My mom used to say, when something I was looking for was right in front of me, “If it had been a snake, it would have bitten you!” I still occasionally have this vision problem.
In a recent meeting of other solo and small practice attorneys, I heard myself. “Shut up!” I thought. But my mouth and my fears kept sharing what I perceive as my biggest failures. I pretended I didn’t know how to hire and manage a powerful, productive, and effective team of leaders. It was as if I had forgotten I am a Conflict Resolution Professional.
Perhaps it was the way I introduced myself when asked to tell the group the primary area of Business Law in which I practice. I boxed myself in to what most people in the group call me for help with. From there, I forgot who I was. I let them tell me. In some ways, the most appropriate answer might have been “hypocrisy”.
I am a hypocrite, a conflict resolution master in training. Despite my many years of experience as an attorney, coach, employer, human resources supervisor, and mediator, I am a (*gasp*) human. I hope this brings you some relief. My life is not perfect and without conflict. I know that, in my DIY Conflict Resolution book, I ask a lot of you. At times, I ask more of you than I ask of myself or that I remember to do. I forget to make The Seven Choices:
- I punish myself for not being what I determine is good enough, often based on what I think others want or expect (even if I haven’t asked them what they want or expect). I try to hide my struggles, planning to share them only after I’ve overcome them, rather than accepting help that might shorten my suffering and speed up the results I want for myself and others. I start saying yes to too many things I think I “should” do, probably hoping it will distract people (or me) from what I’m not doing. I work harder when I am stressed, skipping sleep and workouts that I know I need to be at my best. I abandon systems that I know work for me, including the Third Ear Conflict Resolution process. (*ugh*)
- I overlook all that I accomplish each day, focusing only on what I didn’t, especially if it was on my Task List. And, of course, if I accomplished something that wasn’t on my Task List, it will probably be disqualified from my list of achievements. It’s as if I don’t control the scoreboard and the scoring system, or I’m deliberately setting myself up to lose!
- I try to fix the world, rather than forgiving it for being imperfect and having conflicts. Of course, when the world doesn’t change, despite my best efforts, I make myself wrong for my failures–and pile on more self-punishment. (*oy*)
- I bottle up my emotions, pretend I don’t feel them, and inadvertently reveal them ineffectively. I find myself as I did during this meeting, with words falling out of my mouth, while my brain tried to figure out where they were coming from. I want the process to be more logical and controllable. Yet it’s not, and when I try to force it to be, I create a brain fog that could hide the Golden Gate Bridge!
- I stop meditating, and I start spending too much time in my head, listening to my thoughts, as though they all have something important to say. When you consider that we have as many as 70,000 thoughts per day and only 86,400 seconds, I can’t possibly give adequate consideration, in 1.23 seconds, to everything I think. Meditation is one of the systems I know works for me, yet I still abandon it when I think I should be working instead. This only compounds problems.
- I start making assumptions: about people, about present circumstances, and about my future. My assistant is struggling with a Task, so I assume he’s no longer interested in the job, that I need to take the assignment back, and that I will never be able to grow my business because I need more help than is reasonable to expect. Clients are peppering me with E-mail messages every few seconds, so I assume I am not meeting their expectations, I am a terrible attorney, and I should start looking for other work. I apply “critic’s math”, forgetting about the thousands of positive responses and results I have gotten, and I focus on my fearful interpretation of one comment or a full inbox. I could easily interpret the full inbox as a thriving business, but I assume the worst instead.
- I don’t listen to myself with compassion. I am learning to more reflexively respond to self-criticism the way that I would respond to a client or loved one, but I’m not great at it yet. Again, I am still a Master in Training. That will erase my credibility in the eyes of some people, and that’s okay. I return to the Seven Choices and make them again. Thank you to the Business Lawyers Forum for pointing me in that direction. I am now ready to move forward again.
ACTION ONE: DEFINE THE CONFLICT.
I don’t trust myself to effectively hire and manage the co-leaders I need to expand The Law Studio’s services.
ACTION TWO: IDENTIFY THE INTERESTS.
I want to have more freedom than I think is necessary to manage a team well (which reads very strangely, considering I am a coach!). I thought it would be easier to find people who are self-motivated and, well, who work like I do, automatically. (*ugh*) I believed it would all fall into place more magically, and I would be able to focus on generating the services while my team took care of more background work. I expected to hire them, give them some procedures to read, do some basic training, and set them free to crank out loads of work error-free. (*eye roll*) I wish this was easier, yet I kind of enjoy the challenge, too. I have to use my own tools to create my resolution!
ACTION THREE: PLAY WITH THE POSSIBILITIES.
If I could have this conflict resolve in any way possible, I would easily expand my team to generate prosperity for all of us. I would cultivate my employees and clients to lead from where they are, and I wouldn’t have to fire any of them again. We would make better decisions in the initial stages, opting not to work with each other, unless it was a great fit for everyone involved. We would grow together and exceed our wildest expectations. If we did find it most beneficial to part at some point, we could do so in ways that allow everyone to continue growing and achieving.
ACTION FOUR: CREATE THE FUTURE.
- To expand my team in a way that generates prosperity for all of us, I must be deeply connected to my metrics. I will ensure each team member is contributing to the team and generating sufficient revenue to pay his or her base salary. I will not keep those who do not participate in our team culture, understanding the negative impact on those who do.
- To cultivate my employees and clients, I must lead where I am. I will continue to invite and complete the difficult conversations that open opportunities for us to improve our communications, our processes, and our results, at work and at home.
- To avoid firing team members, I must screen them more carefully before I hire them. I will implement pre-employment testing, ensure expectations are clear upon hiring, and over-communicate our Vision, Mission, Core Values, Goals, and Key Performance Indicators throughout the employment relationship. Those who don’t enjoy and thrive in our culture will self-select termination. Those who do will enjoy prosperity, opportunities, successes, and more!
In sum, I might be a hypocrite at times, or at least appear to be one. You probably have similar experiences. Embrace them. There is guidance within them and an action plan to create. If you need a little coaching to Stay on PARR (Action Five), feel free to reach out to schedule a coaching consultation.