitely have… and because it’s a healthier, more fulfilling way to live.

(By the way, my friend did in fact lose her job, but alsofound a new one, which she happens to love!)

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Welcome failure as feedback

When inventing the light bulb, Thomas Edison failed thousands of times before eventually succeeding.  When asked how it felt to fail so often, Edison replied that he had not failed at all—he had just discovered thousands of ways how not to make a light bulb.  We should all attempt to cultivate such a healthy attitude to failure, because it’s from our failures that we learn the most.  When we fail, we should analyze our mistake, figure out where we went wrong, and then try to discover a better method next time.   Failure is the best (and toughest) feedback there is!   

So the next time something doesn’t go exactly as you planned, think of it as a small setback on the path to success.  Remember, the most successful people are the ones who have usually failed the most along the way.

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See the big picture

I’ve sat through so many meetings throughout my career that I developed a habit of each time deciding who was the best leader at the meeting—strangely enough, usually my answer failed to match the person who was the designated leader!  The true leader was typically not the brightest person in the room either.  Instead, the person making the strongest contribution was often the one able to take a step back from the detailed content and see the bigger picture.  For example, how the project fits into the politics of the client company.  Or how the objectives of the client can be achieved taking into account various stakeholders, with their particular interests and goals.  And, of course, a strong leader understands that every project involves people and their personal feelings and interests, and determines exactly what these might be.

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Lead through relationships

I was presenting at a law firm retreat this week.  After my discussion on leadership one lawyer said to me, “You obviously think leadership is all about relationships.”  Well, she had clearly been listening because I believe relationships are key for effective leadership and this had, not unnaturally, been the main point of my talk.  I’ve learned to emphasize this point because so many lawyers believe that it’s their thinking and their persuasive abilities that enhance leadership prospects.  In actuality, it’s your relationships that make you a leader—or not. 

The next time you’re leading a project, don’t just focus on getting the deal done.  Instead: focus on how you’re interacting with your team and building up those relationships.  If you do, I bet the job gets done quicker and better!

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Social sensitivity creates greater collective abilities

In my book Juggling the Big 3 for Lawyers, I urge lawyers to synergize and work together on the basis that the group can achieve far more than any single individual—especially when the styles and expertise of the group members are complementary. While this seems obvious, I know that lawyers love evidence. So here it is:

Researchers have documented that the collective intelligence among groups of people who cooperate well extends beyond the cognitive abilities of the groups’ individual members.

So: no surprise there. But what may surprise you is that the study also found that the collective abilities of the group were highest in groups whose members had the highest levels of “social sensitivity”. (Social sensitivity has to do with how well a person is able to perceive other people’s emotions.)

So: how socially sensitive are the people on your team? And—possibly more pertinently—how socially sensitive are the people you’re recruiting?

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