Survival

In a mentoring session yesterday I heard the story about a young lawyer who left practice because she was working for the LFH, otherwise known as the lawyer from hell. Difficult to please, never satisfied, always quick to criticize and with a big enough practice and voice within the firm to make sure the lawyer was not kept on.

She has left the practice for good.

It reminded me of one football season when I was sixteen. I adored football. I was good at it and practiced all the time. It may shock you to discover I played left tackle. (More about the importance of that position in a future post.)

In practice I played against a defensive player named Paul. He was built like Gibraltar. His arms thick as timber. Every second or third play as we engaged, he would slap me in the helmet on the way by. We practiced three nights a week after school. That meant three headaches a week.

At first I looked forward to the games on Sunday. It was a break from Paul, though I noticed he wasn’t doing it on the field to the opponents. Just to me on weeknights.

It wasn’t long until I began to hate football. Years later I began to understand the number of concussions I suffered that season. Thankfully I still remember my name…. and Paul’s.

If your’e caught in a situation like this, listening to the advice that, “learning to deal with this will make you stronger,” can be a terrible idea. If your self-confidence is beginning to wane, if you can no longer bear the idea of getting up in the morning, if the situation has become intolerable, remember one thing.

The power is in your hands. Dealing with it by reporting the behaviour is your decision. Leaving the relationship is your decision. Tolerating the situation may only increase the level of concussion that your ego is suffering.

If you’ve lived through it or if you have advice, please weigh in.

The most important skill

DAY 1

I’m not wasting any time on warm and fuzzy. Let’s get straight to work.

We’ll begin today with the most difficult skill to learn.

The skill probably most important to your success.

Try some guesses as to which of the following abilities ranks first:

How well you service clients?
Can you speak with confidence?
Do you know how to close a sale?
Can you think quickly on your feet?
Do you have more contacts than anyone else?

In my opinion, and feel free to disagree or add your own, one outweighs them all.

And I’m not just talking about your success as a professional or in business, but your future as a significant other, as a friend, and as a parent.

It’s your ability to listen. That is going to outweigh and influence all your other skills.

Sounds pretty easy. Someone else is speaking and you wait your turn. Then you respond. Except life doesn’t work that way.

Maybe you’re having an argument and what you have to say is more important. So you interrupt.

Maybe you are formulating the response to an argument while the other person is speaking. Does that ever happen to you? It sure does to me.

Maybe you’re thinking about ten other things you need to be doing while the other person is speaking?

Or the world champ response: “I’m great at multitasking. I can listen and read at the same time. I can work and listen at the same time. I can listen to the podcast while checking my emails.” We’ll deal with the science of multitasking tomorrow, but for now I’ll end this paragraph with what I’ve learned in my own research.

Bullshit.

I can’t so anything else and try to listen. Very quickly the words fly by my ears but are not absorbed by my brain, which is wired to do one thing at a time.

But here is the key for today. None of the rainmaking skills I outlined above can be developed if you do not develop the ability to listen. When it comes to relationships and understanding clients or friends, the most important skill you can develop, is the ability to keep your mouth shut, unless you are asking the next question, in response to what you’ve just heard.

Who is the most important person in your client’s life? It most certainly isn’t you. But the way your client ( or significant other) will believe that they are the most important person in your life is dependant on your ability to listen to their problems, before responding or trying to figure out the solution.

It’s hard for many and I include myself in that bunch. If you have any great approaches to listening, pleas share them

In our rush to respond and play problem solver, or “smartest person in the room” we have the tendency to shut down our listening. Rather than teasing out an entire problem or allowing our client to formulate their own solutions by talking the problem through in its entirety, we rush to solve.

If you’re a litigator in front of a judge what kind of listening issues have you experienced? Positive and negative.

Ask Me Anything

Here is your opportunity to pose your questions: about professional life, about your career development, or anything else that comes to mind that will help us all improve. Whether it’s practical, psychological, ethical or related to communicating, this is designed as a safe space to share our issues, and to invite senior people to weigh in. Our goal : to improve professional life, to honestly expose its weaknesses, and work together to improve it.