Monthly Archives: February 2008

(How) Do You Take Credit?

Here’s a great idea for ways to remember the folks who’ve helped you along the way, from this post on How to Take Credit:

So when the time comes to take the stage, remember that you didn’t get here alone: go ahead, grab the microphone and acknowledge your team. Do it before a crowd and in e-mail. Say it with bonuses and baked goods — but be sure to say it. No one likes to be left out. By sharing the credit the right way, you won’t diminish your own accomplishments, you’ll add to them by building a reputation as the kind of person people want to work for and for your focus on developing others.

Not sure whom to credit? In their book, Becoming a Resonant Leader, Annie McKee, Richard Boyatzis and Frances Johnston suggest keeping running lists of peers who have helped you along your route to success — along with notes about what you actually learned from them. Keeping such a list will likely help ensure that you don’t forget them in your acceptance speech.

I really like the idea of keeping a running list of people who’ve helped you along with a note or two about how they’ve helped.  This is a pretty powerful way to not only remember how you’ve gotten to where you are, but to also remind you to give help to others who seek it from you.  More on this in the next post.

Six Word Memoirs

If you liked my PowerPoint Haiku exercise, you’ve got to check out this Six-Word Memoir video (thanks, Magda).  Can you write your memoir in six words? 

My first shot:   Stopped lawyering. Having way more fun.

Simple Solutions, Informally Delivered

Paul Graham shares his product development strategy in a wonderful essay:

Here it is: I like to find (a) simple solutions (b) to overlooked problems (c) that actually need to be solved, and (d) deliver them as informally as possible, (e) starting with a very crude version 1, then (f) iterating rapidly. When I first laid out these principles explicitly, I noticed something striking: this is practically a recipe for generating a contemptuous initial reaction. Though simple solutions are better, they don’t seem as impressive as complex ones. Overlooked problems are by definition problems that most people think don’t matter. Delivering solutions in an informal way means that instead of judging something by the way it’s presented, people have to actually understand it, which is more work. And starting with a crude version 1 means your initial effort is always small and incomplete.

Paul suggests that his technique extends beyond startups to any type of creative work, and I’m inclined to agree. 

In the delivery of legal services, what are the overlooked problems that can be simply solved?  How many of us ask our clients (before, during or after they’ve engaged us) about the one thing we could change in our practices to improve their experience?  Is it something as simple as shifting our office hours to be available when our clients can see us?  Or, is it something more profound like changing the way we charge for our services?  No matter what that one thing is — and it could be a different one thing for every client — what’s keeping us for trying it?  Just once.  To see if it works.

New Research Explains Billable Hour’s Staying Power!

Well, not exactly, but this article in the Telegraph discusses an experiment exploring humans’ preference for a familiar (though less efficient) path, and found:

most of us are happy to play follow-my-leader, even if we are trailing after someone who does not know where they are going and taking the most meandering route.  Even more striking, even when we are shown a faster route, we prefer to stick with the old one and tell others to take the long road too, a finding that could have lethal implications when it comes to evacuating a building or ship in an emergency.

In the study, participants were led from one room to another. When asked to return to the first room, almost all took the familiar path back, even when they were aware of a shorter path:

All but one person took the route they had been led. What we were surprised by was how strong this effect was, even when the alternative route was much shorter …. They preferred the long route even when the experimenter had drawn attention to the alternative route, or when the experimenter took the long route solely to pick up a fallen poster, eliminating the possibility that participants thought the experimenter had a good, but unknown, reason to take the long route. By asking participants to collect the next guinea pig in the experiment, the scientists observed that each person in the chain copied the route of the participant before them: a simple tradition that meant the alternative route was never discovered.

Interesting food for thought, don’t you think?

Here are Some Posters for Your Waiting Room

Need some subtle reminders to your clients as they wait for their appointment?  I ran across this online poster shop titled Advice To Sink In Slowly that has well-designed posters containing GREAT advice. My favorite (and there are many I absolutely love) is Work Hard. Play Hard. Create something amazing.  Check it out.

More PowerPoint Resources

Need some more PowerPoint inspiration?  Check out this amazing resource list from Meryl’s Notes Blog.  Lots (and lots) of great stuff.

Go Ahead, Write on Your Walls

I’m certain that I think better when I’m standing in front of a dry-erase white board, so my perfect office (or house, for that matter) would have dry erase boards everywhere.  If you are like me, check out Markee Dry Erase Paint.  According to the website, it is a clear paint that turns any smooth surface into a dry-erase board.  It is about a hundred bucks a gallon.  If you’ve tried it, I’d love to know your results.     

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Don’t Forget the List

My friend (and XPLANE co-worker) Bill Keaggy put together The Ultimatest Grocery List that you should check out and modify for your office.  Create a list of all the things you regularly buy — even once a year — for your practice and add each item to the list.  Check off the boxes when things are getting low, and you’ll save at least one or two trips to Office Depot or Best Buy each year.    

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Can You Build a Firm this Cool?

Need some inspiration as you build your firm?  Check out HiQ, an English auto repair chain.  Rethink your model.  Put the customer first.  I know I’d at least check this place out if there were one in my neighborhood.

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Got an Ass for a Client?

If you aren’t sure if one of your clients is an ass****, take this handy-dandy test.  Better yet, have your secretary, assistant or associate complete it for each client.  Fire those clients that “pass” the test.  Sad, but true.

I LOVE Tripit

If you travel at all, you have to check out Tripit.  You can forward all of your travel confirmation emails (from airlines, Hotwire, Expedia, hotels, etc.) to one email address and Tripit organizes your itinerary for you.  I’ve been using it since the early beta period, and I love it.  Highly recommended!

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Debrief your Client (Engagements)

LifeHack has a great list of questions has a great list of questions to answer once you get finish a big project that should go on every lawyer’s file closing checklist.  You have one of those, don’t you?  Here they are:

  • What was the outcome of this project?
  • What is good about the outcome of this project?
  • How do I feel about my performance?
  • What mistakes did I make that slowed or otherwise negatively affected the completion of this project?
  • How could I avoid making those mistakes in the future?
  • What was the best part of the project? What was the worst?
  • What strengths did I discover in the completion of this project?
  • What new abilities or knowledge have I learned from doing this project?
  • What do I wish I had known when I started this project?
  • In one or two sentences, what were the lessons of this project?

You should answer these questions (and some others posed in the article) after every client engagement.  However, don’t file your answers away with the now-closed client file– especially the answers to the last two questions.  Instead, keep them in two documents titled “What I need to know before starting a project,” and “Lessons I don’t need to learn again” that you review every time before accepting a new client.

Use Haiku to Get to the Point

I just returned from VizThink, where I facilitated a few exercises for the nearly 400 attendees.  My favorite — and the one I used to close out the conference — is one I call PowerPoint Haiku.  Here’s how it works:

  1. Everyone gets three "slides" (one each for the questions they have to answer) that can be notecards, 8.5 " x 11"  cardstock, or even (gasp) actual PowerPoint slides.
  2. You pose three questions to the group.  At VizThink, they were:  "Why did you come to VizThink?"  "What did you learn?" and "What are you going to do next?"
  3. Each question is answered on a separate slide with this Haiku-like twist: The first question MUST be answered in 5 words, the second question in 7 words, and the third in 5 words.  And yes, I know that in true Haiku, you count syllables instead of words.
  4. Everyone can then take their "slides" and add a drawing, picture or other visual images to each one.
  5. The mini-presentations are then shared around the table.

Here’s the VizThink recap from the VizThink Blog.  I love this exercise, and use it in almost all of my XPLANE sessions to understand "what good looks like" to the stakeholders.  It is fun, and often provides startling insights.  Give it a try with your clients.  Ask them:

  1. Why are you here?  (5 words)
  2. What can I do for you?  (7 words)
  3. Why is it important to you? (5 words)

Let me know what happens.    

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