Practice by Design

A good part of my practice includes defending lawyers caught in the ethics area, and working with firms on ethics and strategy matters. I get to meet with folks who are under pressure. As I get deeper and deeper into the whys of what brought them to me, I see that pressure is what got them into their problem in the first place. 

Three Things They Don’t Teach in Law School

I have the privilege of working with and talking to a number of recent law grads and law school students. They have a great understanding of the law and are eagerly learning procedures and writing, and can’t wait to practice. I have found that they are pretty much unaware of their lack of understanding in a few things that are essential to a successful life as a lawyer.

What “I Just Don’t Have Enough Time” Really Means

The “not enough time” problem is endemic. Every one of my consulting clients runs into this at one time or another. Frankly, this is usually given as the reason that person is thinking about selling their business or just shutting it down. Week in and week out, year in and year out, this is an exhausting challenge if it is not met head on.

Dealing with Disappointment

If you continually experience broken promises, you’re playing into a pattern that sets you up for let-downs. Learn how to change the pattern and you’ll avoid disappointment.

If you continually experience broken promises, you’re playing into a pattern that sets you up for let-downs. Learn how to change the pattern and you’ll avoid disappointment.

If you frequently feel “disappointed” and you don’t like it, maybe it’s time to analyze what is going on.

You can’t be disappointed if you have no expectations. In order to be “let down” by someone or some circumstance, you have to have set up some expectations for the future. 

Maybe someone promised you something, and then they did not come through. Disappointment is a result of having believed them when they made the promise to you. Not only did you believe them but you became invested in an outcome –the outcome being that they would act in conformity with their promise. 

Requests and Promises

It is an interesting practice to make a request and then receive the other person’s promise. After receiving their promise you can simply wait to see if they fulfill their promise to you. If a person does not fulfill their promise, that tells you something about your relationship with that person. 

Listen carefully to what you hear. If someone makes a promise and then does not fulfill it, do you make another request? Do you count on them to fulfill their promises? How many times must they break their promise to you before to stop making requests? 

If you keep making requests, receiving promises, and the promises are broken, aren’t you playing into a pattern which: 1) assures that you’re not getting your requests fulfilled, and 2) setting your own requests aside for the other person’s actions.

What Do You Accept for Broken Promises?

Now, if you make a request and obtain a promise which is broken, what do you accept as a “reason” for the person breaking the promise? 

•    Do you wait to hear the story, which the person tells you as a way of justifying the breaking of the promise? 

•    How do you assess the story, is it true? 

•    What part did they play in the story? 

•    Does the story repeat itself over and over again? 

•    If the story seems to repeat, how many times do you listen to the story before you finally decide not to make any more requests of the person?

Consider Your Request

Another aspect to consider is your request itself. Were you clear in what you requested? Did your request include a deadline or a time aspect? Without some timeframe for their promise to take place, how long do you have to wait before you know whether or not the person has made good on their promise to you? If you do not place a timeframe on your request, you simply cannot know if the person kept or broke their promise to you. 

A bit of clarification about timeframes…I have played with this a bit. I have made requests with my timeframe and left it up to the other person to say yes or no to my request. I have also made my requests and let others choose their timeframe; they tell me when they will fulfill their promise. 

When they choose their deadline or timeframe for their performance on the promise, they are more likely to fall short of making good on the promise. This surprised me at first. I thought that it would be more “fair” to let others choose their deadline and, that as a result, they would fulfill their promises more frequently than if I set the deadline. 

It seems that “fair” has little to do with whether or not others fulfill their promises to me. It also seems that if left to pick their deadline, they are less bound by it than if I picked it and they assented. When they picked their own deadline for their performance on their promise, their “story” (i.e., their version of events used to justify their behavior of failing to keep their promise) would weave into it angles that justify them in breaking their promise and picking the wrong deadline. Either way, they still do not keep their promises. Either way, all we are left with is a story.

The Role of Relationships in Requests

Another part of your analysis is: what has to be present for you to make a request of another person? If you are paying someone to do a job, does that entitle you to make certain requests? If you are married to someone, and for how long, does that alter the nature of the requests you can make and the frequency of your requests? If someone is your child, does that entitle you to make requests? While you are looking at these questions, also listen to hear if your requests are truly requests at all.

Requests Allow Freedom of Choice

For a request to be a request, we must allow the other person free choice. If we request something and expect a yes, what entitles us to “expect” the yes? 

A “request” made to someone who has to say yes is truly more like a master-slave relationship. Listen to hear if this is something that you are doing. Most people do not like to be in a master-slave relationship as the slave but as I have observed, it happens all the time. After a while, depending on the people, there may be a revolt by the slave. Is the slave master entitled to be “disappointed” by the slave who revolts? It seems that reason would dictate that the answer is no, but wee see it all the time.

Analyze Your Disappointments and Grow

If you are disappointed frequently, do a little analysis. Take a look at what is going on. Watch the transactions. Feel into the push-pull of the relationship. Learn to make requests. Learn to make and fulfill promises. 

Insight into this process will have you grow up quickly. What will I grow into, you ask? You may grow personal integrity. You may develop the ability to keep a commitment, and to spot those who don’t. You may learn to make requests all over the place … and if you learn that you will not be disappointed.

 

In the comments below, share your most powerful insight from this post about dealing with disappointment, making requests, and receiving promises. What has been your experience? 

Brian Vincent has over 30 years of experience as a business law attorney and has worked extensively with business owners to protect and defend their interests. Contact Brian online or at (616) 608-4440 with your questions.

 

Posted on September 14, 2016 .

Transform Worry Into Winning

Are you worried about your business day and night, whether you’re too busy or too slow? Discover two moves to winning the game of extremes. 

Are you worried about your business day and night, whether you’re too busy or too slow? Discover two moves to winning the game of extremes. 

Frank is a great guy who’s playing a losing game. He has a great wife, a beautiful family, and a successful business (not typically loser traits). He services PCs and networks, and over many years has gotten really good at it. His clients depend on him. Every time he stops in to do some work, he walks out with more. Frank used to employ a number of people but he found that his clients wanted him. Client preferences combined with “people problems” caused him to scale back his business. He is now on his own and doing well…except for the game.

What game you ask? The game is going back and forth between extremes. I’ve watched this game over the 35 years I’ve been a lawyer and have worked with hundreds of business owners. We all play it – and usually we lose. I have discovered the secret to turning it around so that you always win.

The Worry Game

If we have a lot of work to do, we worry about getting it done. If we do not have enough work to do, we worry about where the work will come from, and will it be enough. The game is one of worry, and those of us who have been caught up in it know that it’s not fun.

Worry creeps in to our business life, and our personal life. I have talked with hundreds of clients who, in playing the worry game, have lost sleep over it, and some who have failed marriages as a result of it. Frank and I have talked about this game, and have found a happy way to deal with it, and to win it.

Before I go any further, have you ever heard of Dale Carnegie? He is famous for looking at business and writing his famous book, “How To Win Friends and Influence People.” His work is so important that it has even been turned into classes to teach people how to be more influential. Well, his brilliance was not limited to that book. He wrote another book, “How to Stop Worrying and Start Living.” He said that worry is the great enemy of business owners and people. He came up with a system for dealing with worry in your life, and I highly recommend that you read it. For now, let’s resume our discussion about the game.

Whether you service computers, practice law, or are a member of the skilled trades, if you work for yourself you will go back and forth on the scale of either too much work or not enough work. This is a worry ride, a roller coaster, endless and exhausting.

Winning Move #1: Notice You’re Playing the Game

If you know what I am talking about, you are half way to winning the game. As Frank and I talked about the ride, and the trap of worry, I could tell that he felt some relief in knowing that he was not the only one on this ride. Just looking at it for what it is tends to soften the queasiness that we feel as we play the game. Noticing the game softens it, and we can start to gain some control over our situation. Having company also softens the ride. Based on talking with hundreds of business owners, I can tell you that if this resonates with you, you have lots and lots of company.

Winning Move #2: Create an Action Plan

I read somewhere that: “Worry is like a little prayer for something that we don’t want to happen.” This stuck with me. Why would I pray for something that I did not want?

I found that the thoughts that accompany this ride of worry appear but when noticed, tend to disappear. We can also acknowledge that the only thing certain is change. We can note that we are going to have busy times, and slow times. This is a natural cycle. How does worry help anything?

We all know what we need to do when we are slow…go out and get more work. Visit your clients, make some calls, get in front of the people who need you. When we get busy, we all know what we have to do. Plan efficiency, learn more about time management, delegate what you can safely delegate. There is no end to your resources when you get resourceful!

Frank and I have learned together how to win the game. First, we acknowledge that we are playing. Second, we come up with resourceful, creative action plans. Plans that are effective at getting more business and smoothly providing more service to our clients when they call us. Noticing when we are up in our heads. Noticing the worry for what it is – just a little game that we play that we can deal with, and turn it into motivation. This action propels us into a more profitable and fun business. 

In the comments below, share your most powerful insight from this post about playing the worry game.

Brian Vincent has over 30 years of experience as a business law attorney and has worked extensively with business owners to protect and defend their interests. Contact Brian online or at (616) 608-4440 with your questions.

How Changing Relationships Changes Business (and Business Owners)

How we relate to people is how we lead them. Many business owners talk about finding it difficult to run their companies because they have not figured out their leadership style. They move between the three different relationships, not being aware at all of where they are or how to lead. Our relationships with people change and with that change come different challenges.

I know a woman who stepped into an existing business because her husband had invested in it and it was not making money. The business was a small embroidery and t-shirt company with all kinds of problems. Christine decided that she would take it on, and see what she could do to salvage the business. Her goal was to get as much of their investment back as possible.

Turning a Business Around

At first, she told everyone that she was going to be around and that she had a lot of questions for them. She reassured them that she was not asking questions because she questioned them, but because she knew nothing about the business.

True to her word, Christine showed up and went to work. She took on every job there. She mopped floors and cleaned toilets. She went to the “floor” and started by folding shirts. She packed boxes, learned to check in raw product.

Christine had worked at a hospital for 14 years before leaving to raise her family. Now that her family had grown, she found time and devoted herself to the business. She was where she could apply systems and procedures to the business. Just as the hospital ran on processes, and each surgery ran on procedures, step by step, she started in.

It was not long before her approach was successful. The people who were working responded favorably to Christine's new approach. The procedures she implemented made sense. They made the jobs easier. She worked with each person to explain they whys and rational behind her improvements. The people were much happier in the new environment. As some left for other opportunities, new employees were easily trained based on the clearly delineated tasks that had been set forth, step-by-step. Our owner bought new equipment to go along with the improvements.

All of this change did a great deal for the business. It became not only break even, but profitable. The more Christine worked the more profitable it became. You might think that she was able to sell the business and recoup the investment and she lived happily ever after but that is not what happened.

Unexpected Change

All the work she had put in changed Christine. She came to know the people she worked with. She came to know of their challenges and she became friends with all of them. Over the course of her experiment, she had found another family. She had formed bonds of kinship, it was no longer just a business; it was much more.

I met her as she reached a point of confusion. She had met all of her goals, plus much more. She wondered, "Should I sell as originally planned or should I keep running the business?" I noted that this was a really hard decision for her. Obviously, a lot of people would simply say “sell and go”, but it was not that easy. I could tell that Christine felt responsible for the lives of the people who depended on her business. She was struggling with one of the toughest decisions of her life.

When leaders find themselves tightly interwoven with the people they work with, decisions sometimes get tougher.

How can we approach our businesses to make these decisions easier and more natural?

In the comments below, share your most powerful insight from this post..

Brian Vincent has over 30 years of experience as a business law attorney and has worked extensively with business owners to protect and defend their interests. Contact Brian online or at (616) 608-4440 with your questions.

 

The Relationship Paradigm

Understand the three types of relationships to help your business thrive.

Understand the three types of relationships to help your business thrive.

In interviewing dozens of business leaders, most struggle with what they call “people problems.” They struggle with communicating their ideas to their people so that obstacles can be overcome. They struggle with conversations with customers and clients. They struggle with conversations with vendors. In short they seemed to be struggling with communication. What if business leaders learned a bit more about some basic communication and relationship models? Would that assist them in the running of their businesses? I have found that the answer is “yes.”

Most of our relationships with people fall into three main categories. they are:

·      dominance

·      communal

·      tit-for tat

These three categories describe the settings we find ourselves in and dictate our communication strategies. What works in one, may not work in another. A brief description of each category will help to illustrate the point.

Dominance

In this relationship, there is a clear boss. In the past, it was probably the biggest and strongest of the group. The biggest and strongest would establish that they were the biggest and strongest and the rest would fall in line. The pecking order was determined by the attributes according to each person’s size and strength.

Of course, this still persists. We learn from an early age to measure this in ourselves and in others. Whether it is the schoolyard or the boardroom, this constant measuring takes place. We all know that misreading the cues may have enormous consequences for us. Misread the cues on the playground and get pounded by the bully. Misread the cues in the Boardroom, and get fired.

Dominance is reflected in our language. “The golden rule – he with the most gold makes the rules” is a common theme recognizing the presence of dominance and how it plays out in our relationships.

Communal

This aspect dictated that in other groups, there is something other than dominance that we take into account in dealing with people. This aspect relates to kinship. Many times, people deal differently with their family than they do with others. People from similar backgrounds seek kinship. This is the stuff of protectionism, loyalty, and has been the bases for many businesses.

Although this line used to be drawn based on family inclusion, we are seeing this more and more as a sense of community. People becoming attuned to where they live and who lives in their community and drawing alliances on that basis has been going on for hundreds of years.

As people have become more mobile, now a majority or us has had the experience of being an outsider. I moved from Ann Arbor Michigan to Grand Rapids about 35 years ago. Although it was but a 120-mile trip to a city in the same state, to many I am still considered an “outsider.” Ann Arbor and Grand Rapids are very different cities and I am still somewhat surprised when I hear someone from “here” make it clear that this is not “Ann Arbor.” We seek to be accepted and we seek communality. There is safety in numbers, and one must be part of the numbers to feel the safety.

Communal has another aspect. Just as we can be part of a community based on geography, we can be part of a community of ideas. Never before has it been possible to find like-minded individuals. It has never been so easy to find a community. New entrepreneurs are making a living everyday forming their tribes on the internet…feeding them useful content and expanding their reach.

In fact, as we become more mobile, people are seeking these kinships of ideas as a safe harbor as they move around. Tribes of Democrats, Republicans, vegans, sailors, skateboarders, runners, model train fans all represent people forming groups toward a common purpose. And here is the point, businesses are being formed and tribes are being formed around a common purpose.

You do not have to search very far to find the following business-personal growth advice: “add value to people and you will reap its rewards” or “find your purpose and you will be dedicated and will reap your rewards” or “It all starts with your personal story.” People are looking and searching to find their places and many of them start to make their own places by forming a business.

Tit-for-tat

This is simple. You scratch my back and I will scratch yours. This is the measure for measure relationship. If you do this work I will pay you this amount of money. If you give me this I will give you that.

This is the traditional stuff of business. In the past, this was the measure of business. Most did not have to buy in to Henry Ford’s idea of a car for every family in America as long as they could get good work for good pay. This is reflected in the old way we would look at work and business. People would go to trade school and learn a “trade.” Time for money. Skill for money. Effort for money. This is something we still struggle with. 94 million Americans are not even trying to find work and it is called “economic prosperity” and a “recovery.” All of these people have something to offer but they have given up, thinking that they have nothing to “trade”.

This is still part of most business models, it has to be. If we want to provide goods and services, we need help. People are willing to help but they need to live, they need a wage. Every one of my business leaders have to look long and hard at this one because the people that they need to assist them in their businesses are looking long and hard at this one.

There it is, the three main categories that describe our relationships and we use language within these relationships to live our lives and to run our businesses.

 

In the comments below, share your most powerful insight from this post about working relationships.

Brian Vincent has over 30 years of experience as a business law attorney and has worked extensively with business owners to protect and defend their interests.  Contact Brian  online or at (616) 608-4440 with your questions.

When Do You Stop Being a Lawyer?

What to do when you can’t turn your thinking off.

What to do when you can’t turn your thinking off.

With a trial date looming, the potential for a case to become all-consuming is always there. As a lawyer, you have been trained to think like a lawyer. You have gained a certain skill related to the way you think. You gather data and facts. You analyze the data and facts. You interview witnesses. You have learned to ask questions, make arguments, and research law. A large part of your work takes place between your ears. You have an on-off switch for your phone, and you computer, but not for your thinking.

The Problem with Thinking
I recently read an astounding statistic that nearly 40% of lawyers are depressed. There were lots of reasons given, and if you are a lawyer, you are probably familiar with most of them. It seems to me that the main reason why so many lawyers struggle is because they have not figured out a way to turn off their brains. Most of the lawyers I have talked with (and represented) have noted that they have problems sleeping. They can’t stop thinking. They think about their cases, they think abut their practices, they think about their staff. All kinds of thoughts pop into their heads, all the time.

Now, I cannot stop your thoughts but I can suggest some ways that just may assist you.

Make a Decision
Decide when and where you will be a lawyer. If you are a lawyer during your “work,” that will not help you. “Work” is way too vague a word. We can be at work anywhere anytime.

I have seen more than a few people, sitting on a beach by the ocean, already up in their heads at work. They had left their vacation early.

I noticed this in myself. It would take at least a couple of days of vacation to finally get out of my head, and notice the sand at my feet, and the ocean air. Then, a couple of days before I was slated to fly home, I was already dreading the catchup that I had waiting for me back at the office. I have watched the little clock on my nightstand tick away, hour after hour while my mind raced with arguments, examinations, law and potential disasters.

Punch Out
Now, when I notice I am not sleeping, I “punch out.” I recognize that all that I’m thinking of is on the other side of a good night’s sleep. I recognize that without sleep, I will be much less of a lawyer.

If I am talking with family, I realize that there are relationships that, if not maintained, will make me less of a lawyer. Chances are, the more human you are, the better lawyer you will be. Take time, and carve it out, to be human.

What Do the Greats Do?
Sure, we all know some folks who are machines…legal machines. If they are great lawyers, check out what they do to become great. Chances are that they have developed a way to turn off the office. Chances are that they have found a way to be great lawyers by drawing some clear lines where, at times, they stop being a lawyer. Chances are that they have found some strategies for turning off their “work” brain.

 

Share your insights about turning off work with us in the comments!

Brian Vincent has over 30 years of experience as a business law attorney and has worked extensively with business owners to protect and defend their interests.  Contact Brian  online or at (616) 608-4440 with your questions.