A valuable diversion

Today’s newsletter may feel like a bit of a diversion. If it seems so to you, don’t worry: “pure” biz dev will return next week.

Last weekend, I read When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi. Kalanithi was a neurosurgeon who was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer at age 36. This book is his memoir, which I recommend to lawyers for three reasons:

  1. It is a book about meaning and particularly about choosing a life path in view of life circumstances. While most of us will never face the specific challenge that Kalanithi did, we will all face something that threatens to knock us off course, and we will all have to decide what truly matters to us. There is much to learn in Kalanithi’s exploration of who he might become following his diagnosis and whether to resume his career in neurosurgery, to start early the writing career he’d imagined for much later in life, or to suspend his career entirely in favor of spending time with his family.

    It’s worth pausing to ask yourself: what are your values? What has meaning for you? Are you acting in accord with those two answers?

    If you’re looking for a pure business development lesson, it lies in this search for meaning. If you connect with a reason why you want to grow your practice, you’ll be more likely to do what’s necessary to reach that objective. And if your efforts to grow your practice detract from what is most important to you, it will be difficult to maintain those efforts—and it may be ultimately pointless even if you succeed.
  2. It’s a book about empathy. Kalanithi discusses how he sought to treat his cases as individuals, to help them make the right decisions for their own circumstances and values rather than simply treating the physical problem that they presented. He also discusses his experience as a patient who received person-centered care as well as a patient who received problem-based care.

    Unlike neurosurgeons, most lawyers don’t work with life-and-death circumstances. As lawyers, we may tend to focus on the legal problem that the client presents rather than allowing the client’s objectives to govern, or we may fail to attend to our client’s worry, stress, and uncertainty. Having been both a litigator and a litigant, I know how important empathy is in practice. Kalanithi’s experience revealed in a fresh way the degree to which empathy is a professional skill, in a context that we are unlikely to face but can understand nonetheless. Empathy upholds dignity—ours and our client’s.

  3. It’s a poetic book that uses language with skill and care. Reading good writing feeds both the soul and the brain, and it can reinvigorate one’s own writing. While reviewers are not unanimous on the quality of Kalanithi’s writing, I found it beautiful, and I kept pausing to reread and mull certain passages.

If When Breath Becomes Air isn’t your kind of book, do find something that makes you continue to examine why you do what you do, what meaning your life and your work carries, and how your approach to others (and especially your clients) affects both them and you. It’s a step away from “pure business” than can only enhance “pure business.”

What you can learn from Apple

One of my goals for this year (not resolutions, which tend to be ungrounded and short-lived, for me and many others) is to read more. Specifically, I’m looking to read articles and books from areas of business other than law in an effort to get fresh ideas.

There’s a great deal to be learned from our own profession—I’m certainly not suggesting otherwise—but sometimes the best ideas come through analogous or even dissimilar disciplines.

And so, I offer you January’s suggested reading: The Apple Experience: Secrets to Building Insanely Great Customer Loyalty, by Carmine Gallo. The book describes Apple’s customer-focused approach, with a focus on staff (the internal customer), the external customer, and the retail environment. Quite clearly, not all of the book applies to the practice of law, but several keys points do.

Gallo describes Apple’s “five steps of service”:

  • Approach customers with a personalized, warm welcome.
  • Probe politely to understand all the customer’s needs.
  • Present a solution for the customer to take home today.
  • Listen for and resolve any issues or concerns.
  • End with a fond farewell and invitation to return.

And though you’ll have to read the book to unpack each of those steps fully, the outline provides a handy guide for conducting a conversation with a prospective client. The point that requires some analogy, of course, is that (unlike an Apple sales representative) your goal is not to provide a solution for the prospective client to implement today. Instead, your goal is to describe what the solution is, how it might work, pros and cons, and (where applicable) some sense of a likely outcome, all with appropriate caveats since you undoubtedly won’t know everything that you need to know about the matter from a pitch or consultation.

Don’t read the book thinking you can apply each point directly to your practice, because you likely won’t be able to do that. Instead, read the book, reflect on the principles it offers, and think about how they might translate for your practice.

Planting seeds for biz dev growth

Six years ago, I reviewed The Go-Giver and The Referral of a Lifetime, two must-read books for learning to build strong relationships that yield business. In the last three weeks, I’ve recommended The Go-Giver to at least 50% of my private clients, and last week I had the unexpected opportunity to attend a workshop co-hosted by Go-Giver co-author Bob Burg. This week seems like a good time to share my review again.

After you read the review (and, I trust, the books themselves), please drop me a line and let me know what questions you have about implementing the lessons the books share. If you have a success story that’s driven by those lessons, I’d love to hear that too!

The Go-Giver (Bob Burg and John David Mann)
The Referral of a Lifetime (Tim Templeton)

I’ve never reviewed two books in a single review before, but these two are such neat parallels in both style and message that I just can’t resist the temptation.  The message of both of these short, quick reads is simple:  if you genuinely care about other people and helping them to succeed, your business will grow well and authentically.

Both books are written as parables, using the story of a struggling business person’s meeting with a kind and mysterious, all-knowing mentor to illustrate how exactly to go about creating meaningful business relationships.  I don’t care for the parable style of business book, simply because it typically rings a little hollow and sometimes permits the teaching to stay at a superficial level, never getting the specifics.  Both The Go-Giver and The Referral of a Lifetime avoid these problems.  The Referral of a Lifetime excels particularly, because it includes an appendix with templates and samples that the reader can adapt for his or her own needs.  The parable style is also handy to convey a great deal of information without pedantic repetition, and it ends up being quite effective in both books.

ReferralOfALifetimeEach book is based in just a few simple principles.  The four principles offered in The Referral of a Lifetime are:

  1. The 250 by 250 Rule:  It’s not only who you know that counts, it’s who your clients know that is important.
  2. Build a database [of your contacts] and ABC it.
  3. Just Let Me Know:  Educate your clients about how you work and your value to them through regular, tangible actions performed without fail.
  4. Keep in touch consistently, personally, and systematically.

The Go-Giver shares what it calls The Five Laws of Stratospheric Success:

  1. go-giverThe Law of Value:  Your true worth is determined by how much more you give in value than you take in payment.
  2. The Law of Compensation:  Your income is determined by how many people you serve and how well you serve them.
  3. The Law of Influence:  Your influence is determined by how abundantly you place other people’s interests first.
  4. The Law of Authenticity:  The most valuable gift you have to offer is yourself.
  5. The Law of Receptivity:  The key to effective giving is to stay open to receiving.

The principles set out in these two books are consistent and mutually supportive, yet the two books are quite distinctive.  The Referral of a Lifetime teaches you a system for defining and harnessing your already existing network of clients and other contacts, whereas The Go-Giver offers more of a general approach to living and doing business and less of a step-by-step system.

As I was reading these books, I saw them in action with a friend and colleague.  Late on Friday afternoon, I received an email from this person, looking for help because a shipper had failed to pick up a pallet of her product from a manufacturing facility in a small town.  She was facing two separate time crunches:  her product would expire if not shipped promptly, and she needed it to be delivered to her customer more than a thousand miles away no later than Tuesday at noon.  Her shipper couldn’t help, and she sent out a request for help after all of the obvious solutions proved unworkable.

A note about this person:  in addition to having a fabulous product, she genuinely seeks to help everyone she meets.  She’s one of these “never met a stranger” types of people who loves nothing more than sharing her contacts and resources.

Within just a few minutes of sending out her SOS, my friend has received a bunch of ideas and suggestions.  Within a couple of hours, one of her contacts arranged for the product to be shipped at a price less than 1/3 of the price that other shippers had quoted for slower service, and that same contact had introduced her to a potential joint venture partner.  Good luck that this contact saw my friend’s email?  Sure.  But it was their relationship (and his adherence to the values behind The Go-Giver and The Referral of a Lifetime, whether he’s actually read those books or not) that prompted him to swing into action.

If you read only one of these books, I’d encourage you to start with The Go-Giver.  It’s a very fast read, and the principles it shares will affect the way you see and do business.  Once you’re convinced that giving to others is not just the right thing to do but the smart business move, then read The Referral of a Lifetime to get specific ideas on how to implement the principles into your day-to-day life.  Even if it takes you some time to figure out how to build your own system, I almost guarantee that the books will change how you approach others in business — for the better, for you and for them.

My favorite biz dev book

I do a lot of reading about business development, and I share reviews of some of the best books with you. For this week’s celebration of the 10th anniversary of Fleming Strategic, here’s a review of my all-time favorite business development book, which I first shared in 2010.

But first… Did you grab your complimentary copy of the e-book version of Legal Rainmaking Myths? If not, get it here—but hurry: the offer ends at midnight on January 16.

And now, on to the book review…

Selling the Invisible

by Harry Beckwith

“You can’t see them-so how do you sell them?

That’s the problem with services. . . .

This book begins with the core problem of service marketing: service quality.  It then suggests how to learn what you must improve, with examples of techniques that work.  It then moves to service marketing fundamentals: defining what business you really are in and what people really are buying, positioning your service, understanding prospects and buying behavior, and communicating.”

Selling the Invisible offers targeted suggestions for marketing your services, with plenty of anecdotes to illustrate its points.  Divided into eleven sections with multiple one- to three-page chapters in each section, Beckwith’s book gives bite-sized lessons on what clients and prospects (that is, potential clients) want, expect, and find persuasive.  A few notable tidbits:


  • Serve your clients as they want to be served.  Beckwith criticizes the lawyers who write a “really good brief” but fail to notice that the brief was “equally effective for the client $5,000 earlier” and that it “covers an issue that might have been avoided entirely through good lawyers.”  In other words: don’t get so caught up in technical merit that you overlook what the client sees.
  • Marketing starts with you and your employees.  “Review every step—from how your receptionist answers to the message on the bottom of your invoices—and ask what you could do differently to attract and keep more customers.  Every act is a marketing act.  Make every employee a marketing person.”  For example, notice how you (or your assistant or receptionist) answer the telephone: would you-the-caller want to talk with whoever answers your phone, or would you-the-caller have the impression that you were interrupting something more important?
  • Clients seek personality and relationships.  “Service businesses are about relationships.  Relationships are about feelings.  In good ones, the feelings are good; in bad ones, they are bad.  In service marketing and selling, the logical reasons that you should win the business—your competence, your excellence, your talent—just pay the entry fees.  Winning is a matter of feelings, and feelings are about personalities.”
  • Being Great vs. Being Good.  “People in professional services are especially prone to thinking that the better they get, the better their business will be.  The more the tax lawyer knows about the tax code . . . the more business will beat a path to [her] door[].”  Beckwith cites examples in law, medicine, and financial services to prove that clients place relationship, trust, good communication, and other non-technical proficiencies above technical skill.  (I would add the corollary that technical excellence is a prerequisite rather than a pure competitive advantage.)  Beckwith’s summary: “Prospects do not buy how good you are at what you do.  They buy how good you are at who you are.”  (But you still have to have the skills to deliver.)

Why should you read Selling the Invisible?

 If you consider yourself skilled at selling your services (and you have the business to back it up), review Selling the Invisible for reminders.  If you’re new to marketing your services, this book will serve as a foundational text for basic marketing principles.  You’ll also pick up terrific ideas for client service and for contributing to your team’s or organization’s business development efforts.

Selling the Invisible is an invaluable addition to a marketing library.  It’s quick to read; one could even read the bolded summary statements at the end of each chapter to get the gist of Beckwith’s ideas.  But, as you read, be sure to implement Beckwith’s bottom line in the chapter entitled Fallacy: Strategy is King, and “Do Anything” (preferably passionately) rather than creating and revising strategy endlessly.

Book Review: Average Is An Addiction

Average Is An Addiction
by Deborah Dubree

Where are you average?  Make no mistake:  every area of life, even among top performers, separates into top, middle, and bottom tier.  Author Deborah Dubree notes that:

very few people have the guts, determination, discipline and commitment to break out of average and become the greatest at what they do.  Some people…have settle into being moderately satisfied with their current level of success.  Still others didn’t even realize they had options.

But those who are willing to be bold and push the limits of performance have the opportunity to bust through mediocrity and to move to the top in every area of their professional and personal lives.

Deborah Dubree started her career as a receptionist with a high school degree; she became owner and CEO of a $20 million commercial construction company.  Deborah is anything but average, and she now works with professional athletes (think NFL players from the Green Bay Packers, San Francisco 49ers, and more), college athletes, business professionals, and more to help them escape the trap of average.

Although this talk of getting out of mediocrity and reaching excellence might sound at first blush like motivational hoo-hah, it’s anything but.

“Average equals expendable.”  Large firm lawyers aw this principle in action at the height of the 2009 economic plunge, when those who had done all the right things and performed as expected (in other words, the average of that band of professionals) suffered layoffs.  Those who were above average either retained their jobs or had the opportunity to escape a firm’s failure by making a lateral move.

In more general terms, “[a]verage thinking leads to average behavior, which leads to average results, which leads to average and sometimes catastrophic consequences.”

Dubree instructs top performers to “tame and train the B.E.A.S.T.”:

  • B   –>   Beliefs:  eliminate unfounded and unreliable beliefs
  • E   –>   Emotions:  avoid those that undermine performance and encourage those that empower you
  • A   –>   Acute awareness:  consciously design your objectives and create a plan to reach them
  • S   –>   Self-identify:  know who you are and who you can become when you are your highest, best performing self
  • T   –>   Talk and walk:  design your self-presentation for maximum effectiveness

Through the 7 “C”s of Excellence, Dubree offers practical how-to steps on how to implement her anti-average action plan, by using choice, consciousness, change, courage, confidence, commitment, and consistency.

What’s the relevance for lawyers?

One of the key stumbling blocks for lawyers seeking to grow a book of business is contentment.  If you settle for “good enough,” it’s a safe bet that you’ll never push yourself, you’ll never go the extra mile, and you’ll never accomplish what you might otherwise have done.  You’ll be average.  (The same problem adheres for those who accept high competence in a professional skill and don’t pursue excellence.)

It’s easy to say you’re going to stop accepting average, but it’s tough to take the necessary actions and make the necessary changes without a roadmap.  Dubree’s experience in working with professional athletes should speak to lawyers:  operating in a highly competitive, lone-ranger culture in which admitting any weakness can be career suicide, it takes courage and dedication to reject the status quo and aim for higher performance.

Using the steps Dubree outlines, you’ll be able to identify the areas of your life in which you are an average performer, to decide whether that’s acceptable to you, and to step up your game if not.  This is the ideal time of year to take a retrospective look at 2013 to see whether you’re satisfied with the level of your performance or whether you’ve been merely content.  Average Is An Addiction is an entertaining and quick read, and if you apply its teachings, you can shift the trajectory of your career and your life from average to excellence.

Leadership the Eleanor Roosevelt way

Over a year ago when I was visiting my very favorite bookstore (the Upstart Crow, in San Diego’s Seaport Village), I saw a book titled Leadership the Eleanor Roosevelt Way.  Because I am a fan of Mrs. Roosevelt, I knew I had to grab it, but then something happened and distracted me, and I left the bookstore without the book in hand.  One thing led to another, and I never got around to ordering it.  So I was truly delighted when I visited again last month and the book was still there!

Part biography, part instruction on leadership in the business context, Leadership the Eleanor Roosevelt Way is an easy and interesting read.  The author gives a chronological review of Mrs. Roosevelt’s life and draws out the lessons in each stage, which makes for a reasonably effective presentation.  My only quibble with this approach is that Gerber occasionally shifts from the historical recounting to a present-day business example without much warning, calling for closer attention than the book requires otherwise.

The book’s focus, not surprisingly, is on women’s leadership, though many of the lessons transcend gender.  Its opening explains that leadership is particularly important to overcome the gender disparities that continue to exist, giving examples from business and politics.

In additional, the study found that male equity partners out-earn female by average of $87,000.  While these statistics are limited in scope, they indicate that at least in the firms studied, significant disparity remains.  As Gerber wrote,

Although these issues differ somewhat in kind or degree from the problems of Eleanor’s day, the solutions rest on the same foundation: leadership.  Why?  Leadership is about change.  It means intentionally achieving a helpful, ethical purpose, and doing so in a process of reciprocal motivation and support between leaders and those they hope to lead.

Gerber pulls leadership lessons from every stage of Mrs. Roosevelt’s life.  More extensive in number than in depth, the lessons are nonetheless instructive and likely to provoke readers’ reflection.  For example, the following lessons (learned “the hard way”) flow from the painful period in which Mrs. Roosevelt discovered FDR’s affair with Lucy Mercer:

  1. Respond.  Every leader experiences difficult circumstances that she cannot control.  The solution, then, is for the leader to learn to control her response.  Self-mastery is a key leadership competency because, as Mrs. Roosevelt wrote, “[t]he influence you exert is through your own life and what you become yourself.”  Leaders must master reactive tendencies and respond to problems instead.
  2. Reflect.  Upon suffering a blow, a leader must reflect upon the situation and his response.  A leader must understand himself thoroughly, including what a crisis means to his sense of self and the sources of strength upon which he can draw.
  3. Find Courage to Change.  When a crisis occurs, fear is a natural response.  Mrs. Roosevelt’s response is instructive: “Courage is more exhilarating than fear, and in the long run it is easier.  We do not have to become heroes overnight.  Just a step at a time, meeting each thing that comes up, seeing that it is not as dreadful as it appeared, discovering we have the strength to stare it down.”
  4. Accept Change and Take Action.  Having reflected and gathered sufficient courage, a leader must act.  Mrs. Roosevelt wrote, “People can surmount what seems to be total defeat, difficulties too great to be borne, but it requires a capacity to readjust endlessly to the changing conditions of life.”  Leaders must learn to take considered action and move forward, despite setbacks that occur along the way.

What’s in it for lawyers?  As the foregoing example indicates, the leadership lessons Gerber offers are often drawn from Mrs. Roosevelt’s writings or speeches. Leadership the Eleanor Roosevelt Way offers many leadership lessons, generally at a somewhat superficial level that introduces a general principle without fleshing it out in depth.  As a result, those who are seeking deep discussion of leadership or its practical application may be disappointed.  If you enjoy the Roosevelt history, though, and don’t mind a good but topical discussion of its leadership lessons, you’ll likely find benefit from reading Leadership the Eleanor Roosevelt Way.

Book Review: The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership

The subtitle of Maxwell’s book is “Follow Them, and People Will Follow You.”   Each time I read that, I hear a rejoinder in my head: “Don’t follow them, and people won’t follow you.” Revised and updated in 2007 for the 10th anniversary of The 21 Irrefutable Laws, this book is rightly regarded as a foundational piece of the leadership literature.

As the title indicates, Maxwell presents 21 laws of leadership, all of which are free-standing and yet buttressed by one another. You can learn a lot simply by reviewing the 21 laws with Maxwell’s brief explanation of each:

1.  The Law of the Lid: Leadership Ability Determines a Person’s Level of Effectiveness
2.  The Law of Influence: The True Measure of Leadership Is Influence — Nothing More, Nothing Less
3.  The Law of Process: Leadership Develops Daily, Not in a Day
4.  The Law of Navigation: Anyone Can Steer the Ship, but It Takes a Leader to Change the Course
5.  The Law of Addition: Leaders Add Value by Serving Others
6.  The Law of Solid Ground: Trust Is the Foundation of Leadership
7.  The Law of Respect: People Naturally Follow Leaders Stronger Than Themselves
8.  The Law of Intuition: Leaders Evaluate Everything with a Leadership Bias
9.  The Law of Magnetism: Who You Are Is Who You Attract
10. The Law of Connection: Leaders Touch a Heart Before They Ask for a Hand
11. The Law of the Inner Circle: A Leader’s Potential Is Determined by Those Closest to Him
12. The Law of Empowerment: Only Secure Leaders Give Power to Others
13. The Law of the Picture: People Do What People See
14. The Law of Buy-In: People Buy into the Leader, Then the Vision
15. The Law of Victory: Leaders Find a Way for the Team to Win
16. The Law of the Big Mo: Momentum is a Leader’s Best Friend
17. The Law of Priorities: Leaders Understand That Activity Is Not Necessarily Accomplishment
18. The Law of Sacrifice: A Leader Must Give Up to Go Up
19. The Law of Timing: When to Lead Is as Important as What to Do and Where to Go
20. The Law of Explosive Growth: To Add Growth, Lead Followers — To Multiply, Lead Leaders
21. The Law of Legacy: A Leader’s Lasting Value is Measured by Succession

My favorite law, the umbrella under which all of the other laws fall, is the Law of Process. Leadership can’t be developed in a day or a week. Instead, it grows and becomes refined through a lifetime of self-management, skills acquisition, and relationships:

If you continually invest in your leadership development, letting your ‘assets’ compound, the inevitable result is growth over time. What can you see when you look at a person’s daily agenda? Priorities, passion, abilities, relationships, attitude, personal disciplines, vision, and influence. See what a person is doing every day, day after day, and you’ll know who that person is and what he or she is becoming.

Often, when I speak to newer lawyers about leadership development, someone in the group will ask why a new graduate or a lawyer in the first few years of practice should be concerned with leadership development, since they’re at the bottom of the totem pole. My answer is three-fold.

First, it’s critical to lead oneself and develop a strong foundation in self-management. Second, usually even “bottom of the totem pole” lawyers soon have an opportunity to lead something, whether it’s a document review team or a subcommittee. And third, as Maxwell writes, “champions don’t become champions in the ring — they are merely recognized there.” If a lawyer waits until a leadership position is on the horizon to begin developing good leadership skills, the position may never present itself, or if it does, the lawyer will lack the necessary skills to thrive in that position. (Incidentally, point 3 is well illustrated in Maxwell’s first law, the Law of the Lid.)

What’s in it for lawyers? Although each of The 21 Irrefutable Laws is important for leadership development, perhaps none speaks to the profession in quite the same was as the Law of Explosive Growth. That law holds that leaders who develop leaders create an organization that can achieve explosive growth, since “for every leader they develop, they also receive the value of all of that leader’s followers.” Imagine the potential for enormous and sustainable growth in a law firm in which leaders are developed.

Read one chapter a week and apply what you learn. Without question, you will grow as a leader, and you’ll see the difference in your day-to-day life and practice, with clients, and in whatever leadership roles you may hold.

David Maister’s Strategy & the Fat Smoker

As the title of David Maister’s forthcoming book Strategy and the Fat Smoker suggests, the problem isn’t that we don’t know what to do, it’s that we know and choose to ignore.   Based on a series of articles written and posted online, Maister’s latest offering promises a dose of “real” strategy: “Real strategy lies not in figuring out what to do, but in devising ways to ensure that, compared top others, we actually do more of what everybody knows they should do.”  In other words, it’s all about implementation, and that’s the focus of the book.  Organized in sections pertaining to how organizations should think about strategy, clients (including marketing and selling), and management, Strategy and the Fat Smoker speaks to those who understand that knowing without doing brings little value.

I began by reading the introductory chapters on strategy.  Several gems leapt out at me, including:

If you truly want to succeed (and many people do not want it badly enough to make it happen) then you must never settle, never give up, never coast, never just accept what is, even if you are currently performing at a high level.


[T]he primary outcome of strategic planning should not be analytical insight or smart choices, but a superior resolve to accomplish something.


The best way to approach this re-evaluation [of the organization’s purpose, mission, vision and values] is to begin with a very small inner circle of top management leaders, who can look each other in the eyes and ask: “Are  these really the decision rules we as leaders are prepared to stick with?”

Maister invites readers to plunge in with any chapter, and after I got the flavor of his approach to strategy, I dived into Chapter 17: The Trouble with Lawyers.  Maister’s preface to this chapter indicates that he originally wrote it to explain “why lawyers and law firms are different from other professions” but that others in consulting and the financial services industry identify with the culture and behavior that Maister ascribes to the legal profession.  Almost any lawyer who reads this chapter will recognize that Maister is indeed speaking to us.  He highlights four problems that prevent “lawyers from effectively functioning in groups:”

*  problems with trust;
*  difficulties with ideology, values, and principles;
*  professional detachment; and
*  unusual approaches to decision making (referring to lawyers’ propensity to attack any idea presented to locate and highlight its weaknesses, with the result that “within a short time, most ideas, no matter who initiates them, will be destroyed, dismissed, or postponed for future examination.”)

Having identified and explained these pecularities, Maister asks why lawyers do so well financially if the profession is riddled with these problems, and his answer is proven by the lockstep approach that firms tend to apply to innovation:

The greatest advantage lawyers have is that they compete only with other lawyers.  If everyone else does things equally poorly, and clients and recruits find little variation between firms, even the most egregious behavior will not lead to a competitive disadvantage.

Maister suggests that only client pressure is likely to compel firms to begin to act “as firms — delivering seamless service, practice areas that have depth ( and not just a collection of individualistic stars), and true, cross-boundary teamwork.”  Having come to understand some of the problems that have so far prevented that will help firms to adapt as such client pressure is applied.

Other chapters of Strategy and the Fat Smoker have application to lawyers and firms as well.  The book does an excellent job of delivering its subtitled promise of teaching organizations and individuals to do “what’s obvious but not easy.”  It’s readable, practical, and insightful.  The release date is January 2, 2008, which is perfect timing.  Buy it, read it, and learn how to make your resolutions (and those of your organization) come to pass in 2008.

Book Review: The Dynamic Path

I recently read executive search consultant James M. Citrin’s The Dynamic Path, which promises “access [to] the secrets of champions to achieve greatness through mental toughness, inspired leadership, and personal transformation.”  In brief, the book examines the paths taken by numerous sports champions to find the common thread that allowed them to progress through the four stages of success that Citrin has identified: individual, champion, leader, and legacy.  He asks what the individuals who managed to leave a legacy learned, what skills they possessed, and how those lessons may be applied in a business setting.

Citrin’s first lesson is as follows:

Talent and hard work are a good start. . . To achieve greatness requires something more, something subtle.  It demands the acquisition and application common to the most superior performers in sports, business, or any other endeavor: mental toughness and the ability to stay calm and collected at the big moments.

Citrin holds that an individual’s development in the champion, leader, and legacy stages of the Dynamic Path require skills that peak at certain points on that path: natural talent/intelligence, work ethic/dedication, and mental toughness/problem solving peak at the Champion level, for those at the height of their individual achievements.  People leadership, which has developed along the way, peaks at the Leader stage, along with developing moral/spiritual leadership, so that the individual seeks collective achievement for collective results — group excellence.  Moral/spiritual leadership continues to grow until it reaches its culmination in the Legacy phase, in which collective achievement creates enduring results that will have long-lasting impact.

Examples of those who have attained Legacy status include Bill Bradley, who has achieved numerous sports victories as well as intellectual success as a Rhodes Scholar, completed by the long-lasting accomplishments of his service as Senator.  Citrin also highlights Arnold Palmer (the golfer who has parlayed his individual success into establishing health care complexes, creating the PGA Tour, and developing the Golf Channel), Arthur Ashe (the tennis player who became the first African American man to win the US Open and to take a Grand Slam among numerous other titles, then cofounded the USA National Junior Tennis League and worked to eliminate racism and poverty before his early death from HIV contracted during a blood transfusion), and Lance Armstrong (the cancer survivor and 7-time winner of the Tour de France who now seeks to eradicate cancer).  Citrin provides stories of many other individuals, well-known and less so, that illustrate the path he describes.

I enjoyed reading this book because it separates out what makes a good leader — one for a season — from what allows a good leader to create a legacy — one for an age.  The book is an easy read, and it’s interesting (for this non-sports fan, anyway) to learn a bit more about what some sports figures have accomplished following their sports careers.  The book is an interesting, sometimes slightly jarring, mixture of personal sketches and attempts to teach how the sports lessons can translate to personal lessons.  Citrin inserts his own perspective into the book throughout, which at times read more as a journal than as a teaching book.

One conclusion that remains with me is that the rise of team sports for children, and especially for girls, is likely to be a significant benefit to rising generations of would-be leaders.  Citrin has made an excellent case for the lessons that sports can convey, and it’s a good reminder that all of those hours of soccer practice may just pay off in later years, though it would overstate the case to say that The Dynamic Path will provide a roadmap for transforming those lessons into business leadership skills.

Make it memorable.

One of the best books that I’ve started reading¹ this year is Made to Stick, by Chip Heath and Dan Heath.  The thrust of the book is that ideas that are memorable share certain common features.  By learning those features, you can make your own ideas more “sticky.”  The six principles that the Heath brothers identified are:

1.  Simplicity
2.  Unexpectedness
3. Concreteness
4.  Credibility
5.  Emotions
6.  Stories

Read more about these principles and see illustrations (ranging from urban legends to important consumer health warnings) in an excerpt from the book here.

Made to Stick should certainly be required reading for litigators, but all of us need to make ideas memorable.  And what’s delightful about the concept of stickiness is that it’s an easy and enjoyable read that will pay quick dividends largely because the concepts (once identified) are rather intuitive.

Footnote 1: You might wonder why I’m recommending a book that I’ve started to read but haven’t yet finished.  That’s because I was reading it while on a business trip.  When I was packing for my flight home, I knew I needed to review some papers and so I packed Made to Stick in my checked luggage.  Big mistake.  My luggage was somehow mistagged when I left Richmond (even though I watched the Delta agent tag the bag) and I got the runaround when I tried to track it down in Atlanta.  Very long story short, it’s now been 15 days and there’s no sign of my luggage.  I’d be delighted to bellyache about this further (there’s plenty of grist for that particular mill!) but suffice it to say that I’ll have to pick up another copy before I can finish reading the book.