Category Archive for: ‘time management’

Can’t Bill Enough? Is the World Over?

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billablecartoonA common conversation I have with attorneys revolves around the almighty billable hour.  Depending on how long they have been in practice and where they are in their career, they are either wondering how to monitor the hours (i.e., hire/fire others who don’t meet them) or trying to figure out how to meet their own hours.

One thing applies to all of them across the board when it comes to billable hours- they are all stressed out. Many are to the point of obsession about their billable requirements.  This obsession leads to all sorts of nasty things- like paralysis, I dare say.  According to my research, there is a direct inverse correlation between your self confidence and stress.  The higher your stress, the lower your self-confidence and thus, the poorer your personal brand for others.

So what, you say?  What does this have to do with my billable requirement?

Tweet:What if there was a peaceful,productive atmosphere-less angst around the almighty billable?

Well, I believe that the pressure to bill X number of hours leads to higher stress and less productivity.  In other words, lawyers produce worse and less.  The other detriment of this is of course that lawyers are angry, anxious and perhaps at the point of desperation where they’ll compromise their integrity to bill enough….all leading to a bad public brand perception of our industry.

What if there was a peaceful, productive atmosphere and less angst around the almighty billable?  I’m not disillusioned when I suggest this- I’ve been there, done that.  It didn’t work then, it hasn’t worked for others since.  And it is only getting worse.

If you are “in charge” and reading this consider creating a work atmosphere that is less tense and focused on the billable hour.  Try something new and be daring. It can’t fail.

If you are reading this and you are identifying with my message because you “must bill”, then what about trying something new.  What if you work it the other way: set your PERSONAL weekly billable goal lower and exceed it. Watch the stress go down and your productivity and happiness go up.  Also, consider what’s the worst that can happen if you don’t bill “enough”? If the answer isn’t “death” then I think you know what to do.

TOP THREE WAYS TO KILL YOUR PERSONAL BRAND

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As the years go by in my personal branding work with people and organizations, I see some very common mistakes people make.  Below are the top three mistakes I see very regularly. These mistakes are a sure way to have an ineffective personal brand and thus, lead to an ineffective business brand.  Both lead to you having less recall value for others, a less robust client and prospect pool and– less happiness.

“People come to me because of my expertise”-  All too often (just yesterday), I hear my brilliant clients argue with me that their personal brand is just fine because people come to them based on their expertise.   This happens less when I am working with musicians and artists because they have a better tendency to appreciate the “entire package” philosophy.

We are all conditioned to believe that our education and our substantive work are superior to anything else in life.  I’m a big believer in education and providing quality substantive work.  However, don’t believe for a minute that your education and your substantive know-how is what your personal brand is all about.  People first notice you and your uniqueness, not your expertise and substance.  Your emotional value for people has nothing to do with expertise, necessarily.

“I’m too busy” – Time becomes more and more precious in our society, it seems.  We are all running around juggling work, family, parents, etc.  Time is also a very good excuse for us to avoid focusing on our personal brands- figuring out our uniqueness, passion and contribution to society as a person.  It’s much easier to focus on our substantive work (see #1 above) because it is safer and within our comfort zone.  We have less chance for failure and less opportunity to find out about ourselves and fix things that don’t serve us well.  Find time or else pay the price later.

Ignore the ‘signs’ and feedback- It is so difficult for us to accept criticism or be willing to look at ourselves and see what we are doing not so well.  It takes serious guts and a desire to succeed to be willing to explore yourself and your personal brand.  I have deep respect for every client of mine for this reason.  I often get comments stating that personal branding is “fluff” and irrelevant.  These comments often come from those who are afraid to be better- better people, better leaders, better employees and better service providers.  To have an effective personal brand, you’ve got to be willing to stop and assess what the world has to say about you and your brand,- the good, the bad and the ugly. How else will you improve, excel and be happier in life?

Time & Stress & Your Personal Brand Part II: Take A Page From Starbucks, Get Your “Joy” On

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In our work with clients, we are always trying to get them to understand and incorporate the concept of “joy” into their personal brand.  We explain that no one is buying anything from us if they don’t emotionally feel joy when they are around us.  While most clients get the point, there are those that just can’t understand the emotional factor.

The sad part is that as corporate employees, business owners and professionals, we have lost our sense of joy.  Therefore, we can’t really connect with clients and prospects and exude joy- even if we do really get the concept.   The end result is that instead of joy, we have high stress and poor time management skills.   All of which makes us exude a poor personal brand.

During this time of the year, it seems the word, “Joy” gets a lot of airtime. After all, we are all supposed to be joyful in December.  Sadly, most of retail has hijacked the term “joy” and mis-uses it to make us think we need to buy stuff in order to find our joy.

Take Starbucks for instance. I was at a Starbucks location just yesterday.  The atmosphere is festive and joyful.  Their 2012 holiday ad campaign  is, “Spicy and Sweet With Hints of Comfort and Joy”.  Get it?  Drinking Starbucks will bring you comfort and…….JOY! It really is a brilliant ad campaign.  None of us are really surprised, given the fact that it comes from Starbucks.

So if you don’t believe me, just look around you this month at all the retail madness.  What’s the message retail is sending you?  None other than shop and find your joy.

This message is no different about your personal brand management: find your joy, then your stress will go down, time management will improve and you can improve your business and career success.

Need more help?  Attend our January 11, 2013 workshop:  Develop Your Personal Brand, Time & Stress Management for Success in 2013.  Click HERE for details.

Stress & Your Legal Practice- How Much Does It Hurt Your Personal Brand?

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These days it seems everyone is under more and more stress.  In addition to our job/business, we get to juggle kids, spouses, pets, family, business trips, staffing issues, networking and a whole bunch of other issues that could make this list too long and too overwhelming.

If you are a lawyer, it seems your list may be longer than the rest.  That there is the problem.  Maybe your list is longer, maybe it is not longer.  The end result is the same- not good for your personal brand or business brand.  The higher your stress level, the lower your self-confidence and thus the worse your personal brand.

As a lawyer, if our stress is high and self-confidence low, then we tend to do some odd things that tend to leave us with lost referrals and lost revenues.  We try to compensate for our stress and self-confidence by:

  • ignoring clients
  • mis-treating staff and colleagues
  • behaving and communicating as if we are “too cool for school”
  • complaining about our “hearings”, “trials”, “mediations”, “travel schedules”, “CLEs”

Every single lawyer client of ours has the stress issue, whether they are with a big firm or solo practitioner or in-house with one of our corporate clients.  Here are just two common reasons we’ve deciphered as to why.

  • Fee type:  If you charge on a contingency consider this:  You may feel under-payed (or maybe never paid?), so you compensate by figuring out how much you “have” to work in order to have the contingency fee pay off.  Consequence: you may be mis-treating your clients because you can’t budget for them.  Bigger consequence: you are stressed, bothered by client calls/emails and have a poor personal brand wherever you go. Solution:  Don’t take a case if you can’t give proper support to the client because you feel undervalued.  It’s not like the client begged you to take their case.  You signed up for it.  The alternative is possible malpractice or lost clients. Your choice.  If you are in the midst of a contingency case and the client has done nothing wrong, don’t drop the ball and don’t quit. Finish the case with integrity and do your best.
  • Not enough support: Your firm may not have enough lawyers on staff to be able to have everyone manage a decent workload.  Or you may not have proper support at your firm to help you out with the workload.  If you are a solo practitioner, you may not feel you can afford a paralegal or legal secretary.  Consequence:  You are spread out way too thin and can’t provide quality service.  You don’t take client calls and emails.  You’ve got a professional responsibility issue on top of a personal branding problem.  Solution:  HIRE more help! Don’t be cheap.  Don’t hire a law student to do the work of a paralegal or another attorney.  The consequences of running lean are far worse than paying someone to help.

If you are in the San Diego area, Katy will be speaking on a CLE panel regarding stress and dispute resolution on September 6 from Noon to 1:30pm at Mintz Levin LLP.  For more info, email us.

Are You Always Late?

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Are you always late getting to meetings, events and places? Do you figure you have done the best you could to get there on time and it’s got to be good enough that you even showed up? Do you assume that no one will really notice or mind that you are late? Do you beg for forgiveness when you get somewhere late? Or worse, do you always have a really really really good reason why you are late…again?

We all have a tendency to have “life” come up when we are rushing out the door to get to a meeting or to work. However, at some point being late becomes more consistent and we get noticed for being the late one. If this happens, you are now stuck with a pretty ineffective and notorious personal brand.

As I always say, people buy people, not products or services. So, what does it say about you, the person I am supposedly to buy, if you are most often late to our meetings? People will draw all sorts of conclusions about you when you are late- even three or four times in a row. They assume you don’t value their time and may get offended. They assume you can’t take care of yourself and manage yourself, so how can you possibly manage their business needs? They assume you don’t have enough help to manage and properly allocate your schedule. Or they may assume you just can’t read time!! Well, maybe not so much the latter. But they may just write you off as being ignorant of time.

I have someone who handles my calendar and schedules all my appointments just wonderfully. However, I had a stretch of three days where I was running ten minutes late pretty much to every appointment. It was starting to drive me crazy. I had to stop and assess what was going on because it was getting embarrassing. I realized that I was pushing the envelope and underestimating how long the commute between appointments would be. It was not any one’s fault except mine. And I wasn’t going to let it reflect poorly on my personal brand.

So if you are running late often, stop and reflect on why it is so. Do you have a good calendar blocked off well for appointments? Do you estimate well how long you’ll be in a meeting and how long it takes you to get somewhere? Do you pad your time to ensure optimal personal brand success?

Email us your best, “I’m so sorry to be late to this very important meeting story”, and we’ll publish it anonymously in our next newsletter.

First, Know Yourself So You Know What To Market.