Building Relationships

Networking… I hate that term. It conjures up images of “working a room”… smiling, shaking hands and collecting business cards. Business cards that end up on your desk under a pile of papers or left in your suit pocket only to be found the next time you wear that jacket. Sound familiar? What a waste of time and energy, don’t you agree? I think we need to redefine what needs to be done. To build a solid book of business requires strong relationships and that doesn’t happen with the typical networking methodology.

Building relationships takes time, thought and trust.

Time…  Building relationships requires a series of touch points. An introduction, an email, a meeting, another email, a phone call, a lunch, a note with an article, another phone call, a thoughtful gift… and so on and so on. You’ve heard me say this before… Do something every day! I know what you’re thinking… “I don’t have time!” Make time! The legal profession is built on relationships… so, how strong are yours?

Thought… Cultivating a relationship doesn’t just happen because you happen to be in the same organization, conference or networking event. It happens as a result of strategic thinking. How could you help this individual before you ask for a thing? Who could you introduce them to? How can you deepen the relationship? Are you listening for clues to help you accomplish this? Do you really know what they do or have you assumed what they do? Do you know how you can truly help them? Not what YOU think could help them… but what they think would be helpful?

Trust… If you genuinely have something in common, you have something they need and want and you sincerely like them… then trust that the relationship will grow. And the work will follow.

Remember that there are many types of business relationships and they can all have a place in your circle. Even if someone provides a service you may never be able to use, you may have a client who would be thrilled that you introduced them to this individual. So treat every relationship as though it has value… because it does.

People hire lawyers that they know, like and trust. And the only way that can happen is to build a strong relationship. So, take the time that is required to make this individual feel heard and valued. Give the growing relationship strategic thought, how can you contribute to one another? And lastly stay on course and trust that it will develop into work… directly or indirectly. There are two things that are critical to your book of business… your experience and your relationships. And believe me… they are equally important.

If you’d like to discuss your strategy for building relationships, I would love to help… drop me an email.

“I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.” Could that be you? An Australian nurse named Bronnier Ware spent years caring for patients in the last 12 weeks of their lives. She blogged about her patients epiphanies and has now written a book… The Top Five Regrets of the Dying. Here are her findings from an article in The Guardian

1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me. “This was the most common regret of all. When people realize that their life is almost over and look back clearly on it, it is easy to see how many dreams have gone unfulfilled. Most people had not honored even a half of their dreams and had to die knowing that it was due to choices they had made, or not made. Health brings a freedom very few realize, until they no longer have it.”

This does not surprise me, since I hear many lawyers talk about how they hate being a lawyer and they only went to law school because it was expected of them. Maybe its time to evaluate why you are a lawyer, is it for you or for someone else? Or maybe you need to find a way to re-shape your practice so that it fits you and your dream!

2. I wish I hadn’t worked so hard. “This came from every male patient that I nursed. They missed their children’s youth and their partner’s companionship. Women also spoke of this regret, but as most were from an older generation, many of the female patients had not been breadwinners. All of the men I nursed deeply regretted spending so much of their lives on the treadmill of a work existence.”

I think we have all heard this one. It is why are so many are looking for the impossible…”work-life balance!” Maybe instead we should be looking for harmony, and setting priorities. And be happy with life as it ebbs and flows, instead of striving for the impossible and feeling like a failure when we can’t achieve it.

3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings. “Many people suppressed their feelings in order to keep peace with others. As a result, they settled for a mediocre existence and never became who they were truly capable of becoming. Many developed illnesses relating to the bitterness and resentment they carried as a result.”

It’s easy to just go with the flow in order to not make waves in the firm. I have a client who is a partner who gets unreasonable requests from a senior partner in a law firm and who has no children. Sometimes the requests seem like demands that cannot be negotiated. It is my belief that the response could be something like this… “I can’t meet you on Saturday morning but I could stay late Friday night, would that work for you?” Find a way to express your feeling and you just may find that you have an alternative.

4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends. “Often they would not truly realize the full benefits of old friends until their dying weeks and it was not always possible to track them down. Many had become so caught up in their own lives that they had let golden friendships slip by over the years.”

Relationships are at the core of the legal profession. Having the ability to work with friends and refer work to your friend is a privilege and a pleasure.

5. I wish that I had let myself be happier. “This is a surprisingly common one. Many did not realize until the end that happiness is a choice. They had stayed stuck in old patterns and habits. The so-called ‘comfort’ of familiarity overflowed into their emotions, as well as their physical lives. Fear of change had them pretending to others, and to their selves, that they were content, when deep within, they longed to laugh properly and have silliness in their life again.”

Happiness IS a choice and the more you smile the happier you will be. So instead of telling yourself… “I hate this case… I hate the job… I hate the law.” Find the little things that you DO like and say…I like my client… I like writing… I like walking to lunch. You can choose to find fault or you can choose to find happiness… what is YOUR choice?

Choose… no regrets!  Live your dreams. Make work and play so seamless that you can’t tell where one ends and the other begins. I know what you’re thinking… no one said it would be easy… but it can be done!

What a helping hand as you seek to build a practice that reflects YOUR dreams and YOUR priorities? I’d love to hear from you!

We all know the lawyer who walks into a room and and owns it. There is no mistake that his body language is saying… “I’m in charge.” So, what if your body language isn’t as commanding… can you change it? Well, according to Harvard professor and researcher Amy Cuddy, the answer is… YES! And a pretty emphatic yes if you ask me. She says, “Don’t fake it till you make it. Fake it till you become it.”

Body language can influence what others think about us, but can it influence what we think about ourselves? Have you ever felt like an impostor? Like you don’t deserve to be here? How many times have you walked into a meeting feeling that pain of not belonging? What if you could do something to change that and feel more powerful? Cuddy tells us how…

<

Are you mad at me? That’s a pretty eye-opening question to be asked, especially if in your opinion there is no basis to think such a thing. That is exactly what happened to Adam Bryant, a contributor to LinkedIn and writer of the column Corner Office for The New York Times.

A colleague I had worked with over the years came up to me in the hallway and asked if we could talk in a conference room. Sure, I said, wondering what was up. We sat down, and the question came out of the blue: “Are you mad at me?” Of course not, I responded immediately, since I had to no reason to be.

I was puzzled, but I realized later what was going on. As an editor, I faced a lot of tight deadlines, and I would often have just a short window to get a story into shape for the next day’s paper. I’m guessing I was thinking hard about some story as I walked through the newsroom one day — probably furrowing my brow, my mind a million miles away — when I briefly locked eyes with my colleague, who was startled enough by my body language to later pull me into a conference room to wonder if the air needed to be cleared between us.

That colleague did me a huge favor, because I learned a memorable lesson that day about how people can read so much into subtle, and often unintended, cues. From that moment on, I found myself making much more of an effort to be aware of my body language, particularly with the team of reporters I was leading, and to always show energy, confidence and optimism, even if I was on a tight deadline and wrestling with a difficult problem.

Many of us have similar stories. People can’t read our minds, but they do try to read our body language. Sometimes they’re right and sometimes they’re wrong. When they’re wrong is it because we have given the wrong message?  It is very important to identify situations in which you may be giving unintended cues. Bryant has an example of how to avoid this type of miscommunication.

Many CEOs have told me similar stories about moments when they realized how much they were, in effect, constantly under the bright lights of a stage, intensely scrutinized by employees who often pay more attention to the non-verbal cues than what their leaders are saying. Do they look concerned? Is something up?

It’s a challenge that every leader faces. Here’s a smart tip that Jeffrey Swartz, the former CEO of Timberland, told me he learned from his father:

“I remember him saying, ‘Pick a face. If you want to be serious, then you have to be serious all the time. Because if you’re serious one day and happy the next, people will be confused. They won’t be able to figure out where you’re coming from and that’ll be threatening.’”

Pick a face. Ever since that colleague asked me the surprising question about whether I was angry, I’ve tried to pick a face – no more furrowed brows – and be consistent. If leaders are consistent, then their employees can spend more time focusing on their work, and less time searching for clues in the boss’s body language.

I believe the real question here is this. What face do YOU want to be known for? Friendly, approachable, and happy or distant, unapproachable and angry? Ask yourself… What’s really in my heart? If it is, friendly, approachable, and happy, then show it. It’s as simple as that. It’s your choice. The more you show it the more you feel it. It builds on itself, and it makes a real difference to the people around you. 

I have coached many lawyers to write articles, blogs and books. The initial response is usually; I don’t have time, that’s too much work, what would I write about, who would be interested in what I have to say… and so on and so on! But what is really behind all those excuses? In many cases, fear… because writing is scary! Beth Hayden contributor to the blog Copyblogger, writes… Why We Still Need to Write, Even When We’re Scared. She breaks these fears down to the essence.

Sometimes when we publish something, it makes us feel like our insides are hanging out, for all the world to see. We feel vulnerable. We feel naked. We feel … terrified.

But here’s the thing — we have to keep writing, in spite of the fear. If we let fear stop us, our content will have no spark, no life. And everything we write will be completely unremarkable

Brene’ Brown, sociologist and researcher believes, “We are put on this earth to connect with one another. Connection is what gives meaning and purpose to our lives.”

But if we want connection, we have to be willing to be vulnerable. Even though vulnerability is often hard — sometimes even excruciating — we’ve got to put ourselves out there in order to experience connection.

And here’s what very few people are talking about in the field of content marketing — vulnerability not only makes us better human beings, it also makes us better writers, and better content marketers.

We have to be willing to put our ideas, opinions, and deepest fears out there, so we can truly connect with our audiences. Content that isn’t vulnerable — that doesn’t scare us, just a little bit — isn’t necessarily going to draw a huge audience of raving fans. It’s not going to get shared on social networking sites thousands of times. It’s not going to really impact the world.

Vulnerability is the missing piece in content marketing.

So next time you cover up the fear with excuses… think about connection. Connection is what bonds a client, prospect or referral source to you… that is what’s at stake. So are you willing to be vulnerable in order to achieve connection?

“Success” means nothing if it comes at the expense of your life. Define what it is you want in your life both personally and professionally. Dream as though there were no obstacles. And redefine success for yourself. Your dreams may seem impossible at the moment, but ask yourself… why not? I’m sure you will come up with many practical answers for why you can’t, but stop for a moment and say yes to… why not! Because if you look around you just may find someone who is doing exactly what you thought was impossible. Granted, it may not be the time for your dream to become a reality, but it IS the time to prepare for your dream, acquire the needed experience, lay the ground work and believe it can happen. I have had the privilege to be part of many of my client’s dreams…

  • The dream to be able to go to your child’s soccer match without glaring eyes of disapproval. This client joined forces with two other moms and created a firm of smart ambitious women lawyers that cover for one another so they can have the best of both worlds.
  • The dream to build a new practice area that will be in demand in large corporations and land those matters when others said it would never happen.Well, it is happening for one of my clients!
  • The dream to find a niche that would be enjoyable and gratifying and to succeed at becoming the top authority in the world in that niche… yes I said world. And yes, it is happening!

So… What could you dream up? What do you want to work toward? How are you going to get there? Redefine what success means to you. Your practice can fit into your life… but only you can make it happen.

 

A book of business gives you power, clout and… a seat at the table. If you want to be a partner in any law firm, big or small, you must have a book of business. It’s as simple as that!

I recently read an article from Altman Weil by James CottermanWho Should Be Partner In A Post Recession Profession? Part 1: Earning a Seat at the Table. Cotterman points out that “Law firm partnership carries certain responsibilities. First and foremost partners must generate business. A business development culture, accommodating different roles and styles, will permeate a successful firm.” Let’s face it without business development nothing else matters… you are just a lawyer with a desk.

So why are so many lawyers hesitant to commit to business development? It’s simply out of their comfort zone. But it doesn’t have to remain that way. There have been many things in your career that were not comfortable at first… but you tried different angles, practiced and stuck with it and sooner or later you mastered it. Business development is no different, it’s just a skill to master.

Cotterman goes on to pose some of the questions that should be asked when a lawyers is being considered for partner…

1. Is the individual active in developing a network of contacts and establishing relationships in the community?

2. Does she/he project an understanding of business and legal subject matter that demonstrates experience and expertise through writing and speaking?

3. Does this person seek, hold and successfully handle positions in professional organizations related to her/his area of practice?

4. Does this person seek, hold and successfully handle leadership positions in community (civic, charitable and religious) organizations?

There is no doubt that building relationships is at the core of all this. You can build relationships in a multitude of ways, in your community, among your colleagues and even online. Decide what tools you want to use and be consistent… do something every single day. Move outside your comfort zone and build a book of business… and if you want a seat at the table it can be yours.

I don’t know a lawyer that isn’t trying to squeeze more out of every single day… maximum productivity. We would all like to find a silver bullet… the answer to the demanding obligations we have in our lives. Jeff Haden contributor to Inc. Magazine wrote… 14 Simple Ways to Get Considerably More Done. It’s an eye-opening list and I think there are 8 tips that will be particularly helpful for lawyers.

1. Craft your “just say no” elevator speech. Entrepreneurs work hard on their elevator speech. They revise, they hone, and they rehearse because their elevator speech is important.

It’s also important to know, with grace and tact, how to say no. Most of us default to “yes” because we don’t want to seem rude or unfriendly or unhelpful. Unfortunately, that also means we default to taking on more than we want or can handle. Maybe your response will be as simple as what I plan to use, “I’m sorry, but I just don’t have time.”

Whatever yours is, rehearse so it comes naturally. That way you won’t say yes simply because you think you should; you’ll say yes because you think it’s right for you.

2. Set limits. Deadlines and time frames establish parameters, but typically not in a good way. We instinctively adjust our effort so our activities take whatever time we let them take. Tasks should only take as long as they need to take–or as long as you decide they should take.

Pick a task, set a time limit, and stick to that time limit. Necessity, even artificial necessity, is the mother of creativity. I promise you’ll figure out how to make it work.

3. Rework your nighttime routine. Every day the first thing you do is the most important thing you will do: It sets the tone for the rest of the day.

Prepare for it the night before. Make a list. Make a few notes. Review information. Prime yourself to hit the ground at an all-out sprint the next day; a body in super-fast motion tends to stay in super-fast motion.

4. Rework your morning routine. Then make sure you can get to that task as smoothly as possible. Pretend you’re an Olympic sprinter and your morning routine is like the warm-up for a race. Don’t dawdle, don’t ease your way into your morning, and don’t make sure you get some “me” time (hey, sleep time is me time). Get up, get cleaned up, get fueled up–and start rolling.

5. Rework one repetitive task. Think of a task you do on a regular basis. Now deconstruct it. Make it faster. Or improve the quality. Pick something you do that has become automatic and actively work to make it better.

Even if you only save five minutes, that’s five minutes every time.

6. Outsource one task. I was raised to think that any job I could do myself was a job I should do myself. Starting next week the kid down the street will cut my grass. He can use the money. I can use the time.

7. Fix that one thing you often screw up. I’m terrible about putting meetings and phone calls on my calendar. I figure I’ll get to it later and then I never do. I spend way too much time, often in a panic, trying to figure out when and where and who…

You probably have at least one thing you tend to mess up. Maybe you don’t file stuff properly. Maybe you put off dealing with certain emails and then forget them. Maybe you regularly find you’re unprepared for a call or meeting. Whatever your “thing” is, fix it. You’ll save time and aggravation.

8. Pick one task during which you won’t multi-task. Plenty of research says multi-tasking doesn’t work. Some research says multi-tasking actually makes you stupid. Maybe you agree. Maybe you don’t. Either way, I feel sure there is at least one thing you do that is so important you should never allow a distraction or a loss of focus.

Choose an important task and when you perform it turn everything else off. Focus solely on that task.

I think there is good sound advice here for lawyers and if you would put each and everyone into practice imagine how productive you could be… it’s likely to be life changing. Why not give it a try? I know I will!

Have you ever left a meeting with a smile and thought…”I really like that person?” Chances are the person was witty or even downright funny. Or have you been in an extremely tense meeting and someone cracked a joke and all of a sudden the tension was broken? Humor can be a valuable tool when developing business. Forbes staff writer Jacquelyn Smith looks into the subject in her article… 10 Reasons Why Humor Is A Key To Success At Work. Here are four of the reasons that I think lawyers should take to heart.

People will enjoy working with you. ‘People want to work with people they like,’ Vanderkam (author of What the Most Successful People Do at Work, and What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast) says. ‘Why wouldn’t you? You spend huge chunks of your waking hours at work, so you don’t want it to be a death march. Humor–deftly employed–is a great way to win friends and influence people. You need to be funny, but not snarky (that’s not good for team building) and you can’t offend anyone.’

Humor is a potent stress buster. ‘In fact, it’s a triple whammy,’ Michael Kerr explains (an international business speaker, president of Humor at Work, and author of The Humor Advantage: Why Some Businesses are Laughing all the Way to the Bank). ‘Humor offers a cognitive shift in how you view your stressors; an emotional response; and a physical response that relaxes you when you laugh.’

Ha + ha = aha! “Humor is a key ingredient in creative thinking,” Kerr says. ‘It helps people play with ideas, lower their internal critic, and see things in new ways.’ Humor and creativity are both about looking at your challenges in novel ways and about making new connections you’ve never thought about before, he adds.

It helps build trust. ‘You can build trust with the effective use of humor because humor often reveals the authentic person lurking under the professional mask,’ Kerr says.

So if you are hiding your sense of humor because you think lawyers should always be serious, think again… tasteful humor and great wit could be great assets when it comes to building relationships and landing more clients.

 

If you are a frequent reader of my blog you know that I have a motto for business development… Do Something Every Single Day! Creating a business development habit is key to building a book of business. But along with that we must look at the habits that we have acquired along the way that are counter-productive to building a book of business. Inc. Magazine contributor Jeff Haden writes about those little annoying things and the not-so-productive things we should consider NOT doing. He advises…

Every day, make the commitment not to:

1. Check my phone while I’m talking to someone. You’ve done it. You’ve played the, “Is that your phone? Oh, it must be mine,” game.

Want to stand out? Want to be that person everyone loves because they make you feel, when they’re talking to you, like you’re the most important person in the world? Stop checking your phone.

2. Multitask during a meeting. The easiest way to be the smartest person in the room is to be the person who pays the most attention to the room.

You’ll be amazed by what you can learn, both about the topic of the meeting and about the people in the meeting if you stop multitasking and start paying close attention. You’ll flush out and understand hidden agendas, you’ll spot opportunities to build bridges, and you’ll find ways to make yourself indispensable to the people who matter. It’s easy, because you’ll be the only one trying.

3. Think about people who don’t make any difference in my life. Trust me: The inhabitants of planet Kardashian are okay without you. But your family, your friends, your employees–all the people that really matter to you–are not. Give them your time and attention. They’re the ones who deserve it.

4. Use multiple notifications. You don’t need to know the instant you get an email. Or a text. Or a tweet. Or anything else that pops up on your phone or computer.

If something is important enough for you to do, it’s important enough for you to do without interruptions. Focus totally on what you’re doing. Then, on a schedule you set–instead of a schedule you let everyone else set–play prairie dog and pop your head up to see what’s happening.

5. Let the past dictate the future. Mistakes are valuable. Learn from them. Then let them go.

Easier said than done? It all depends on your perspective. When something goes wrong, turn it into an opportunity to learn something you didn’t know–especially about yourself. When something goes wrong for someone else, turn it into an opportunity to be gracious, forgiving, and understanding.

6. Wait until I’m sure I will succeed. You can never feel sure you will succeed at something new, but you can always feel sure you are committed to giving something your best. And you can always feel sure you will try again if you fail.

Stop waiting. You have a lot less to lose than you think, and everything to gain.

7. Talk behind someone’s back. If only because being the focus of gossip sucks. (And so do the people who gossip.) If you’ve talked to more than one person about something Joe is doing, wouldn’t everyone be better off if you stepped up and actually talked to Joe about it? And if it’s “not your place” to talk to Joe, it’s probably not your place to talk about Joe.

8. Say “yes” when I really mean “no.” Refusing a request from colleagues, customers, or even friends is really hard. But rarely does saying no go as badly as you expect. Most people will understand, and if they don’t, should you care too much about what they think?

When you say no, at least you’ll only feel bad for a few moments. When you say yes to something you really don’t want to do you might feel bad for a long time–or at least as long as it takes you to do what you didn’t want to do in the first place.

Imagine… if you truly committed to NOT doing these 8 things, how much more success you would have building relationships. Not to mention your productivity could go through the roof! Maybe it’s a bit much to ask that you tackle all eight at once. Try one for a week, then the next week add a second and so on. In two months you will have tackled all eight. What’s at stake? Strong relationships and productivity. So give it a shot!