Evidence-based business development decisions

Have you ever found yourself wondering whether to pursue one or another course of action for business development purposes? Absent a crystal ball, unfortunately, it’s often difficult to know in advance what will get you the maximum reward. But if you track your results, you’ll be able to use the simplest system ever. Here’s how.

  1. Keep a record of your activities. You can make this simple or quite complex, but you’ll probably find simple to be more actionable. The simplest way to do this is to create a spreadsheet with spaces for date, activity, results,  next step, and decision. Every time you complete an activity, note it.
  2. As you begin to see results (or the lack thereof), update your spreadsheet. Many activities will get immediate results of one form or another (inviting a contact to lunch, for instance), but some may have a longer gap between action and result (actually having lunch with that contact and waiting to see whether you get work, introductions, or some other next step as a result). Schedule a monthly review to keep track of those longer-term results.
  3. Note your next steps.Assuming you’re going to continue this activity, what would your next step be? Ideally, you’d complete this entry after you see results, but if your activity is more prone to long-term results, you may need to project a next step based on the results you anticipate. If that’s the case, be sure that you go back to confirm whether those results actually came to pass. (If not, all the more reason for you to track your activity carefully and improve your predictions!)
  4. Once a quarter, review your activities and results, and decide whether you should stop or continue the activity based solely on the results you’ve attained.You might choose to overrule that decision (if, for instance, your results represent a promising midpoint toward a meaningful outcome), but this decision should be based purely on the evidence you see.
  5. For each “stop” you note, ask yourself what activity you might start to replace it. Use the evidence you’ve gathered to hone your ideas. If every indication is that attending bar association meetings is not beneficial for you, don’t add another bar group and hope for a different result. Instead, investigate an industry organization or a business group.

Want to get even better results? Ask a mentor or trusted colleague to help you determine what to start, stop, and continue. The benefit of this process (adapted from the performance review context) is that you’ll quit making decisions based on emotions like hope (“but if I keep doing this, I might land an amazing piece of business”) or fear (“I’m really comfortable doing this, and if I start doing that instead, it’s going to be hard and I might fail”). And when you remove emotion, you’ll see clearly what to do.

What should you start, stop, or continue?

Communications trouble? Maybe it’s you!

I’m pleased to share  an article written by Annetta Wilson, one of the communications experts who will be leading the upcoming teleseminar Cut Through Communications Chaos.  Have you ever tried to have a conversation with a colleague or client only to discover that you’re talking at cross-purposes, with no middle ground you can find?  Read on…

Maybe They’re Not Crazy:  Maybe It Is YOU!


Not quite the headline you expected in an article about communication, is it? 

Okay, it’s a little misleading.  Sometimes, though, when we’re in a conversation that’s going in circles and getting nowhere, it can feel like we’re going crazy. 

Rest assured that you’re not losing your mind (unless, of course, you’ve been officially diagnosed).  It’s possible that you simply don’t recognize the other person’s communication style or know how to adapt to it. 

You have a communication style, too.  Think about your best friend, significant other or someone else in your life that you can talk to for hours and be completely in sync.  That’s not magic, it’s a style match.

There are some ‘magical’ beings out there that almost everyone can relate to.  Then there are the ones you want to run from when you see them coming.  That’s right: mismatched styles.


Before you pull out your label-maker, understand that there are no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ styles.  It’s simply a matter of what works in a given situation and what doesn’t.  

In what situation does your particular communication style fit perfectly?

Are you the ‘schmoozer’ who makes everyone feel at ease, even when it’s not YOUR party?

Or are you the ‘bottom line’ person who sees the big picture and puts everything in perspective?

Maybe you’re the ‘magical’ one everyone seeks out for sage advice and is usually the voice of reason.


Then again, you could be the ‘detail’ person who always makes sure that the data checks out, nothing is left to chance and who is happy to leave that ‘people’ stuff to someone else.

All are necessary.  All are different.  And all can be annoying if not put in the right role at the right time or the right setting!


Tip:  The next time you’re tempted to criticize or get upset with someone because they don’t communicate the way you do, ASK them how they prefer to receive information from you.

Detailed information in written form may make some people ecstatic, while others are perfectly fine with a quick verbal overview and just the highlights.

Someone else may need to socialize a bit before they can focus and get down to business.  Allow them that two to three minute window.

Remember to let them know how you want to be communicated with, too.

The point is, if you don’t ASK, you don’t GET.  If you don’t TELL them, everyone’s confused. Clarity beats ‘crazy’ any day!

Asking a simple question like, “What’s the best way to communicate with you?” can eliminate a mountain of aggravation and create untold opportunities to learn something new.  


©2007 Annetta Wilson Media Training and Success Coaching. All rights reserved.

About the Author

Annetta Wilson is a business strategist specializing in media training and presentation skills coaching. A talent coach for CNN, she has also coached for Walt Disney World. She makes it easier for high-profile individuals and teams to communicate more powerfully. Annetta is an award-winning journalist with more than 30 years experience in the broadcast industry, a Certified Trainer and a Certified Professional Behavioral Analyst.  


Visit her Web site at www.YourCoachForSuccess.com  


Are you suffering from communications chaos?

Lawyers rely on good communications skills.  Whether it’s in writing or in person, how well a lawyer communicates will have a significant impact on her career success.  We spend a lot of time learning how to make effective, persuasive oral presentations in the context of practice, but what about day-to-day communications?  These examples illustrate the problems that can occur.

**  Adam Associate has just started working with Paula Partner.  Adam is a good lawyer with strong skills, but things just aren’t gelling in his working relationship with Paula.  Last week, Adam put together a memo illustrating some strategic decisions to be made for a client.  The memo reviewed the possibilities and included lots of data and details on each option.  When he gave Paula the memo with its attachments, she looked at it and snapped, “Adam, I need a bottom line.  What’s the game plan here?”  Adam began to review the options so he could give Paula the background necessary to understand his final recommendation, but he could tell she was getting more and more impatient.  Finally he cut his comments short and told her what he thought the client should do.  Paula thanked him, and after Adam left she sat down to do her own quick review of the situation.  A few days later, Adam was surprised to find out that she’d made a recommendation to the client that was a good approach but didn’t make use of the hard work he’d done.  Both Adam and Paula are frustrated, and Adam is wondering whether he’s in line for a negative (and unfair?) review since Paula clearly doesn’t appreciate his precision and thoroughness.

**  Paula recently made a pitch to Clinton Client over lunch, to represent his company in a huge merger.  She delivered clear though somewhat abstract information about her experience and the firm’s capabilities, and she presented him with an action plan that showed how she’d hit the ground running.  She was puzzled that Clinton kept throwing in new ideas that were far outside what she had contemplated, and she was annoyed that Clinton interrupted their conversation several times to speak to friends and acquaintances in the restaurant.  Paula had the feeling that Clinton knew every person who walked through the door and that he was intent on speaking to all of them.  He asked whether Paula or her firm represented any of the movers and shakers in his industry, most of whom he identified as friends.  Although Paula was willing to make a personal connection with Clinton, she wanted to move on to business and was frustrated that Clinton seemed to be more interested in telling stories and drawing analogies rather than sticking to the facts.

**  Adam was having trouble with Sue Secretary.  Although she had terrific skills, Sue always wanted to know more about the work she was doing and seemed to approach Adam’s practice as if she and Adam were a team.  Although Adam appreciated her interest, he didn’t particularly enjoy the “bonding time” of talking about family and personal interests, and he sometimes felt that Sue’s favorite word was “why.”  Sue couldn’t stand the organizational systems that Adam demanded and wondered especially why he needed his files to be identical, with the labels printed in a certain font and arranged according to the system he’d been using since his first year in practice.

Do these situations sound at all familiar?  Have you ever found yourself wondering why someone behaves they way they do or wished you could predict how they might respond to a situation?  I’ve been using an assessment known as the DISC with clients for over a year now to help explain and eliminate these communications problems.  DISC measures the extent to which you exhibit behavior and communication styles known as Dominant, Influencing, Steady, or Compliant.  Once you know your own style, it becomes easy to recognize other people’s styles, and that allows you to adjust your own style for maximum effectiveness in communications.  You can learn more about the DISC here, here, and here.


By the way… What IS coaching?

I had an interesting conversation this weekend with a group of friends and colleagues about what I’m doing now.  Although I’m still practicing law part-time (with no desire to stop, honestly), coaching — and specifically, coaching lawyers — has taken the prize as my top pursuit.  So I’ve told these folks about the Georgetown University leadership coaching program that I’ve just completed, about the mix of telephone versus in-person clients, why I think coaching for lawyers is so beneficial and how I got into it, what I’ve observed in working with my clients, and so on.

And then, after we’d been talking for a while, one friend piped up and asked, “By the way… What exactly is coaching anyway?”

Ah.  Because I’ve become steeped in coaching, I forget.  Not everyone knows what coaching is.  I’ve had the same question from people who’ve contacted me after reading my blog, so I thought I’d share the answer here.

In coaching, I work with individuals (primarily but not exclusively lawyers and executive directors/CEOs of non-profit organizations) to create professional and personal change, to reach sustained excellent performance, and to do the work so that my client can self-correct and generate his or her own processes for change.

For instance, I work with lawyers who are in the first few years of their career to map out what professional path they’d like to follow and to identify the steps to get there.  I work with more senior lawyers who’d like to make a change in the path they’re on now.  I support people who are over-committed and over-stressed in finding a way to maintain (or develop) excellent performance by managing their energy and being fully present when they’re at home just as they’re fully present at work.  I help job-seekers with their resumes, cover letters, and interview skills, and I help them to identify the kind of position that would be most satisfying for them.

Some clients hire me to fix a performance problem, and some clients hire me because they want to fast-track their success.

When I coach, I ask questions that cut to the heart of the matter.  What do youwant — you, not your spouse or parents or colleagues or friends?  How do you want to go about getting it?  What’s standing in your way, and how can you work through the obstacles?  I may offer observations (did you notice that your voice quavered when you said XYZ?  What’s that about?) and suggestions for reflection and action.  Because I’ve been in practice and have learned something about being a lawyer, sometimes I’ll also put on my consultant’s hat and give direct advice, if that’s what the client wants, about how some action is likely to play out.

I am results-oriented, because I want my clients to identify what they want, to figure out how to get there, to do the work (both external and internal work), and to learn through the process.  Although there’s a lot of variation, I usually tells prospective clients to expect to work together for at least 3 months, because that’s about how long it takes to see changes, and I usually work with clients for 6 months to a year.  And sometimes clients will stop coaching for a while and then return.  It’s client-driven, because my top concern is to work in whatever way will best serve my client.

And I offer these parting thoughts from What an Executive Coach Can Do for You, reprinted from the Harvard Management Update:

“Coaching has evolved into the mainstream fast,” says Michael Goldberg, president of Building Blocks Consulting (Manalapan, New Jersey), whose clients include New York Life and MetLife. “This is because there is a great demand in the workplace for immediate results, and coaching can help provide that.” How? By providing feedback and guidance in real time, says Brian Underhill, a senior consultant at the Alliance for Strategic Leadership (Morgan Hill, California). “Coaching develops leaders in the context of their current jobs, without removing them from their day-to-day responsibilities.”

At an even more basic level, many executives simply benefit from receiving any feedback at all. “As individuals advance to the executive level, development feedback becomes increasingly important, more infrequent, and more unreliable,” notes Anna Maravelas, a St. Paul, Minnesota-based executive coach and founder of TheraRising. As a result, she says, “Many executives plateau in critical interpersonal and leadership skills.”

. . .

More specifically, the experts say, coaching can be particularly effective in times of change for an executive. That includes promotions, stretch assignments, and other new challenges. While you may be confident in your abilities to take on new tasks, you may feel that an independent sounding board would be beneficial in helping you achieve a new level of performance, especially if close confidants are now reporting to you. More so, you may recognize that succeeding in a new role requires skills that you have not needed to rely on in the past; a coach may help sharpen those skills, particularly when you need to do so on the fly.

But coaching is not just for tackling new assignments. It can also play an invigorating role. Coaches can help executives “develop new ways to attack old problems,” says Vicky Gordon, CEO of the Gordon Group coaching practice in Chicago. “When efforts to change yourself, your team, or your company have failed—you are frustrated or burned out—a coach can be the outside expert to help you get to the root cause and make fundamental changes.”

So, that’s what coaching is.

Business Impact of Executive and Leadership Coaching

Since coaching is still a relatively new profession, having been around only since the 1990s, there isn’t much in the way of data to back up coaching’s claim to effectiveness.  As a lawyer myself, particularly as a lawyer with some scientific training, that’s been troubling to me.  I know coaching works because I’ve worked with a coach and I know that impact that experience had on my life, my practice, and my career path.  But that’s pretty soft data.

So I was delighted to find two reports today: one that summarize the return on investment of leadership coaching at a professional service firm and one that summarizes the return on investment of executive coaching at a Fortune 500 firm.  The data from these summaries are impressive.

86% of leaders in the professional service firm rated leadership coaching as very effective; 95% are doing things differently as a result of coaching; and leaders noted significant impact in their leadership behavior, team-building, and staff development.  According to the study, the ROI from such coaching is 689%.

Among the executives coached, 60% noted a favorable impact on productivity and 53% cited increased employee satisfaction as a result of coaching.  The summary states that 60% of survey respondents identified specific financial benefits that resulted from their coaching, though details are not provided.  The study concludes that coaching provided a 529% ROI.

While these studies are open to question if only because the company that performed the studies also provides coaching services, the results strongly indicate that coaching is valuable in measurable and quantifiable ways.  That conclusion is backed up by a 2001 Fortune article that states, “Asked for a conservative estimate of the monetary payoff from the coaching they got, these managers described an average return of more than $100,000, or about six times what the coaching had cost their companies.” Executive Coaching — With Returns a CFO Could Love, Fortune, 2/19/01.

Because of my own experience, I’d believe in coaching even without data like this.  But it’s nice to see these reports that back up what I already know.