Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Outsourcing Options and Opportunities - Part 1: Outsourcing Can Make Your Firm More Competitive

A recent articlein the ABA Journal proclaimed, “Boom years for law firms were an aberration.” The article quotes information from a 2013 Client Advisory report from Hildebrandt Consulting and Citi Private Bank which predicts that the double-digit rate increases that occurred from 2001 to 2007 are over.

As proof, the article summarized information in the report confirming that “productivity is down among income and equity partners, expenses are up, clients are demanding and getting discounts.” As a result, future law firm success will likely be measured by “profit growth in the single digits.”

To succeed going forward, the article suggests law firms are going to have to do things like develop a growth strategy, practice good leadership, focus on key Clients, practices or industries and seek Client feedback. (I would add, “act on it!” to that last one.)

These are all radical concepts, I know. But the article also suggests that, to stay competitive, firms may need to rethink their business models to focus on efficiency, and to do this they may want to consider their outsourcing options.

This makes perfect sense. How many tasks are the firm’s key marketing and other professionals currently working on that are keeping them from their most important jobs of crafting and executing the firm’s strategy and helping the attorneys to develop business? The good news is that now there are some options to help law firms save time and money – and free up key staff members for more important and strategic pursuits… 

Monday, January 14, 2013

Watch Your Back! 13 Tips for a Healthy Back

The three weakest links in the body are the neck, knees and back. If any of these three parts are out of commission, you know it. Your whole day is affected. With winter on its way and snow shoveling just around the corner, you must be extra careful with your back.

Just about everything you do affects your back. Most people will have back pain at some point in their life. Back pain can be caused by being overweight, performing repetitive movements, sitting, standing, stress and improper lifting procedures. The back is very complicated and taking care of it now can go a long way toward preventing many forms of back problems in the future.

Here are some tips for keeping your back healthy and strong:

1. Practice good posture. Slouching puts undue stress on your back.

2. Maintain a healthy weight. Being overweight puts stress on the back.

3. Eat well. We need calcium and vitamin D among other nutrients to keep bones in good shape.

4. Quit smoking. Studies suggest that smokers are more likely to experience disc problems.

5. Strengthen your abdominal and back muscles. By keeping your abdominal muscles strong and maintaining good posture, you will be creating a natural "girdle" around your body to give your back good support.

6. Keep the spine flexible with yoga and gentle exercises. It's been said that a flexible spine is the secret to a youthful body.

7. Exercise regularly to keep your body fit and strong. Many back injuries happen when people who are not active play a vigorous game of football or softball on the weekend. Condition your body with regular exercises so you can play sports without pain.

8. Reduce stress. Tense people often have tense backs. Get enough sleep, exercise, be positive and practice deep breathing regularly.

9. Be comfortable. Avoid restrictive clothing and high heeled shoes which can put stress on your back.

10. If you stand for long periods of time, raise one foot on a box to lessen the strain on your back. Check your posture and try to maintain the natural curve in your spine. Take frequent breaks if possible.

11. If you must sit for long periods of time, get up every 30 minutes, walk around and do a few stretches.

12. If you work at a computer, adjust your chair so your elbows to wrists are parallel to the floor and the screen is at eye level.

13. Use your legs when lifting. Bend at the knees and straighten your legs as you lift the object. This puts less strain on your back.

We often don't appreciate a healthy back until we're laid up with a bad one. Take a proactive approach to a strong, healthy and pain-free back.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Women and Leadership

Recent years more and more women have appeared on the international arena as successful political leaders. This tendency shows that women have the same leadership abilities as men and can successfully perform as Presidents and Prime Ministers. This trend is a good sign for leadership in the world which can be interpreted as a great step towards equal opportunities and the ability of public to overcome prejudices against women abilities to lead and rule.

Women leadership abilities are formed under the influence of individual characteristics, internal and external environment. It is concerned with why they choose a particular course of action in preference to others, and why they continue with a chosen action, often over a long period, and in the face of difficulties and problems. This type of communication provides additional channels of communication and provides a means of motivation, for example, through status, social inter¬action, variety in routine jobs, and informal methods of work. It is admitted that women leaders are "more likely to be transformational leaders, defined as those who serve as role models, mentor and empower workers and encourage innovation even when the organization they lead is generally successful" (Evanston, 2005).

Without the direct participation and support of an institution's leadership, this power cannot be pushed to its full potential. Leadership requires many of the characteristics common to all leaders, but also requires special abilities to manage any organization in today's rapidly changing environment. One model for thinking about strategic change sees the exis¬tence of leadership as a social system built on 'influence paths' or 'loops'.

Most women leaders posses greater ability to motivate and inspire followers In order to achieve optimal goals three basics would be taken into account: motivation, reward and commitment. Motivating other people is about getting them to move in the direction they want them to go in order to achieve a result.

Motivation can be described as goal-directed behaviour and ability to contribute to a solution. Followers are motivated when they expect that a course of action is likely to lead to the attainment of a goal and a valued reward - one that satisfies their needs. It is reasonable to believe that strong commitment to work is likely to result in consci¬entious and self-directed application to do the job, regular attendance, nominal supervision and a high level of effort.
Referring to Eagly's study Evanston (2005) states that: "Women also scored higher than men on one measure of transactional leadership -- rewarding employees for good performance" (Evanston 2005). This explains why some countries prefer to elect female Presidents and Prime Ministers.

"Women presidents, prime ministers, and heads of state have commanded powerful nations throughout history. Great historical leaders include Cleopatra VII of Egypt, Queen Isabel I of Spain, Queen Elizabeth I of Great Britain, Catherine the Great of Russia, Empress Dowager Tz'u-his of China, and others" (Boyd, 2002). Probably, the most famous women of all times is Margaret Thatcher who proved the image of an "iron lady" able to compete with men on the political arena. Being an excellent example of an ideal female leader Margaret Thatcher possesses such features as vision of the future and personal charisma (Margaret Thatcher, 2005). The other famous female leaders include: Prime Minister of New Zealand Helen Clark and Chancellor of Germany Angela Merkel. "The world record amount of female world leaders was 13, in July of 2002, when Lativa, Finland, New Zealand, Ireland, Sri Lanka, The Philippines, Indonesia, Panama, Bangladesh, Sengal, São Tomé and Príncipe, and South Korea all had female leaders (Current Female World Leader Count 9, 2005).

General leadership skills are not sufficient in enriched environments. It must directly relate to the tools, medium, strategies, and competencies found within this culture. The recent tendency shows that female leader possess the competencies to use and evaluate new tools, but she must also have the insight into the impact these tools will have on the future of their countries. The ability to develop a shared vision for future political and economic changes within a country and in the world is an essential part of leadership.

Female leaders bring to politics a new vision of the problems and new strategies to problems solving. For instance, the example of African female leader depicts that women "bring motherly sensitivity and emotion to their presidency" (Female presidents show how the U.S. lags, 2005). Female political leaders show that leading others is not simply a matter of style, or following some how-to guides or recipes. Ineffectiveness of leaders seldom results from a lack of know-how or how-to, nor it is typically due to inadequate skills. Leadership is even not about creating a great vision. It is about creating conditions under which all followers can perform independently and effectively toward a common objective.
To overcome limitations of male leadership Liberian President" her presidential campaign on her experience and wisdom -- and on bringing a woman's touch to the civic reconciliation necessary for Liberia" (Female presidents show how the U.S. lags, 2005).

Female leaders help each of their followers to develop into an effective self-leader by providing them with the behavioral and cognitive skills necessary to exercise self-leadership. An important measure of a leader's own success is he success of her followers. The strength of a leader is measured by the ability to facilitate the self-leadership of others first critical step towards this goal is to master self-leadership. If leaders want to lead somebody, they must first lead themselves.

The list of female Presidents includes: Mary McAleese, Ireland (1997) and Ruth Dreifuss, Switzerland (1999-2000), Mireya Elisa Moscoso de Arias, Panama (1999-prersent ) and Tarja Kaarina Halonen, Finland (2000- present), etc. The Prime Ministers are Helen Clark, New Zealand (1999- present), Sheikh Hasina Wajed, Bangladesh (1996- present), Janet Jagan, Guyana (1997, President 1997-1999) so on. (Women Leaders. 2005).

In spite of this list and world's political practive it is supposed that women cannot be cussessful leaders because of conviction. In the article "Why Can't Women Be Leaders Too?"
Robin Gerber explains his vision of women leadership stating that: "women' conviction is not just having a belief, but holding strongly to it. It's one thing to talk about change; it's another thing to actually do something" (Graham, 2005). It would be possible to agree with Robin Gerber if not a numerous examples of successful female leaders.

The other leadership quality which appeals to many people is that female leaders are more trustworthy than men. Women leaders are able to implement new style faster than men. For instance, female leader in Peru is characterized as: "She's a good woman, the woman who is going to move us forward, because the men can't be trusted,'' said Magda Acuna, who sells shirts and slacks. ''They rob. They're corrupt. Women are more honest.'' (Vecchio, 2001). In pursuing and achieving objectives, Women leaders are more open to new ideas, insights, and revelations that can lead to better ways to accomplishing goals. This continuous learning process can be exercised.

To conclude it is possible to say that female leadership proves the fact that the world is needed in new vision and novelty brought by women. Recent years, global population are looking for leaders who are willing to give it all they have and they will follow, and female leaders are able to join strong leadership skills with female nature. Women leadership is the best process currently available for improving political effectiveness . The design retains needed principles from the traditional system; incorporates political principles, and builds a new system that works to accomplish overall objectives. The importance is that the process of effective leadership will be of extreme importance in the next 10 years and continues to advance rapidly and change becomes imperative. With a female leaders and transformational leadership any country will be "equipped" with the necessary and proper tools to successfully perform on the international arena and succeed on the national basis.

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Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Accepting the Challenge of The Bad Boss

Recently, a friend of mine lost a multi-hundred thousand dollar a year job because he allowed himself to get pulled into a dangerous power struggle with a Bad Boss, mistakenly thinking that if he pressed his case strongly enough, he would 'win'.  Each time we spoke, he described how the conflict grew, intensified, deepened, but was so entrenched in it that no matter what was said, he would go away and step ever deeper into the mire until he'd finally crossed the line the boss was waiting for him to cross and he was asked for his resignation.

"I guess I did it to myself," he said.  And gosh, bless his heart, did he ever. 

I will state here at the beginning that up to a point, I believe it is possible to handle the Bad Boss, and that knowing how to do it is a major part of being the good steward of your own career.  But before we get any farther, I've got to point out the need to get ego out of the way.  The executive or professional with a BB needs to be clear with herself what outcome she desires.  Does she want to be 'right', or 'vindicated' or 'win'?  Or, does she want to retain as much control as possible over the direction of her career, look past the current difficulty, and determine her own direction, or does she want to give that power to a small minded schmuck?

I'm going to assume she wants to retain control of her career, including when to resign if it comes to that.

There are really two Bad Bosses.  One is the obvious psychopath.  The other is incompetent.  Sometimes the incompetent is also a psychopath.  More on the incompetent later, for now lets stick with the psychopath. 

This person simply does not care about others at all.  He views people as packages of resources to be mined and discarded when empty.  He quite often appears charming and harmless, particularly in early employment, and knows how to engender accomplices.

The key to discerning this Bad Boss is to trust your intuition, but to not act on it.  Your intuition will tell you that this person is a little too slick, a little too polished and charming.  You will notice the sycophants and accomplices he has surrounded himself with, and that he is always capable of bending rules to suit himself, while seducing others into colluding with him.  Your job is to notice all this, and keep on noticing it, while at the same time failing to fall into an equal and opposite campaign to 'out' him.  'Be like smoke' is how I advise people unfortunate enough to have this BB.  You must at all times behave in such a way as to have maximum control over your employment while scouting exit strategies if you decide it's just not worth it.  This means never giving this BB the ammo he needs to steal control from you.

How do you do this, you ask?  You do it by astutely studying your own emotions regarding the BB, but only from the outside, much as if you were watching the clouds in the sky.  You scan the clouds for information on the weather, and in the same way, you look at your emotions as valuable information on what is transpiring in your relationship with the BB.  One thing you DON'T do is feed your own emotions into any interaction.  Once you do that, you are handing over everything the BB needs to hang you. 

Just to make sure I've made my point, DO NOT EMOTIONALLY ENGAGE with the BB-you will hang yourself.  Instead, remember there are tactics you can use, not to 'defeat' him, but rather, to defend yourself.  These tactics are things your mother tried to teach you- manners, timeliness, professionalism, but never in a manipulative or sycophant-ish way, but the simple business of recognizing that he is above you in the hierarchy and knowing how to function within one's place in a hierarchy is one of the hallmarks of centered adult life.  Often, simple professionalism will eventually lead to the BB hanging himself rather than his employees, because they have steadfastly refused to engage at his level.

It is also worth knowing that this BB is to be feared, but your fear should never show, as they are experts at sensing it, and once they do, their bloodlust becomes compelling.  The tactic is is simply adult, centered professionalism.  If your particular BB is a really dangerous one, he may not be satisfied with simply having power over you, he may need to show it as well.  If he becomes clearly abusive, a judgment call is in order, and that may mean involving HR.  This is a gray area, but obviously, when a BB's behavior crosses EEOC lines, then HR must be brought in, or an exit strategy formulated.

And this is where no adviser can go with you- with the psychopathic BB violating major guidelines, you the employee have entered the no-man's land of having to act to save oneself without the comfort of knowing the outcome.  But act you must- call in HR, be ready to offer resignation, start looking for another job, perhaps consult an employment lawyer. 

Life's too short to live that way.

Thank you, Joseph

Thirty-four years ago, give or take a month or two, I, an ever so slightly qualified psychotherapist, encountered my first clients, a Mexican-American boy named Joseph and his mother.  He had a serious school phobia,  a condition about which I knew absolutely nothing.  He spoke little or no English, nor did his mother.  We had no Spanish speaking therapists in the agency, and for whatever the reason, Joseph and his mother were assigned to me and my mentor, Julia. 

Picture the absurdity of two Anglo non-Spanish speakers in a room with this loving, frightened young mother and her big eyed little brown son as we tried to communicate, us in our high school/Tex Mex restaurant Spanish and she in her non-existent English.  Joseph's 'treatment' amounted to little more than the three adults in the room trying to speak to one another.  At some point, I took him outside and we kicked a ball around, I think.  I was 27 years old.

It wasn't too many sessions later that Joseph and his mother failed to appear, and did not return follow-up notes mailed to the address they gave.  They had no phone. 

Memory faded and we went on with our work.  I recall meeting with violent biker swingers, lonely alcoholics, teenage 'freaks', a guy addicted to huge amounts of Dramamine.  But we never heard back from Joseph or his mother, until one day we received a letter in broken English addressed to me and to Julia.  Someone had written it for them, thanking us for all our help, and saying therapy had been most beneficial to Joseph, that he'd returned to school, and was doing fine. 

I don't know if the mother was simply being polite, or if we'd actually somehow managed to help her son.  She seemed to be a person of few so few resources, and pressed so hard for time for herself that it stretched my imagination to think that she wasted a stamp and the time to send us that letter.  But I don't know. 

What I do know is that the mere process of being cared for, as I, Julia, and his mother had done in our struggle to merely speak to one another, can often be enough to help a person past whatever sticking point they've arrived at in their development. 

And I thank Joseph and his mother teaching me that early lesson in psychotherapy

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Your CRM Journey - Part 7: Rest Stops

Sometimes, when you are trying diligently to get to your ultimate CRM destination, the temptation can be to really ‘put the pedal to the metal’ and try to get there as quickly as possible. The problem is that when you do this, you may end up running out of gas before you get where you want to go– or you may find your team’s motivation levels 'on empty.'  
So slow down there, lead foot. CRM isn't a race. It's not about getting to the finish line as quickly as possible – especially since the journey is never really finished. CRM isn't a project or an initiative: it’s a fundamental change in the way your firm manages and leverages relationships. It’s a tool you will utilize well into the future to improve firm communication and coordination and enhance business development. So give yourself a break.

It’s important that you take a few rest stops during the rollout to get your bearings. Things sometimes change along the way that you may need to react to. New challenges or opportunities develop that were not anticipated when you originally planned the trip. Potholes may appear in the road. There may be mountains or valleys that you didn't anticipate during planning. When these things happen, you can't accelerate through them. Instead you need to pull over and just break out the roadmap again so you can plot a different route. 

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Your CRM Journey - Part 7: Points of Interest

While focusing on your ultimate CRM destination is, of course, important, it can also be beneficial to check out the scenery along the way. You need to take a little time to smell the CRM ‘roses’ and relish your successes to ensure the journey is sweet.  

There are a lot of points of interest that can be…well, interesting. You may even want to plan in advance what sites you want to see. Think about what made you want to embark on the journey in the first place. What were your goals for this journey? What landmarks did you hope to see en route? Where did you hope to end up?

For instance, are there certain levels of adoption you want to reach? Are you interested in improving mailing lists or event management? Do you hope to be able to identify a certain number of relationships to enhance business development? Do you need to improve data quality as you move forward?

All of these are sites worth seeing. And when you arrive at one of these important points, you will want to memorialize the achievement by sending a postcard, so to speak. Communicate the successes with others at the firm to let them know that you have all worked together to reach a crucial milestone.