Under pressure?

“Pressure is what you feel when you don’t know what you are doing.”
– Peyton Manning

This quote stopped me in my tracks. My first inclination was to disagree, because I sometimes feel pressure because of a deadline or because of the importance of some activity, even though I know what I’m doing.  Digging a bit deeper, though, I think Manning has a point.

When it comes to business development, the lawyers most under pressure are those who don’t have a cohesive plan, who aren’t implementing their plan consistently, or who haven’t fully committed to one or more activities that are likely to help them secure work.  Although they know what they’re doing on certain levels, there’s a disconnect between intellectual knowing and buckling down to do the work. If you know that you should request an on-site meeting with a client, for example, and you expect that you might well land more business or receive a referral or even deepen a valuable relationship, but you don’t ask for the meeting, you’re going to feel pressure.

In contrast, if you have a plan that you’re implementing consistently, though you may feel tension until you see results from your plan, that tension is different in nature. When you know what you’re doing, both in terms of the specific activities and the timing, you also know that you can shift your plan as needed to tweak your results.

You know that you have something that’s fundamentally workable. You’ve done your homework and you’ve prepared yourself and your plan.

Do you feel pressure about business development? If you do, take a few minutes today to get to the source of that pressure. You’ll probably find that it’s one of these issues:

  • You don’t know what you’re doing (you don’t have a plan or you don’t know how to implement some aspect of your plan)
  • You don’t know how to make time to implement your plan consistently (so you never have an opportunity to reach momentum)
  • You don’t know how to perform one or more activities incorporated in your plan (and so you haven’t even started)
  • You’re terribly uncomfortable about some aspect of your plan (you aren’t confident that you can engage in business development activity without harming relationships… or your ego)
  • You need to bring in new business now and you don’t yet know that your plan will work (you haven’t implemented your plan and you’re focusing on the need for business rather than on your ability to meet that need)

Which of these issues underlies the pressure you’re feeling?  Once you’ve identified the problem, you’re that much closer to solving it. If you aren’t sure where to start, please schedule a complimentary consultation so we can get acquainted and mutually decide whether I can help.

How to Make the Most of Your LinkedIn Profile

LinkedIn is, de facto, the preeminent social media platform for professional purposes. As of May 2014, LinkedIn featured over 300 million mostly professional users, growing by two new members per second. (Read this article for 100 staggering statistics about LinkedIn.)

How can you construct a profile that stands out? I happened across a really nice infographic this week that offers 10 Tips for the Perfect LinkedIn Profile. I’m planning to review and revise my own profile this week, based on some of the suggestions—how about you?

And speaking of LinkedIn, I’m a little disheartened to see that people continue to make the same error in requesting connections now that they were making two years ago.
I know none of you would do this, but please pass the word around… Way too many of our colleagues just aren’t getting the message.

How do you use LinkedIn? Do you have questions about how to use it effectively? Drop me a note, and if there’s enough interest I’ll write an article or whip up a webinar to answer the top questions.



A mentor’s legacy…

My first legal job was serving as a clerk for the Hon. J. Owen Forrester of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia. I knew I wanted to be a litigator, and so working for a trial judge was my idea of the perfect job. Sure enough, I learned lessons that have lasted the test of time.

Judge Forrester died on July 1, and while attending his funeral, I asked a number of his other clerks the most important lesson he taught them. Interestingly, every person alluded to exactly the same lesson:

To be effective, solve the root problem rather
than spending time on peripheral, non-dispositive issues.

Tweet: To be effective, solve the root problem rather than spending time on peripheral, non-dispositive issues.

The application is clear in litigation: if you can dispose of (or win) a case based on jurisdiction or standing, very often you won’t have to address more contentious matters. You’ve heard the saying bad facts make bad law, and applying this lesson offers a way around that problem.

Today, I apply this lesson in consulting with clients about business development through planning and strategy. Without a cohesive, strategic plan, no tactics can be ultimately successful. When I begin consulting with a client, I always start with the plan, and sometimes that even leads to a deeper root issue (like what kind of practice you want to build) that must be resolved before we can create a viable strategy.

Judge Forrester taught me many other lessons critical for business and business development, including the importance of integrity and compassion; the necessity to offer more than reason alone when crafting an argument; and how to research a controlling decision back to its wellspring to understand it.  Most importantly, the Judge demonstrated his respect for every person who entered his courtroom—and the willingness to withdraw that respect if it was abused. I draw on these lessons in my professional and personal life, and they serve as the support for all of the work I do with clients.

A mentor is irreplaceable, and I (and many others) will miss the Judge terribly. But I know that he would be gratified to know that his lessons will live on and will be handed down.

What lessons have you learned from your mentors? And what lessons are you teaching those who look to you?

Fear can be good news!

I’ve been talking about fear with my clients quite a lot recently. (If you’re feeling fear, trust me, you aren’t the only one!) Sometimes it’s the fear of taking a step–more accurately, the fear of making a misstep. The fear of losing what you have (either material belongings or a reputation or self-identity) can be paralyzing, even if you know that you can’t get the next thing you want without giving up something you now have. And the fear of missing out has become so commonly identified that it has its own acronym, FOMO. Neither last nor least is the ubiquitous fear of rejection, which nearly everyone feels at some time.

Years ago the title of a popular book proclaimed, Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway. While the title is attractive, in my experience it’s hard to follow. In fact, given the typical risk resistance that most lawyers have by nature and/or nurture, it may be tougher for lawyers than for others who spend less time thinking about what might go wrong.

I was mulling how to talk to my clients about acknowledging fear, mitigating risk, and then moving forward when I found this article by Seth Godin. This sentence hit home for me: “The reason you’re afraid is that there’s leverage here, something might happen.” (The rest of this brief article is also worth a read.)

What would happen if you were to view fear as a signal both to be aware of potential snags and also to get moving?  Why not test it this week: take a moment and notice what you’ve been delaying or what has you paralyzed. Do you not have any idea how or when to take the step you’ve been contemplating? Or are you afraid that it won’t go well, that you’ll jeopardize a relationship or a position, that you might even fail? Take a breath…then take a first step.

Because in addition to the problems Godin notes about waiting for the fear to subside, there’s one more challenge: Sometimes the fear just doesn’t subside. And then you’re really and truly stuck.

So don’t wait. Get whatever assistance you may need (whether tactical or just someone to whom you can safely admit your fear), then get it done.

Implement these ideas today

What would it take for you to catch up on all those articles and emails you put to the side (physically or digitally), promising to read them later but almost never actually doing so? For me, it was spending the last two weeks sitting in the ICU with a very ill family member. (He’s now out of ICU and doing well, happily.) And while catching up, I ran across a few articles and resources you can’t afford to miss.

1. How do GCs really view lawyer marketing? This article, summarizing a panel of Fortune 500 GCs who spoke at the Legal Marketing Association annual conference, is well worth a read if you’ve ever paused in the midst of business development activity and wondered why you’re bothering. The big take-home for me? Fortune 500 companies pay attention to client alerts and blogs as well as speaking engagements. Holiday cards and directory listings, in contrast, ranked low.

Bottom line? Providing relevant and timely content to potential clients establishes your credibility and makes you a viable candidate for retention. (Note that these conclusions may not translate directly to consumer clients.)

2. Explore Coursera, which allows you to enroll for free in online classes offered by some of the top universities in the world. If time and money were endless, I could be a perpetual student, and Coursera affords entry to classes I could never access otherwise, offered online via video. I signed up for Better Leader, Richer Life, based on Stewart Friedman’s book Total Leadership (which I reviewed here and taught by Friedman himself and Inspiring Leadership through Emotional Intelligence, taught by Richard Boyatzis, co-author of books including Primal Leadership, and I have my eyes on several other courses.

Coursera will feed your mind on topics relevant to building your practice (including several business classes on marketing and innovation) and personal interests (such as Exploring Beethoven’s Piano Sonatas or Buddhist Meditation and the Modern World). What’s more, depending on your practice area, you may recommend a course to your clients (Law and the Entrepreneur, perhaps) or draw on what you learn to flavor an article or blog posts.

3. Never Lose Sight of the Competition. This article, written by “Die Hard Entrepreneur” Gurbaksh Chahal, offers ground rules on how to handle your competition: don’t take competitors for granted, study your competitors and learn from their mistakes, be creative (not a copycat), and persevere.Although the article’s context deals with products rather than professional services, the lesson holds. What can you learn from the way others on your practice area market, how they define the scope of their practice, and what ancillary services they offer? And then, how can you use that information to help you identify a gap in client service or in outreach to your ideal clients and/or referral sources?

I hope these three resources are helpful for you. More importantly, I hope they are useful — which means you have to implement what’s relevant for you and your practice.