Monday, December 28, 2009

2010 Planning: Goal Setting & Values Check

Last week I posted how in December I ask my clients to review their past year and acknowledge 100 of their accomplishments. In December I also ask them to write next year's holiday letter - - as if they are looking back at the upcoming year.

When I do this exercise myself (as I had to assure one of my clients that I do), I start with a stream of consciousness or "scribbling" approach and write quickly without contemplation. I usually surprise myself with some of what I write about what happened in the upcoming year.

(A note about writing: one of my college English professors required weekly writings he called "scribbles." They were a page or two about any thought we had related to the novel we were studying. For some reason, calling them scribbles was liberating. I still often use this approach to get started writing.)

If you haven't set some goals yet for next year, or even thought about a New Year's resolution, set down that burden and scribble a 2010 Holiday Letter instead.

I think you will find it is a different way to discover your values and what you really want to accomplish in the upcoming year.

Scribble and see what unfolds for you in 2010.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Your Year In Review: 100 Accomplishments

We're near year end. It's a time for year end awards like Person of the Year and retrospectives like The Year's Best and Worst [anything]. It's also a good time for the rest of us to review our year and acknowledge ourselves for what we did and who we were this year.

In December I ask my clients to give themselves a gift. I ask them to create a list of 100 things they accomplished during the year. As they make the list, they realize that they accomplished a lot more than they thought they did. And at some point in the list-making process, they usually realize it's not always about the "doing", it's also about the "being".

What does that mean? Make your list of 100 accomplishments and you'll find out.

You'll probably start with easy metrics related to work. At some point you will start thinking about all of the things you did in your personal life as well. Eventually you will get to more of who you were -- perhaps how you remained resilient, persevered, asserted yourself , met new people, were a friend or deepened relationships.

I know this is a hard assignment for people who were raised not to brag about themselves. If this sounds familiar, ask yourself what it is to brag.

You don't have to share your year end list with anyone. But do take the time and acknowledge yourself for what you did and who you were in 2009. A great coach I know calls this "savoring your year."

Give yourself this gift. Notice what happens when you do.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Business Development: George Clooney & Lawyers

No, this post isn't actually about George Clooney, but it is about business development and job search advice that holds true for actors as well as lawyers.

Over the weekend I heard a brief interview with a local actress who has a bit part in George Clooney's new movie, Up In The Air. Apparently she plays an airline ticket agent with a scene with Mr. Clooney. Part of the movie was filmed in the Detroit Metro Airport. When asked what advice she would give to aspiring actors and actresses who want to be in such movies, she said "Put yourself out there, meet people, network." (And she wasn't referring to another way of trying to get to the top.)

So there you have it. Whether you are an aspiring actor or a lawyer trying to develop more business or get a new job, the advice remains the same: extend yourself, meet people and build relationships.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Business Development: Luck Is What Happens When . . .

"Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity." (Seneca, mid-1st Century Roman philosopher.)

I was reminded of this saying this week after I congratulated three lawyers on getting new clients within the last week, and then, when discussing business development, three other lawyers told me that they weren't born into country club families and/or their relatives didn't own businesses.

The second group of lawyers shares a narrow perspective about how lawyers start to develop a book of business. We could name the perspective "I Don't Have a Book of Business Because I Wasn't Lucky Enough to Have Family Connections." I think it's a commonly held perspective about rainmakers and rainmaking. It's often a very strong self-limiting belief for lawyers.

If these lawyers shifted their perspective even slightly to "Having a Book of Business Depends on Luck", they might see some new ways to attack the challenge of getting more clients.

For example, if you believe luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity, then (1) prepare, and (2) start improving your chances for opportunities.

I'll leave the preparation part alone for now, and focus on how you can increase your number of opportunities, and thus improve your rainmaking.

Are you always eating lunch alone (author Keith Ferrazzi says never do this), avoiding colleagues in embarrassment because of your hours and other statistics, wondering why referral sources have gone dry, letting friendships slide, shunning networking events, procrastinating over writing articles for industry associations, making no new friends (business or otherwise), always sending email but never using the phone, giving up on new marketing efforts after just six months?

Do you talk to strangers in the airport, in line at the grocery store, at your child's soccer game, at networking events? Are you getting involved in issues and organizations that you care about and becoming a leader? Are you letting your world know who you are, what you care about, and what you can do for people and organizations that matter to you?

Or do you assume and hope that people who know you and what you do will come to you when they need a lawyer, and that those who don't know you will somehow find you?

Creating opportunities boils down to putting yourself out there, meeting people and building relationships.

Here are a few recent success stories of lawyers overcoming their own resistance, putting themselves out there and increasing their business opportunities. One of my lawyer coaching clients joined FaceBook in the last two months and this week received a job opportunity through an old friend. Another reached out to reconnect with former colleagues and now is local counsel on a matter. A third befriended a quiet partner last week and now has a strong new champion. Another lawyer recently resisted a last minute urge to skip his law school reunion and now has a new relationship.

So here are my questions for you: What's the name of the perspective you want to have on business development? And what can you start doing to create your own "luck"?

I'll write more about "resistance" in a later post. For now, consider this challenge compiled from real life examples in the last two months, including the reunion one above.

Challenge: If you get a last minute urge not to attend an event you planned to attend, RESIST! Resist that urge. Even if you were always luke warm about attending, resist and attend. Notice what happens. See what business development opportunities are there. You'll never know who you might meet unless you go.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Keeping It Simple

I went to a local "Bar" dinner in a nearby city this week at the encouragement of another lawyer. I didn't know if I would know anyone or what the format would be like - - I knew it wasn't a holiday party. I'm not a member, I couldn't find anything about it on the Web, and for several trivial reasons I almost didn't go.

It turned out to be an elegantly simple idea started more than 30 years ago by lawyers in the city who wanted to get together for dinner once a month. There are no dues, no officers, no bylaws, no applications. There is no program, no speaker, no website. The group has dinner at the same place every month. There is no charge. You pay your own drink tab but the dinner is covered. There were about 35 lawyers this month because of the holidays. I'm told it ranges from 15-40.

The only requirement is that when it's your turn every few years, you and two others split the restaurant bill in thirds. The restaurant has your name and bills you.

What a perfectly simple idea: people getting together with no agenda and no obligations. Just pay when it's your turn.

I sent an email to the woman who tells people when it's their turn so that I can go again and know that I'm in the rotation. I met a lot of friendly lawyers who made me feel welcome. I look forward to the next one.

Keeping it simple. Works for me.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Holiday Event Networking Tips & Beyond

'Tis truly the season of holiday parties. I've been to three lawyer related holiday gatherings in the last week, with two more this week. It's not that I've been on the lookout for people violating the basic rules for holiday parties or for event networking, but I've noticed that generally a lot of people seem to be comfortable, meeting new people and having a good time. If you are not yet one of those people, here are some quick suggestions that go beyond the good advice about limiting your alcohol intake and dressing appropriately. That advice and these suggestions apply to all events anytime anywhere.

Before you go:
Identify the returns before you go. Knowing why you are going and what you want will motivate you to make the most of the event.

Practice your self introduction and read up on the day's news. Starting a conversation can be as easy as saying something about the event or the facility or asking what drew the other person to the event.

Put your business cards in your suit pocket or outer pocket of your purse. Always keeps some in your car in case you forget some for your suit or your purse, or you attend an event on the spur of the moment.

Arrive Early:
Scan the name tags on the registration table. Meet the organizers and host. Consider how you can help the event be a success. Put your name tag on your right lapel or to the right of where it would be. This makes it easier for people to read as they extend their hand to shake yours. Meet other people as they arrive, before they start breaking into groups.

During the event:
Focus on others instead of yourself. Try one of the following. Be gracious, act like a host, approach those standing alone and put them at ease. Connect people with others in the room. Have energetic conversations. Ask questions to engage people in something that interests them. This usually includes themselves. "How did you get started in your business? How would I know if I am speaking to a potential client of yours? What is your biggest challenge?" Listen well and twice as much as you speak.

If no one is standing alone, look for groups of 3 or more to join. People tend to pair up. A group with an odd number can be easier to join. Does someone appear to be disengaged in the conversation? Introduce yourself to that person. If you feel uncomfortable, move on and find ways to help other people.

Start conversations with people while in line for the food or bar. Smile and say hello, even if you are just passing someone. Spend time getting to know new people. You can talk with your friends and colleagues another time. Keep in mind your purposes for attending the event. Get the business cards of the people with whom you feel a strong connection. You do not have to get cards from everyone.

After the event:
Congratulate yourself for going, for arriving early and for what you did well. Consider how you can do things differently next time. Record notes and contact information for those people with whom you felt a connection. Follow up with them in timely, appropriate ways.

Best wishes for your holiday events!

Friday, December 4, 2009

What Color Is Your Success?

As I entered recurring lawyer coaching appointments in Outlook well into 2010 for three new clients this week, I used my coaching color. In designer speak, it's a "warm" color. To me, it's a "happy" color. (Perhaps also a "hoppy" color.) It's also prevalent in my home.

As I see my calendar continue to fill with this color, I can easily assess the growth in my coaching practice over the past year. I can also easily compare it against the amount of green entries - - for obvious reasons - - for business development activities. The green quickly shows me when I spent a lot of time on business development, when there were lulls, and what lies ahead in 2010. Of course, because I enjoy these activities, they could be the happy color as well, or the coaching calls could be green. But systems help us stay organized and on track, and this one works for me. As these colors expand in my calendar, I see the benefits of what I've been doing and I keep moving forward.

So here are my questions for you: What colors do you want in your 2010 calendar? When will you start coloring?

Another good question comes from a discussion I had with one of my non-lawyer clients this week. She is a young engineer in a management position and we talked about delegation and developing a key direct report. Working with him on his role, she advised him to "do [this] and it will set you up for success the rest of the day." This struck me as so simple and yet so powerful that it felt like an absolute guarantee. I turned it around and asked what would set her up for success on her challenges every day. Since that conversation, I've used this process every morning myself. How about you? What thing can you do that will set you up for success the rest of the day?