Are you ready to thrive in your practice?

Two offerings for you this week.

1. The next round of Coursera’s Better Leader, Richer Life begins on October 5. This free online course is taught by Steward Friedman and based on his bookTotal Leadership: Be a Better Leader, Have a Richer Life. If you’ve ever felt like there isn’t enough time for your practice and your family and serving your community and meeting your own personal needs, you can’t afford to miss this opportunity.Click here to register.

2.  Have you ever stopped yourself from applying for a job because you aren’t 100% qualified?  An interesting post on the Harvard Business Review Blog Network addresses this situation, and though it speak specifically to women, it should be required reading for women and men alike. Not looking for a job? Read on anyway:  The discussion applies equally to responding to an RFP or asking for business.

For you to consider…Do you stop yourself from seeking to get hired because you don’t meet the requirements (or perceived requirements)? Do you stop yourself because you don’t think you can do the work?The article’s conclusion is that women should spend less time observing “requirements” that may be only guidelines or a wish list.

What does this have to do with business development?
An RFP may have explicit requirements, or you may perceive that a contact is looking for certain qualifications that you don’t fully meet. Sometimes it makes sense not to answer an RFP or to ask for the business, but it’s important not to psyche yourself out of an opportunity.

Consider this:

Major decisions were made and resources were allocated based not on good data or thoughtful reflection, but based on who had built the right relationships and had the chutzpah to propose big plans.  It took me a while to understand that the habits of diligent preparation and doing quality work that I’d learned in school were not the only—or even primary—ingredients I needed to become visible and successful within my organization.

That goes double in the context of business development.

Finally, for those of you in the United States, Happy Labor Day weekend! 

Should you (could you) join a board

Clients often ask me about the business development value of joining a nonprofit’s Board of Directors, and (as with most activities) the value varies depending upon your objectives and the board you might join.
 In general, board membership can be an excellent way to meet other professionals who may be relevant to your practice and to gain an extra perk for your biographical sketch. And if you join the board of a nonprofit that advances a cause important to you, you may find personal satisfaction as well.

Which board should you join? 

Consider organizations that sponsor causes in which you are genuinely interested. You can gain strong contacts from an organization that addresses topics of little matter to you, but when your interests align with the organization’s mission, you will likely connect more deeply with other board members and with the organization’s
membership more generally. In addition, because you will actually be working on the board, real interest will make the hours you invest less of a burden.

Look for boards that do not include members just like you. If you’re a partner in a large firm, you’ll likely want to rule out board that include 3 or 4 other large law firm members unless, miraculously, there’s only minimal overlap in the firms’ areas of practice. Preferably, the board you select will include few, if any, other private practice lawyers.

Look for boards whose membership includes the kinds of people you would like to meet. If you represent corporations, look for GC members. If your key referral sources are financial planners or bankers, look for those members.

How can you identify opportunities and be nominated?
When you’re looking to join a board, your connections can help tremendously. As with any other professional activity, opportunities tend to go to those who are in the flow of information. Who among your contacts serves on a board? If you’re working in a large law firm, the firm partners as well as personnel in the business development or professional development departments may be able to make an introduction.

You might also consider looking for organizations that groom upcoming board members. In Atlanta, for instance, The Atlanta Women’s Foundation offers Women on Board, which trains women in board governance and leadership skills to increase the number of women serving on boards. Those who have completed the training receive access to a directory of opportunities for board service.

Use word-of-mouth to uncover opportunities, and check online resources like  Volunteering with an organization may be a good way to determine fit and to meet current board members. Consider taking on roles that relate to board members’ activities, such as fundraising and note-taking at board meetings.

Joining a board is only the first step for business development purposes: you must network effectively and build relationships. However, if you select a board well, contribute meaningfully, and develop strong connections, you may find your membership an invaluable part of your business development plan.

Why you MUST act

Overthinking can ruin your plans. One of the biggest mistakes I see lawyers make is coming up with a good, solid plan and then discarding it before ever giving it a shot. Overthinking takes the oomph out of a strategy, and there’s no better way to short-circuit than to let fear take over and reverse a decision.

This week’s quote is right on point.

Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, don’t sit at home and think about it. Go out and get busy. 

 Dale Carnegie

There you have it. Go out and get busy!

If you’re feeling anxious about biz dev

I have a couple of resources to share with you this week that will be especially helpful if you’re feeling anxious about the results of your business development effort or about how you can get the work done given all of your other commitments.

  1. Seth Godin, The Opposite of Anxiety. Godin suggests an exercise to reduce anxiety, which he defines as “experiencing failure in advance.” It’s more than thinking positive; it’s imagining the desired outcome and then checking to see whether your plan is good enough to support the outcome.
  2. Scott Behson, Relax, You Have 168 Hours This Week.. If you’re feeling stressed about fitting business development work into your busy schedule, read this article. Behson suggests a sensible but transformative way of looking at time.

Enjoy the reading. More importantly, apply what you learn from it.