Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Great Thinking Needs a Benefactor

This post by Jason Calacanis and counter-point by Kevin Rose about paid vs. unpaid social networking is too huge a philosophical discussion to pass up! On this blog I have offered up that at this point in history we lack "great thinkers"; individuals that have the time and mind to stretch out in search of revelation like Plato, Epicuris, Dewey or Rand.

I believe that, when observing philosophical discussion, choosing a side decreases my opportunity to learn. But in this case I am liking Jason's approach; to pay people to generate social bookmarks. In the process he becomes a benefactor of "thinkers". These lucky few will be paid to take the time to stretch their minds, think freely, and share.

All of the great thinkers had benefactors... a role that has all but disappeared. But Jason in all of his entrepreneurial wildness may have found a way to recreate an old role for a newer time. This is a good thing.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Can You Admit What You Do Not Know?

California is HOT! Today it was so hot I saw a bird pulling worms from the ground using oven mitts! I walked to a local eatery for lunch and have never wished more that law firms would adopt a t-shirt/shorts dress code. But the world continues to spin and I must get work done.

When I was a VP of Sales we would teach our sales reps to admit what they did not know on a sales call. No matter the reason for the question (devious or in earnest) truth about personal knowledge is ALWAYS the best answer. At Fast Company Now they have an interesting short that begins, "You can stop pretending you know what you're doing." It is a refreshing opinion supporting the concept that; it is more positive to admit to knowing less than to lose resources by insisting you know what you are doing (when you do not).

At law firms just about everyone is caught in this trap. The attorneys, at least according to clients, NEED to know everything. With this monstrous, and unrealistic expectation hanging over their heads the attorneys learn how to not know all of the answers without giving away their lack of knowledge. This attitude between clients and attorneys is so pervasive that it carries over into most of all other relationships. It is a terrible circle that works more bad than good... and here are my suggestions for escaping the cycle:
  • Recognize that solving "this problem/deal/issue" is not about knowing what to do at this exact time, but about knowing what to do with the time that is at hand. Most legal problems or issues are not resolved within moments. Being able to say, "I don't know right now" combined with "I have the resources to find out" is a powerful statement.
  • Learning the right answers WITH your clients is an incredible bonding experience.
  • Saying you know when you do not is a lie. Intuitively many clients know this might be so. Even if you save the day they will wonder.
  • Saying you know what to do if you do not will close you off from resources the client may have that will be a benefit to the solution.
  • Saying you know what to do if you do not will add significant stress to your task... and affect the members of the team you form to solve the problem.
I have learned a lot by saying I can do what I did not know how to do... But it would have been easier if I'd asked for help by admitting I didn't know quite enough. It's OK to admit ignorance. People, in general, love to help! It's cool and it's OK.
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Tuesday, July 18, 2006

What Will They Do?

Next week my firm will dip its marketing toes into a new geography. Though the firm has many clients in the region our efforts there have never gone beyond individual business development. It will be an interesting test of messaging.

As well entrenched as we are in certain niche areas of the market the firm has operated rather quietly leaving a lot of marketing capital unspent... and other firms are better known broadly in the area. Interestingly, no firm in the geography has done much strategic marketing; The response by both my audience and peer firms should be quite a study. I anticipate:
  • Heightened buzz - unfortunately, from competitors it will be of the negative sort spoken to other lawyers and possibly clients (their own) as they search for words to describe this "intrusion". Fortunately, their buzz will carry our message deeper, further, faster.
  • Mirroring - Some firms will create response campaigns by mirroring parts of what we do. If we appear in print so will they. As we sponsor so will they. PR; ditto.... The net effect is the sudden spike in law firm marketing spend will increase buyer awareness in the region. They will think more about the choices that are available.
  • Parochial marketing - Firms with a higher identity as a "local" firm will take steps in word and action to lock down relationships with organizations and client groups to protect their territory. The net effect is they will expose their limited reach and resources in a time when businesses need to pay little attention to geographic boundaries.
  • Outreach - For some we will be seen as an opportunity to expand their practice and they will reach out to form a business development alliance. It's good to make new friends.
I might also add to this list, "nothing will happen at all", but I don't believe that is possible. No matter the long-term outcome, in the short-term people will react (potential clients and competitors); reaction always creates lasting change.
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Sunday, July 16, 2006

Professionals Need Coaching Too.

Saundra Pelletier, along with her wonderful husband Christian, are new friends. I met her at an ExecuNet meeting and three weeks later was sailing the Pacific onboard their 44ft Mason. Simply amazing!

Saundra is a business coach, and in her words, specializes in "restoring live balance, improving relationships, career growth, and creating a healthy lifestyle." And she is an author of a soon-to-be released book that will dispel myth and offer women pointed advise about working, succeeding, and remaining (psychologically) healthy.

Currently she offers seminars (for women and men) about achieving balance, speaks at conferences, and is an incredibly popular personal coach.

If you are in Southern California (or further away for that matter) and need an remarkably dynamic speaker... or are looking for a sound shoulder to lean on she just may be the professional for you! Make the call!

Mini-Races and Law Firm Politics

Driving back from San Diego this evening was a typical freeway experience. This trip was about 70 miles at an average speed of 75mph. Around or near me where dozens of other cars; some going slower (the one's I need to get around, and some going faster (soon to be my competition) and we're all aimed at somewhere north of "here". We might even think of each other as comrades sharing a single goal, and possibly capable of helping each other achieve that goal. You've been on a freeway... not gonna happen!

Within a few miles I have identified the roadblocks in the way of my goal; cars traveling at a slower speed than me. And I've identified my competitors; other cars I need to compete with to occupy the openings and lanes that allow me to keep up a constant rate of speed. None of us are going to the same place, and probably everyone of us out there are traveling for vastly different reasons. But here we are caught up in dozens of mini-races looking for tiny victory's, grinding teeth at the losses, and none of it has much to do at all with our ultimate goal.

We compete because we can. Not because we have to. A fast driver will compete to drive fast and a slow driver will compete just to go slow. OOF!

The same is true among people in firms (and companies). When our largest goals are still far off we are willing to compete for whatever is closest at hand with just about anyone within reach. This is how factions are born (and die). At law firms, populated with so many finally tuned goal machines the day to day mini-races are just part of staying on top of our game. We do it and don't even know it.

When I was younger it felt important that I had to win every mini-race on the road. Two cars going much faster coming out of nowhere was simply an invitation to join in. These days I've grown comfortable with letting them shoot on by. As long as I am making progress as I see fit I can let their mini-race continue without me.

I guess my lesson here is that I don't have to beat everyone to everyone else's goals. I simply wish to get to mine at the speed and in the fashion that best suits me.

Graphic Artists are Crazy

I might know. I am one. But, not like, "Wooo Hooooo, la la la la la, put me in a rubber room!!" Go online and look at any portfo...