What restores your professional self?

I often write here about taking the time for real recreation and relaxation.  It’s important for all of us (lawyer and non-lawyer alike) to do something that refills the pitcher of “self” so that we have more to pour out in service to our clients.

But there’s another dimension to restoration, and that’s getting the professional self recharged and refilled.  Have you ever been to a CLE meeting that’s so full of exciting ideas and interesting people that you feel yourself swelling with delight?  Remembering that sense of why you became a lawyer?  Knowing that, even on the difficult days, your decision was correct?  If not, you owe it to yourself to seek out that kind of experience.

Last Friday, I attended the annual conference of the DC chapter of the International Coach Federation.  (For those who are unaware, I split my time primarily between Atlanta and Orlando, but I’ve also elected to remain part of the DC coaching community following my completion of Georgetown’s Leadership Coaching certificate program.)  Make no mistake, I am delighted with my work as a coach on a daily basis.  And yet, attending this meeting popped my excitement to the next level, fueled my desire to learn and do more, and reignited by commitment to bringing the best of my self, my skills, and my experience into every coaching interaction, all in service to my clients.  It was an incredible day, and echoes of it will show up here over the next few weeks, I’m sure.

Several topics grabbed my attention sufficiently to share them here, albeit in shorthand.

First, sustainability.  I attended a program that asked how those of us who coach leaders can bring sustainability into the equation, and I expected to hear about personal sustainability.  Instead, the presentation addressed environmental and social sustainability.  I left mulling over what it means to be a citizen, personally or corporately.  I have an inchoate sense that there’s a role for lawyers beyond legislation and even beyond pro bono work… But I’ll tease that out over time.

Next, Marshall Goldsmith, executive coach extraordinaire to CEOs of companies such as Glaxo SmithKline, Ford, and many others, spoke about “feedforward” as opposed to feedback.  Rather than focusing on what’s happened in the past — which is, by definition, unchangeable — Goldsmith recommends a forward-looking process in which the subject selects a behavior to change and solicits suggestions on how that change might be accomplished.  The exercise is positive and forward-looking, and regardless of what idea is set forth to facilitate the changed behavior, the only acceptable response is, “Thank you.”  It’s a terrific process, and I commend the linked article to you for more information.  Can lawyers implement a feedforward process?  Hmmm, more to come on this.

And I attended a presentation on leadership in the context of advancement.  Perhaps you’ve seen the recent statistics showing the 40% of newly-promoted managers and executives fail within the first 18 months.  Scott Eblin spoke on his book The Next Level: What Insiders Know About Executive Success, particularly highlighting what behaviors will support leaders and which will undermine them.  There’s much more to say here as well.

Throughout the day, I met coaches with diverse specialties and training/experience.  Wonderful conversation popped at every turn.  And although I’d had only 3 hours of sleep the night before, I was energized by the day.

So… Where can you find professional reinvigoration?  How can you build it into your schedule?  Perhaps there’s a magazine that feeds your professional self?  Or a CLE topic, possibly directly related to your area of practice or possibly not, that stirs new ideas and excitement?  Perhaps it’s the pro bono work you do, research and writing or speaking, or simply meeting with colleagues for conversation about wide-ranging topics?

Next time you notice yourself feeling more energized professionally, notice what’s created that for you and notice the results it yields.  Chances are that you’ll find it develops you as a better-rounded lawyer who’s more committed to your profession and your clients.  It’s a win-win situation that deserves to be cultivated.

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