Tuesday, March 16, 2010

"Six Thinking Hats": Using Different Perspectives To Make Better Decisions

As a lawyer coach, I often ask my clients who are feeling stuck or particularly challenged to look at their challenges from various perspectives to find one that fits and gives them opportunities and ways to move forward. By using different perspectives, my clients have found fresh ways to tackle various challenges. These have included discomfort with networking events such as chamber or business association gatherings, with marketing themselves and describing what they do, with billing all of their time, with developing a peer relationship with their more senior colleagues, with telling success stories, etc. Some of this perspective work includes metaphorically putting on different hats and thinking like an entrepreneur, a partner, a rainmaker, a leader, etc.

A lawyer reminded me this morning of another use of perspectives called "Six Thinking Hats". This is a decision making technique developed by Edward de Bono in his book "6 Thinking Hats." http://www.edwdebono.com/ See also ttp://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/newTED_07.htm The "hats" are a tool for looking at a decision from all points of view in order to make a better decision. Much like the perspective work my clients use, using the perspectives embodied by the Six Thinking Hats pushes people outside their habitual ways of thinking. Taking more perspectives into account results in better, sounder decision making.

You can "wear" these hats yourself when you are making an individual decision, and you can actually distribute colored hats to be worn by people in your group during a decision making discussion.

Here's a very quick snapshot of the perspective and thinking represented by each hat.
White Hat: focuses on the data available.
Red Hat: focuses on intuition, emotion, gut reaction.
Black Hat: focuses on negativity, pessimism, caution, worst case scenario.
Yellow Hat: focuses on positivity.
Green Hat; focuses on creativity.
Blue Hat: focuses on process control. The leader of a group making a decision might wear this hat.

Lawyers are trained to think logically and rationally, making decisions based on facts and the law. The challenge: take off your purely lawyer hat and put on these six hats the next time you face a big decision individually or as a group. Notice what happens to the quality of your decision making and/or also the effect on the group dynamics.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

2010 Sports Law Conference on Sports Related Practices & Alternative Careers

A lawyer/lecturer friend of mine at the University of Michigan's Division of Kinesiology has put together a terrific lineup of presenters at the 2010 Sports Law Conference on sports law careers. Open to lawyers, law students and all interested persons....

Registration is now open for the 2010 Sports Law Conference: “Recent Developments in Sports Law Careers and Practice.” The Conference will be held Friday, April 16, 2010, 9:00 am - 4:30 pm, at the Marriott Courtyard, Park Place Ballroom, in Ann Arbor. MI.

Presenters include expert practitioners in all aspects of Sports Law, including agents, in-house league counsel, front office management, NCAA rules compliance, Title IX litigation, and sports law teaching.

A cocktail reception will follow for all presenters and attendees @ 4:30 pm.

Discounted fees are available for all early registrants through March 19. Online registration is immediately available at the following website: www.regonline.com/misportslawconference

For a copy of the brochure and further information, please contact 2010 Sports Law Conference Program Coordinator Marissa Pollick at

You can also contact me for a copy of the brochure. elizabeth@yourbenchmarkcoach.com

Thursday, March 11, 2010

"Resisting The Urge": Today's Real Life Lesson in Networking

On December 18th I posted a challenge to resist your last minute urge to skip an event you had planned to attend. I adhered to this challenge again today and am glad I did.

Late this afternoon I almost didn't go to a get-together of the local new lawyers & criminal law sections. No rsvp had been necessary and I hadn't told anyone I was going. I had a coaching call at 7:00 p.m. I needed to be back for and I knew I could attend for only less than an hour. However, I had a couple of suits ready to contribute to the event's "suits for success" drive and I knew I could get there, be there and be back in plenty of time. So I went.

As it turns out, a free lance reporter for the local online paper was covering the event and interviewing people who brought in suit donations. One of the organizers directed him my way. Fortunately, or at least hopefully, between the two of us we managed to come up with something a little snappier than "I got a notice from the county bar association so I brought some suits."

In addition, I learned some helpful information from the reporter that I can use in coaching my lawyer clients who are enhancing their marketing efforts. I also had a bite to eat for dinner, met a few new people and caught up with a few I already know. A nice and useful forty minutes.

My comments may end up on the virtual editing room floor, but if I hadn't resisted my last minute urge not to attend, I wouldn't have even met the reporter or learned information I can share in my lawyer coaching.

p.s. As it turns out, I made the cut....

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Networking 101 for Law Students & Lawyers, Part Three, Specific Concerns cont'd

Ending a conversation & moving on. While speaking with a group of three law students for several minutes recently during a women lawyers happy hour, one of them looked me in the eye, smiled, extended her hand and in a confident voice said something like "Thank you for sharing your networking advice. It's been fun talking with you." I laughed and acknowledged her directness as she stepped away to talk with other people. The rest of the group shook my hand and moved on as well. The law students had learned how to end a conversation so that they could meet more lawyers at the event.

Until they practice it, a lot of people are uncomfortable being this direct. For some people it at least feels better to offer an excuse to end a conversation. But many people never gather the courage to disengage from conversations at all. Instead they forgo circulating, meeting and getting to know other people even though that is often the purpose of the event or at least standard behavior during the networking time or cocktail hour at an event.

At the other extreme, some lawyers I know take a very direct route and simply say "excuse me" and leave the conversation. People have said this to me and personally I find it a little jolting. Therefore, I prefer to acknowledge the other person with whom I have been speaking. It feels polite and like something my mother would approve.

Tips for exiting a conversation.
  1. After you, not the other person, finish saying something -
  2. Smile
  3. Shake the other person's hand
  4. Look the other person in the eye
  5. Say something like "It was nice to meet you. I enjoyed learning/hearing about . . . . Thank you." You are acknowledging and thanking the other person.
  6. Move away confidently.

Be confident and direct. Be pleasant. Be gracious. But above all, be yourself. Therefore, if it was not nice to meet this person, follow steps 1-4, tell them you hope they enjoy the rest of the event, and then move away confidently. Say hello to start talking to someone standing alone or join a group where someone steps back to make room for you.

Exiting a conversation can feel unusual and it takes practice. But like other aspects of networking, and like public speaking, it gets easier with practice.