Posts

Biz dev is a marathon.

A friend recently ran her first marathon. She didn’t know how it would feel to run 26 miles, and she was concerned about giving up partway through if she started to feel too tired. She even used a marker to write on the inside of her arm, “Your mind will give up before your body. Don’t stop.” She not only finished: she finished almost 15 minutes faster than she’d imagined she might.

Her tip? Don’t let the mind run the show when it’s tired, stressed, and worried. Make a commitment to action and keep going even when it gets hard.

That approach works for literal and metaphorical marathons. And that’s another reason why it matters so much that you have a business development plan with clear interim and ultimate goals: you’re less tempted to stop even when it gets hard if you can look to your interim goals to mark progress and focus on your ultimate goals to provide continues motivation. (Your ultimate goal means not originating and/or serving $X of business, but doing that so that you can make partner or pay cash for your kids’ college tuition or stay at the Four Seasons on your next vacation.)

Here’s the bottom line:

Happy Thanksgiving!

Whether you’re celebrating Thanksgiving or just going about an ordinary Thursday, please know how grateful I am for the opportunity to serve you through this blog.


P.S. The next installment of the webinar series:

Implementing Your 2021 Vision for a Profitable Practice
The webinar is scheduled for Thursday, December 17th at 1 PM ET/noon CT/10 AM PT.

Click here to register.

What the Tough Mudder can teach you about biz dev.

I recently talked with a friend who completed a Tough Mudder. For those of you who aren’t familiar, a Tough Mudder is a 10-12 miles obstacle race through a variety of obstacles (such as sprinting through a field of live wires) and, you guessed it, lots of mud. Aside from the obstacles, two aspects of Tough Mudder are legendary: the focus on teamwork (“no mudder left behind”) and on overcoming fears through the obstacles.  And it’s definitely tough—or so I hear since it isn’t exactly my cup of tea.

Here’s what my friend told me that made me think of the business development journey: “I came to appreciate the obstacles because every time I made it through one, I knew I was that much closer to the end. When I was in the middle of it, I couldn’t really tell how far I’d gone or how much I had left to the finish line, but the obstacles helped me know that I was actually making progress.” It’s a useful lesson.

Here’s what the Tough Mudder can teach you about business development:

  • Approach the race as a marathon, not as a sprint. Although the Tough Mudder is “just” 10-12 miles long, expecting to whip through it would be a huge mistake even if you run that distance every weekend. Likewise, business development will last for the rest of your private practice career, and you’ll run ragged if you behave as if it’s a goal to be conquered in the short term. Keep your eye on the long-term view even while working to overcome each immediate obstacle.
  • Overcome your fears. I have yet to meet a lawyer who built a book without having to face difficult and uncomfortable situations. You need grit and consistency to power through those situations just as you do during the Tough Mudder to jump from a tall platform into ice-cold water and then run to climb a scaffold and slide down a pole through a ring of fire.
  • Realize that you can’t do it alone. To succeed in building a successful practice, you’ll need help from mentors and colleagues who can give you suggestions and feedback, professional friends who can make introductions and open doors for you, and referral partners who can help you meet the right contacts and potential clients. It’s very difficult, if not impossible, to succeed alone—and you’d be wise to be invested in your teammates’ success as they are in yours.
  • Take the steps necessary to prepare. Training for the Tough Mudder might include cardio, weight lifting, and bodyweight exercises, along with finding out the best clothes to wear during the race and other “real life” tips. Preparing for business development may include designing your strategy and laying your business development plan, improving certain skills (networking skills, for example), learning about general principles of marketing, studying your target client’s likely concerns and goals, learning more about business principles, and so on. Whether it’s a Tough Mudder or business development, you can’t expect to go from zero to win without significant preparatory work.
  • Have a clear objective in mind. In most races, your time is your measure of success; in Tough Mudder, success might be measured in terms of your teamwork or even by overcoming the one obstacle that terrified you. Your personal definition of success should govern your business development efforts as well. You’ll likely approach business development differently if you want to become an equity partner at a large firm than you would if you want a more lifestyle-oriented practice. Knowing your “why” will let you be sure that you’re working to create the kind of success that matters to you.
  • Decide that you will succeed. Whether it’s the Tough Mudder or building a clientele to support your practice, you will hit obstacles—literal and metaphorical. It won’t be easy. At times you’ll wonder why you started this journey and you’ll consider abandoning it. Only your decision to persevere will keep you from giving up. Decide early and don’t look back.

Whether you’re training for a Tough Mudder or (like me) can’t imagine taking on that challenge, absorbing these lessons will help you build a successful practice. What else would you add?

Project Your Power

Leadership presence, which includes the ability to project power, is critical in any kind of interaction, whether you’re speaking with one person or to a crowd of 1000.  Failing to exhibit the kind of power that demonstrates self-confidence may leave your audience uncertain about your skill, but overdoing a display of power may come across as arrogance, which is a turnoff for almost everyone.

Amy Cuddy’s presented her research on “power poses,” which demonstrates that adopting or even just visualizing a confident pose delivers self-assurance in one of the most viewed TED talks of all time.  One of the fascinating aspects of that research is that taking a “power pose” can affect levels of testosterone and cortisol. In other words, this is not just a “fake it til you make it” shortcut: taking a powerful stand causes physiological effects that can change how you present yourself and thus how others perceive you.

Stanford professor Deborah Gruenfeld, who spent years studying the psychology of power, discovered that simply understanding the research is not enough to reap its rewards. She eventually teamed up with a theatre instructor to teach a Stanford Business School class called Acting With Power. Watch her micro lecture Playing High, Playing Low and Playing It Straight on YouTube, and you’ll pick up tips on how to project authority and approachability. It’s a worthy investment of time if you’ve ever felt a lack of confidence if you’ve ever received feedback that you come across as tentative, or if you’ve ever worried that you’re coming on too strong.

What does this have to do with business development? Simple: no one wants to hire or refer business to someone who may not be able to handle it. While leadership presence isn’t necessarily indicative of actual professional skill, it’s the stand-in that others will evaluate (consciously or not) as they decide whether you’re trustworthy.

Take a few minutes to check out these resources, and if you’re uncertain about how you come across (especially in situations that are uncomfortable to you), ask a trusted colleague. Your presence will have a significant impact on your career, so don’t delay.


P.S. Mark your calendar for the next installment of the webinar series, Mastering Your Time for Greatest Profit: Blending Year-End Billable Responsibilities and Holiday Relationship Development to Build Your 2021 Foundation. 

The webinar will be held on Thursday, November 19 at 1 PM ET/noon CT/10 AM PT. 

Click here to register.

What’s really stopping you?

You’ll find information on how to land new business anytime you pick up a law practice management magazine. You can’t avoid advice and resources about business development. And maybe that’s a good thing.

If all that information hasn’t helped you to develop your own method for securing new work, there’s something you need to figure out more than how or even why to get new business…

It’s what Seth Godin describes as “help and insight about getting to the core of the fear that is holding us back.”

Read this quick post, and then get honest with yourself about what fear is getting in your way. (Some common fears that I see are fear of seeming desperate or needy, fear of rejection, fear of disapproval, and fear of looking foolish. It’s worth noting that I have yet to see someone fail because of a fear of success.)

Need help with this? Let’s talk.


Did you miss joining Ivy Slater and me live for the Grow Your Network to Grow Your Net Worth webinar?

Whether you missed us or you’d like to watch again, you can watch the replay by clicking here.

Don’t delay! The replay is only available until Sunday, October 25th!


Mark your calendar for the next installment of the webinar series, Mastering Your Time for Greatest Profit: Blending Year-End Billable Responsibilities and Holiday Relationship Development to Build Your 2021 Foundation.

The webinar will be held on Thursday, November 19 at 1 PM ET/noon CT/10 AM PT.  

There will be more info next week on how to register.

 

 

Want change? Think goal, not tactics.

What if you could make it easier to change your habits and meet your goals? That’s the promise of The Key to Lasting Changes: Think Goal, Not Tactic on the Harvard Business Review Blog. Elizabeth Grace Saunders. The post’s author proposes three steps to help “identify tactics that will actually work for you and keep your focus on your big objectives:”

  1. Determine which goals you’ve been unable to meet despite your best efforts;
  2. Brainstorm other tactics you could use to achieve your goals; and
  3. Test one of your hypotheses.

As Saunders recognizes, change will always require discipline, patience, and practice. In other words, change requires effort, but it doesn’t have to be hard.

I’ve been using these steps recently to change a long-standing but detrimental habit of using my email inbox as a tickler file. Using a new folder for items that require follow up and an If This Then That (IFTTT) recipe to create a reminder on my calendar, I’ve been able to clear those items from my inbox. Not only is my inbox cleaner (which feels good), but I’m better at follow-up. That’s a huge win.

What would you like to change? Give Saunders’ process a try. I’d love to know how it works for you.


The next installment of the webinar series, Embracing Virtual and Remote Networking is tomorrow, October 15th at 1 pm EDT.

Click here to register.

Legal Marketing: What’s today’s biz dev goal?

In the northern hemisphere, we’re looking forward to winter, while southern hemisphere dwellers are looking toward a summer break. Wherever geography may place you, at some point or points over the next couple of months, you’re probably going to be facing an even stronger than usual collision of work, personal commitments, and culture-driven expectations.

It’s easy to let business development take a back seat during this time (or when you’re especially busy otherwise), but instead of dropping back simply because you can’t squeeze in a lot of activity, set one simple goal a day. Get in touch with someone you’ve been meaning to contact, send a useful resource, put some time into turning your LinkedIn connections into real relationships.

Here’s why:

Your task: for the next thirty days, select and accomplish one strategic business development action each day. If it doesn’t work for you, you can always go back to spasmodic action… But chances are that you’ll see significant benefit from this simple approach. And if you don’t know how to select the right step, check this post I wrote in 2019.


Mark your calendar for the next installment of the webinar series, Embracing Virtual and Remote Networking which will be held on October 15th at 1 pm EDT.

Click here to register.

Attaining leadership in a bar association

Working on a bar association committee or project is a good way to get leadership experience quickly. The reason is simple: because of the number and variety of bar associations (the ABA, state, city/county, area-of-practice, group affiliations, etc.) and the number and variety of sections and committees within each, leadership opportunities are
numerous.

Why should you consider bar involvement?

1.  To grow your professional network. Having a broad group of colleagues will prove useful over the span of your career in ways you probably can’t even imagine right now. Networks are useful if you need co-counsel on a case, if you’re conflicted out and want to refer a client to someone in whom you have confidence, if you’d like to take a deposition in an office in a distant city, if you’re looking for a new position, on and on and on.

2.  To contribute to the profession. The work produced by each group will vary, but you may have an opportunity to contribute to a report studying the challenges faced by women attorneys of color, the impact of multiple tiers of partners, or the latest revision to substantive or procedural rules of practice. You can use your skills and develop them further through this work.

3.  To contribute to society in general. Some groups will focus on work that directly impacts individuals, such as writing a report and passing a policy supporting or objecting to proposals relating to privacy, public health, and more. Although bar associations don’t have lawmaking authority, some have quite a bit of clout. You could potentially even end up testifying before Congress on behalf of a bar group.

4.  To advance your business development goals. If your practice is supported by referrals by other lawyers, or if it’s in an area that often requires involvement by a lot of lawyers, bar associations can create the opportunity for you to become known by your potential referral sources.

5.  Because it’s fun. When you find a group that’s a good fit for you, networking and conferences become a time to reconnect with friends and accomplish something of professional benefit. That’s a good deal!

So, how do you get started?

1.  Identify the bar group or groups that might be a good fit for you based on your goals and interests. Do you want to be involved with a local group or a national group? (If you’re looking to create a referral network, this is probably the #1 question you’ll need to answer.) Is your primary interest in a subject area, or would you be happy working in a substantive subcommittee of a non-practice-based group? (For patent law, for example, you might join the American Intellectual Property Law Association, or you might join the ABA or a state bar and seek involvement with an IP law section.)

2.  Next, identify a subgroup of that bar that you find interesting. Look through the sections, committees and subcommittees, or the list of projects that the group maintains. Your goal is to identify a small working group that will be a good fit for your skills, your interest, and your goals — in that order.

3.  Bar association working groups almost always need help. Perhaps you’re already a passive member of a bar group, receiving information and maybe attending CLE programs. To reap the benefit of membership, you must be active. Decide how much time you have available and what kind of assistance you’d like to offer. You may be able to get a feel for current projects from the group’s website.

4.  Contact the leader of the subgroup you’d like to join and volunteer. For all but the most prestigious groups, I can almost guarantee that a committee chair’s favorite words to hear are, “I’d like to help!” Find out how you can make a contribution. Look for something fairly short-term, so you aren’t boxed in and you can prove yourself quickly, and do a great job.

5.  Attend the business meetings of your selected group. Most bar associations meet at least annually, and those who attend are the leaders. If you want to become a leader, meet them. Learn more about the group’s activity, who’s involved, what its history is, and how things operate. Ask about the leadership track — how might you become a committee leader, a Section leader, or an association leader? Contribute to the conversation and volunteer where appropriate. Show your interest and your ability.

6.  Once you’ve taken on a few projects and done well, you will start to advance. Depending on the group, you can probably expect to become a subcommittee vice chair (or some equivalent title) within a couple of years, and sometimes much faster. Should you choose to advance in leadership, you’ll know much more about how to do so in your selected group; if not, you can probably continue at your current level of involvement and accrue additional benefits.

Want to make more rain? Be a better leader.


Leaders are better rainmakers.
  Bold statement, isn’t it?  But think about it.  Would you easily place your trust in someone who manages a team of worker bees who don’t make much individual contribution – knowing that if the manager goes down, the team will at best miss a few beats?   Or would you select someone who is skilled in assembling a strong team and evoking high performance from its members?

 

Clients generally hire lawyers, not firms, but clients count on the lawyers to assemble and run the teams necessary to get the business accomplished.  A leader is more likely to walk into a meeting with a prospective client and present not only his or her own professional experience, but also that of the team, complete with discussion of how the team as a whole would function to meet the client’s needs.  There’s a difference between a team leader who counts on the skill and expertise of team members and a legal hotshot who regards the team as merely a supporting cast.  Clients and potential clients (not to mention the team) will sense that difference.

 

A leader is more likely to show up for a meeting with a client or prospective  client ready to ask questions.   Which is more impressive, someone who talks nonstop about the cases she’s won and the professional accolades she’s received, or someone who asks questions first to determine what’s needed and then offers how her skill and experience would serve to meet those needs?  Which behavior is more characteristic of a leader?

 

Leaders have the emotional intelligence to establish strong relationships, even when something goes wrong.  Unfortunately, despite our best efforts, legal matters don’t always go the way they “should.”  Juries are notoriously unpredictable, case law changes, and unforeseeable events happen that derail strategies, no matter how carefully planned or executed.  Leaders tend to have the integrity to take responsibility when appropriate, and they have the discernment to focus on how to make things as right as possible under the circumstances.  By handling problems in this way, leaders tend to become trusted advisors rather than hired guns.

 

What part of your leadership development path is calling for focus so you can also improve your client service and business development skills?  Perhaps it’s your presence, since the way you hold yourself and the way you communicate both verbally and non-verbally can have a dramatic impact on how you’re perceived.  Perhaps it’s your self-management in the areas of time or energy.  Or perhaps you could be a more effective team leader, whether your team is the whole firm, a practice area team, a client matter team, or a project team.  Make the time to improve your leadership skills, and you’ll see client benefits as well.

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.