Quotations of the Month: On Innovation

“Creativity, as has been said, consists largely of rearranging what we know in order to find out what we do not know.  Hence, to think creatively, we must be able to look afresh at what we normally take for granted.”
~George Kneller


“It’s easy to come up with new ideas; the hard part is letting go of what worked for you two years ago, but will soon be out of date.”
~Roger von Oech


“Companies have to nurture [creativity and motivation]–and have to do it by building a compassionate yet performance-driven corporate culture.  In the knowledge economy the traditional soft people side of our business has become the new hard side.”
~Gay Mitchell, Executive VP, HR Royal Bank


“Where all think alike there is little danger of innovation.”
~Edward Abbey, Desert Solitaire 

The Power of the Pocket (of Time)

I’ve been thinking lately about the power of the pocket.
 Not pockets of money, but pockets of time.  You see, I’ve gen myself a deadline of March 15 to finish the draft of my upcoming book Legal Rainmaking Myths:  How What You THINK You Know About Business Development Can Kill Your Practice.

With that big deadline looming, here’s what else I’m doing:  preparing for and holding regular client meetings, doing my own marketing, working on content for a program I’ll be releasing soon, engaging on social media, finishing up a real estate transaction, caring for one of my dogs who almost died recently (dog lovers:  bloat and torsion are terrifying; read up on it in case you ever face the symptoms, because minutes matter), caring for other quad- and biped family members, managing a renovation project, planning some upcoming presentations, and so on.  While our specific tasks will be different, my guess is that you have as much or more on your plate.

Maybe the volume of tasks sounds familiar.  Most of us have more to do than we have hours available.  We also have the inevitable waiting time and downtime, some of which go unused.  Free time is important for recharging and getting grounded.  But it’s hard to recharge while waiting in line to renew a driver’s license or finding 10 free minutes when arriving early for an appointment.

That’s why it’s helpful to know what you can accomplish in a pocket of time.  I use Reeder to catch up on blog posts and Pocket to catch up on other reading I’ve clipped from the web.  I often carry notecards, and I maintain a list of non-critical “when I can” tasks (for example, comparing prices and shipping costs for dog food on various sites) in Nozbe.  Give me 10 minutes, and I’ll knock at least a couple of items off my list.

What can you accomplish in a pocket of time?

Obvious but ignored: rainmaking requires action

New behaviors, especially those that play out in public for others to see, can be difficult.  We lawyers especially, who tend to fall toward the perfectionist side of things, perceived a high risk in trying something new.  What if we fail?  What if we look stupid?  What if we really mess up?

Last Sunday, I took on a new role in my church.  Despite having observed others perform this role, I was really nervous:  I’d be in front of the whole congregation, taking on a highly visible part of the service.  In preparation, I read the handbook for performing this role, searched online for other guidance, drafted and revised the words I’d say, and mentally walked through every part I’d play in the service over and over.

I noticed three things about my preparation:

  1. I could envision failure more easily than success.
    I imagined tripping and falling on the altar stairs.  I imagined dropping the microphone and books and trays.  And I even came up with my response should those things happen:  flash a winsome smile, chuckle, and say “Well, at least I got THAT over.”
  2. I spent more time preparing than I did acting.  I invested close to three hours reading and working on the comments I’d make.  I even typed out the comments and then copied them by hand onto an index card!  And all told, I probably spent 15 minutes performing my role.
  3. While the preparation I did by myself was helpful, I got the most benefit from the few minutes I spent talking with others who could tell me what to do.  The handbook, while helpful, included some directions that we didn’t use, and certain steps weren’t clear to me.  So I grabbed someone who’s served in this role for more than ten years and asked for help–and she straightened me out right away.

The other thing I noticed is that I hear these same observations from my clients when they’re talking about business development.  Reluctant rainmakers (those who would really prefer to build a book of business just by being a good lawyer, not engaging in specific business development activity) are especially inclined to spend as much time in gearing up for activity as doing it, and much of that time may be spent in fruitless worry.  We typically don’t call it that, of course:  we may call it planning or brainstorming or waiting until the time is right.

The antidote to this paralysis by analysis is action.  Action is the only antidote.  In my church analogy, I started to feel more competent in my anticipated role when I talked with someone who could answer my questions, not when I raed books or visualized my part in the service.  And having performed that role once, even thought I didn’t do things as well as I would have liked, I know what it feels like, where my specific challenges are, and what I need to do to improve.

With business development tasks, action may feel high-risk because of the possible consequences if it goes wrong.  The truth, however, is that (barring exceptional circumstances) a misstep can usually be corrected, and in most cases, a small amount of preparation will avert disaster.  In other words, don’t go into a meeting cold, don’t attend an organization’s meeting without knowing what the group is about and who’s in leadership, and don’t call an important contact without having some sort of plan.

Most of us hold back too long on rainmaker activity; few rush in without forethought.

Here’s the take-home

Where are you stalling in your business development plan?

  • If you’re stuck in planning where to start, get outside help from a mentor, a colleague, or a marketing professional.  It can be difficult to begin with the 30,000-foot view that is an overall strategy, and outside help can be instrumental.
  • If you’ve been putting off an activity because the time isn’t right, ask what will make for a “right time”.  Sometimes the delay is legitimate.  If you can’t pick out specific circumstances that you’re waiting for, you’re probably just delaying.  Examples of appropriate delay include waiting for a contact to return from vacation before you make a call or waiting until there’s a vote on specific legislation before releasing a white paper about how to respond to the new rules.  Fruitless delay occurs, for example, when you’re waiting to get “more information” without being clear on what information you need or how to get it.
  • If you’ve been delaying an activity because you don’t know how it will play out, ask what you can afford to lose rather than what you might gain.  Good planning can’t remove all risk.  If you’re considering an action that might blow a relationship, you’re right to be cautious.  If you’re holding off on getting your profile up on LinkedIn because you’re not sure how best to describe your practice and experience, you have almost nothing to lose.  (For a review on this, see Little Bets by Peter Sims, and my review of the book.)
  • If you’re waiting for your schedule to free up, act immediately.  One of the most challenging aspects of business development is doing the work even when you’re busy with client work.  Failing to do that, however, risks getting into the feast/famine cycle.  Almost worse, for mid-level and senior associates and service partners, you run the risk of believing that everything is going okay with your career, when the truth is that today’s economy demands that every private practice lawyer must at least contribute to business development.

Action is required for business development success.  We’re still early in 2013:  get your year in gear by acting today.

Creating and Harnessing Momentum in Business Development

When an attorney is focused on business development and is implementing consistently a strategic plan designed to reach clearly identified goals, magic happens.
 Often it’s magic that brings in new business, and for practices with longer sales cycles, it’s magic that first brings in connections and opportunities that eventually  lead to new business.  The magic that always exists in the presence of consistent activity, though, is momentum.

Momentum is defined by the Macmillian Dictionary as “progress or development that is becoming faster or stronger,” and Merriam Webster adds that momentum is “strength or force gained by motion or by a series of events.”  Momentum is a force that seems to take on a life of its own.  In business development, momentum occurs when opportunities begin to flow from one another, introductions materialize, and all of the work that you’ve done yields a noticeable uptick in rainmaker results.

I’ve identified several steps to create momentum in business development.

  1. Develop a plan that includes activity in several complimentary domains.  In other words, when you identify one activity to include in your plan, look for related activities that naturally build on that one.  For example, if you plan to write articles or a blog, look for ways to repurpose that content, perhaps by launching a newsletter (which is a good complement to a blog) or by speaking once or twice a year on themes that you’ve identified through your writing.
  2. As soon as you’ve decided to commit to an activity, put it on your calendar.  Momentum requires action, not just plans.  It’s easy to “decide” to have two lunches a week with good contacts and then to “decide” to start nextweek.  Or the week after.  Or the week after that…  You know, when things slow down long enough for you to catch your breath.If a commitment isn’t in your calendar, question whether it’s really a commitment.
  3. Take consistent, concentrated action. One push may be all it takes to roll a perfect boulder down a perfect hill, but business development doesn’t exist in a perfect world.  Committing to an activity requires committing to consistent engagement.  One lunch isn’t momentum.  Five lunches might start to create momentum.  Twelve lunches in a month may be enough to get some momentum going:  not only will you know that you’ll have lunch with strategically selected contacts three times a week, but you’ll be in the habit of mentally sorting your contacts to select the right lunch partners, identifying why you should meet, and planning what you’d like to realize from the lunch.  You’ll also likely get into the groove of offering and asking for assistance.Concentrated action is usually required to create momentum.  Taking action once a month is consistent, but unless the action is massive (such as hosting a seminar and then implementing a follow-up strategy that requires additional action) you’re unlikely to see momentum build.  In today’s world, our attention spans are shorter, and momentum both thrives on and creates attention.  Make business development your top priority for a set amount of time (the length of which will depend on your specific plan and practice) and that concentration may create the right content for momentum to blossom.
  4. Measure your results.  Tracking results quantifies outcomes (even when the only measurement is qualitative, as it often is especially in the beginning stages of business development) and helps to create momentum.  When you see that doing X leads to positive outcome Y, you’re more likely to repeat X.  Measurement also helps to avoid fruitless activity.
  5. Once a quarter, review your activity and results, looking specifically for synergy and complementary opportunities.  For example, if you’ve received several referrals from CPAs, perhaps you should consider how to spend more time with selected CPAs.  If you’ve sponsored a meeting, review the results of the sponsorship and your planned follow-up steps, then think about how you might build on that activity — for example, you might invite attendees to hear you speak on a topic of interest.

We all feel momentum when it happens:  the phone starts ringing, one great idea generates another (and both get implemented), and you discover that your network of contacts really is a network that you can access.  Calculated steps can create momentum, but you must also prepare yourself to recognize it and to analyze what specifically created it.  When you’ve identified that what, make sure you build more of that into your plans.

A caveat about momentum, though:  when it comes to business development, think of momentum as an accelerator, not as a continuous motion machine.  Remember that we commonly talk about losing momentum at least as often as we discuss gaining it.  Momentum leads to strong results, but it is not an independent force that will continue in perpetuity.

The key to creating momentum is also the key to keeping it going:  consistent action.

Do you have momentum in business development?  What would it take?  If you’re uncertain, a good place to start is by evaluating what activity has delivered the best results over the last six months and then asking yourself how you might create momentum around that activity.

Quotations of the Month: on focus, action, and priorities

This month’s quotations suggest how to get focused, follow priorities, and get things done…

Clarity affords focus.
~Thomas Leonard


Take time to deliberate; but when the time for action arrives, stop thinking and go in.
~Attributed to Andrew Jackson, Napoleon Bonaparte, and others.


“The Principle of Priority states (a) you must know the difference between what is urgent and what is important, and (b) you must do what’s important first.”
~Steven Pressfield, The War of Art:  Break Through the Blocks & Win Your Inner Creative Battles


He, who every morning plans the transactions of the day, and follows that plan, carries a thread that will guide him through a labyrinth of the most busy life.
~Victor Hugo