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Jan Copley
Certified Practice Advisor
Atticus, Inc.

530 South Lake Avenue, Suite 250
Pasadena, CA 91101
(626) 696-3145
(626) 421-6747 (fax)

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Book Review: Scorekeeping for Success

August 21, 2012

Filed under: Book Review — @ 2:44 pm

Motivating employees can be tough. A constant theme in my conversations with my coaching clients is their struggles with managing their team members. My clients wonder how to motivate their employees effectively, and how to set performance standards for their staff.

Do your team members really know what’s expected of them? When I talk to my clients, I sometimes refer them to Charles Coonradt’s book, The Game of Work: How to Enjoy Work as Much as Play (Game of Work, Inc. 1984). Coonradt’s thesis is that most employees don’t really know what’s expected of them in their jobs, so they keep themselves busy with activity that may or may not move the business forward. According to Coonradt, if you make work more like a game, with scorekeeping that lets employees know your expectations and how they’re succeeding, they will be productive and happier.

It looks as if Coonradt has spent many years as a consultant for various businesses to help them create performance standards for their employees. He wondered why sometimes the experiments worked and sometimes they didn’t. Coonradt’s newer book, Scorekeeping for Success (Game of Work, LLC 2007) is the answer to his question.

How to keep score. The idea behind Scorekeeping for Success is that it is better to score an employee’s wins, rather than mistakes. You set minimum expectations; if someone’s work falls below those expectations, it’s time to work with that employee to help him/her improve. If the employee exceeds expectations, you acknowledge the good work.

Keep the scoring positive, rather than punitive. You want to do scoring to give an employee something to strive for, rather than counting mistakes. For example, if you’re concerned about accuracy, rather than evaluating an employee on how many errors he/she made, score the employee on the number of times he/she got things right. Set a minimum standard of, say, 95% accuracy, and then provide acknowledgement when the employee exceeds the standard. The idea is that the employee will enjoy striving toward the goal.

Sounds good to me! I think Coonradt’s thesis makes sense. There’s a lot more motivation when you say, “Good job!” than when you tell an employee, “Well, you messed up again.” And the standards for the employee’s performance become clear, which is helpful to both you and your team member.

I must say, however, that the book is a tough read. It’s 200 pages long; I think it would be more effective as a fifteen-page pamphlet. Also, it’s clear to me that Coonradt is a sports (especially football) nut; if you’re not, then the constant sports stories may annoy you.

Please let me know how this helps you!

Book Review: The Happiness Advantage

July 18, 2012

Filed under: Book Review — @ 1:15 pm

There are statistics to the effect that lawyers are not happy people; according to a year-old blog article, “The Depressed Lawyer” on the Psychology Today website, “lawyers lead the nation with the highest incidence of depression.”

That’s not surprising! The job is stressful; it’s competitive, and, I found when I was practicing, the law demands perfection, which just isn’t possible all the time. We lawyers are saddled with hyperresponsibility, and the liability exposure that goes with it. Because most of us are very conscientious people, we lose sleep worrying about things. And what do we get for all of this? Reputations for being sharks!

So, when my friend and colleague Steve Riley suggested reading Shawn Achor’s book, The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology that Fuel Success and Performance at Work (Crown Business 2010), I was intrigued. According to Achor, the traditional wisdom, “I’ll be happy when I accomplish…” has it backwards: you’re more likely to accomplish something if you’re happy. Waiting for something to happen to make you happy is a pretty good recipe for putting off the happiness you want in your life.

So, what do you do about it? Achor outlines seven interrelated strategies to lead you to a more successful career and a happier life:

  • The “Happiness Advantage” (happiness give you a competitive edge)
  • The “Fulcrum and the Lever” (change your performance by changing your mindset)
  • The “Tetris Effect” (train your brain to capitalize on possibility)
  • “Falling Up” (use failures to build forward momentum)
  • The “Zorro Circle” (break goals into manageable steps)
  • The “20-Second Rule” (remove barriers to productivity)
  • “Social Investment” (your support system keeps you happy — don’t push it away)

I like Achor’s thesis for a couple of reasons:

  • First, I believe that a lot of our recent national discourse — and the current presidential campaign — has focused on, and, to a certain extent encouraged — a sense victimization and helplessness. Achor says you don’t have to be that way; by focusing on the happiness advantage, you can take more control over, and be more contented with, your life.
  • Second, I think giving lawyers tools for happiness can only help our profession. We’ve allowed lawyering to become what is sometimes a miserable job; if we can focus on our happiness, we’ll do better work and improve the good that we do.

Please let me know how this helps you!

Book Review: The Litigators

January 25, 2012

Filed under: Book Review — @ 2:16 pm

I just finished reading John Grisham’s newest book, The Litigators (Doubleday 2011). It’s fun. I’ve never thought of Grisham as a humorous writer, but he does a great job skewering, among other things, small law practices, large law firms, mass tort litigation, expert witnesses, the federal court system, and quickie divorces.

Grisham’s book is about the misadventures of the people who make up the Chicago law firm of Finley & Figg, a firm that’s “selective” “because no one wanted to work there.”

Of course, as a law practice management coach, I can’t resist writing about the guidance I would give to Finley & Figg. If they were my clients, these are the things I would suggest they work on:

  • Client Selection. Finley & Figg has awful clients. The clients don’t pay, they’re not responsive, and they have unrealistic expectations. As a result, Finley & Figg’s cash flow is terrible and the lawyers don’t like their jobs. So, I would tell the folks at Finley & Figg to fire all their bad clients. The lawyers are better off spending their time marketing for better-quality people to work with.
  • Cash Flow Management. Largely because Finley & Figg has terrible clients, it has terrible cash flow. It’s continuously dodging bill collectors. Because money is tight, the partners don’t feel they can spend the money on more effective advertising. And the lawyers in Finley & Figg will continue to just get by — or worse, lose money — unless they change. I would work with them to (1) get their prices up; (2) create a process to effectively track their time; (3) implement a system to collect for work billed; and (4) track their revenues so they can get rid of the bad cases and clients.
  • Marketing. Finley & Figg has no marketing plan, other than chasing ambulances and looking for the next best thing. It’s no wonder the business is failing! They need to put together an effective marketing program to attract quality clients and referral sources, and then they need to implement it.

With some effort and a little patience, Finley & Figg can stop chasing ambulances and start making money.

Please let me know how this helps you!

Book Review: The 5 Languages of Appreciation
in the Workplace

January 18, 2012

Filed under: Book Review — @ 8:15 pm

I’ve previously written about the importance of expressing appreciation for your team members. If your team feels valued for what they do, you’re more likely to have engaged employees and less disruptive turnover.

What I hadn’t considered is that there are different ways of expressing appreciation, and that the form of appreciation goes a long way in making someone feel valued. That’s what I learned from reading G. Chapman and P. White, The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace: Empowering Organizations by Encouraging People (Northfield Publishing 2011). The book is worth reading.

According to Chapman and White, there are five different ways of expressing appreciation at work:

    Words of Affirmation. This is when you give verbal praise to someone for something they did. If it’s going to work, the praise must be sincere.

    Quality Time. Some people feel most valued when they have the opportunity to speak one-on-one with their supervisor. The employee will feel valued by having the chance to talk about his or her job.

    Acts of Service. Some employees feel most valued when someone offers to help them out.

    Tangible Gifts. Some people most value a tangible gift — tickets to something, for instance. Of course, this act of appreciation only works if the gift is appropriate to the recipient; the sports nut in your office might not feel valued if you give him or her tickets to the ballet.

    Physical Touch. Physical touch is important to some people. Expressing appreciation this way can be tricky, of course, if it could be construed as uncomfortable or harassment by the employee. However, for the right person, a High Five or a pat on the back is a very effective way of making that person feel valued.

Another point that Chapman and White make is that some people value one form of appreciation, while others respond to other forms. Additionally, you, as the boss, may have a blind spot about what your team members value, because you have our own language of appreciation.

So, this is something to think about the next time you want to tell one or all of your team members how much you value what they do for you. To be most effective, express your appreciation in the language most effective for the recipient.

Please let me know how this helps you!

Book Review: The Checklist Manifesto

November 2, 2011

Filed under: Book Review — @ 5:16 pm

After spending the spring and summer with Mickey Haller and Harry Bosch, I’ve finally returned to doing some professional reading.

My good friends, Mark Merenda and Steve Riley, both recommended that I read Atul Gawande’s The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right (Picador 2009). I’m glad they did.

Gawande is a surgeon. He is involved with public health. After considering how some professions — notably aviation — use checklists, he began to wonder if checklists might be usable tools for medicine and other professions. The Checklist Manifesto is Gawande’s story of pursuing that thought, culminating with development of the Surgical Safety Checklist for the World Health Organization, and stories about how the checklist improved patient safety — even in Gawande’s own operating room.

Gawande’s book made me think about some of the checklists I created in my own practice, and how I could have developed more. Why is it that many, many attorneys resist checklists? Probably because lawyers, like doctors, think of our profession as always involving creativity that cannot be systematized. But we all know that that’s not really true: there are commonalities and process we use in every case we take. A checklist can help us lawyers avoid the small mistakes that can lead to problems, and even professional liability.

Finally, a note about the writing. As a general rule, I hate self-help books. In my opinion, most of them are 90% too long and torture to read. If someone condensed a self-help book to 10% of its length and charged more for the pamphlet, I’d buy the pamphlet. The Checklist Manifesto doesn’t fall into that category — it’s only about 50% too long. The stories are interesting, mostly to the point, and Gawande has a nice self-deprecating sense of humor. So, try the book. My guess is that it will be useful to you and your practice.

Please let me know how this helps you!

What’s on Your Reading List?

August 12, 2011

Filed under: Book Review — @ 1:20 pm

I just ran across this article, “30 Lawyers Pick 30 Books Every Lawyer Should Read”, in the ABA Journal, in which thirty prominent lawyers recommend thirty books. It’s an interesting list, because a lot of the books are not about lawyering or the law. And the big two — To Kill a Mockingbird and Gideon’s Trumpet — are not on the list.

I find the breadth of the list and the eclectic selections inspiring. I think the article provides an important insight: as lawyers, we have to know as much or more about life as we do about the law in order to do our jobs well. If all you read are books about the law, you’ll not only be boring, you’ll be out of touch with your clients!

I’ve read three of the books, The Invisible Man, Cleopatra, and The Little Prince, as well as the two honorable mentions on Brendan Sullivan’s list, Snow Falling on Cedars and The Innocent Man.

Which of the books have you read?

Going on Lockdown

June 1, 2011

Filed under: Book Review,Focus/Time Management — @ 1:51 pm

I saw The Lincoln Lawyer when it was released this March. I enjoyed it (and not just for the Matthew McConaughey eye candy). In fact, I liked the movie enough to buy the book. And, I liked the book enough to go on to read Michael Connelly’s three other Mickey Haller courtroom thrillers.

I didn’t expect to find law practice management advice in the books, but I did. At Atticus, we teach time management and how, if lawyers better control their time, they can get more — and better quality — work done. We talk about having scheduled “Power Hours” during your workweek: time in which you have no interruptions and accomplish a lot.

Well, in The Brass Verdict, Mickey Haller does the same thing, except he calls it “going on lockdown:” “Lockdown was when I closed all the doors and windows, drew the curtains, and killed the phones and went to work on a file and a case with total concentration and absorption. Lockdown for me was the ultimate do not disturb sign hanging on the door.” And, lockdown pays off for Mickey: in The Brass Verdict, lockdown enables him to figure out his winning case strategy.

So, if it works for Mickey Haller, shouldn’t it work for you? Try your own lockdown plan. Schedule a couple hours sometime this week during which you do not take phone calls, you do not check your email, and you do not allow interruptions from your team. Work on the hard stuff. See what happens. You’ll probably find that regularly scheduled lockdowns help you effectively manage your time, your focus and your practice.

Please let me know how this strategy works for you!

Book Review: 365 Thank Yous

April 26, 2011

Filed under: Book Review — @ 1:39 pm

I recently saw John Kralik speak at a local civic event. I was intrigued enough by his story and his gentle demeanor to download his book, 365 Thank Yous: The Year a Simple Act of Daily Gratitude Changed My Life (Hyperion 2010) to my Kindle. It’s an easy read.

In his book, Kralik, an attorney, tells the story of how he found his life in shambles: just before Christmas 2007, he couldn’t pay bonuses to his staff because he had lost money over the last year; he was in the middle of a divorce; he hated where he lived; and his girlfriend had broken up with him. On a hike in the mountains on New Year’s Day, something made Kralik decide to write 365 handwritten thank-you notes in the following year. Although the project took him about fifteen months, he found it was well worthwhile — he discovered many reasons to be grateful, he began to enjoy his life again, and he got his dream job: Kralik was appointed judge of the Los Angeles Superior Court.

So how does this apply to law practice management? I think there are two relevant points:

1. As lawyers, we have things to be grateful for. Practicing law is a hard, time-consuming, stressful, hyper-responsible job — to the point that there is a blog out there called “Practicing Law Sucks” . I know; I’ve been there. But, if we step back and look at what we do for a living, we realize we have the skills to do tremendous things for people: we can keep them out of jail; we can ease the pain of the loss of a loved one; we can get clients out of messes they’ve created; we can help them protect their assets. There’s great satisfaction there. Also — and this is one thing I didn’t think about when I went to law school — being a lawyer provides us with tremendous opportunities for self-determination. I don’t know about you, but I’m grateful for that.

2. Kralik’s project turned out to be a great marketing activity. He sent thank-you notes to clients who paid him; they continued to pay him and retained him for other work. Kralik sent thank-you notes to people who referred him business; they thanked him for the thank-yous and sent more business. Not only did Kralik’s life get better because he found many things to be grateful for; it got better because he started making more money!

In my life as a practice management coach for attorneys, I often urge my clients to write thank-you notes to clients and referral sources. Now I have Kralik’s book to back up my advice.

Is this useful to you? Please let me know.

Book Review: How I Raised Myself from Failure
to Success in Selling

March 25, 2011

Filed under: Book Review — @ 1:23 pm

I’ve been catching up on some professional reading. I recently finished Frank Bettger’s How I Raised Myself from Failure to Success in Selling (Fireside 1947). The book tells Bettger’s story of how he became a successful insurance salesman.

So why am I writing about a book that’s older than most of my readers? Because it’s worth reading. Although the book shows its age at some points — it’s unconsciously sexist and nobody had iPhones sixty-four years ago — Bettger gives timeless advice for people in the personal services business. He talks about his personal insecurity, getting himself organized, learning to deal respectfully with sales prospects, how to respond to objections, learning to risk failure, and many other things that we, as attorneys and reluctant marketers, struggle with. Bettger’s book proves that although times have changed, many problems and their solutions have not.

I found this book endearing. The authors in many self-help books tend to lecture; Bettger just tells his story. He doesn’t restate the same thing over and over again. How I Raised is a quick read and full of great stuff. Check it out!

Book Review: Go-Givers Sell More

March 18, 2011

Filed under: Book Review — @ 12:53 pm

I read Bob Burg and John David Mann’s book, The Go-Giver (Portfolio 2007) soon after it was released. In the book, Burg and Mann tell a fable about a frustrated salesman who learns the secret to success is through giving. Pindar, the wise man in the fable, teaches the “Five Laws of Stratospheric Success:”

    1. The Law of Value
    2. The Law of Compensation
    3. The Law of Influence
    4. The Law of Authenticity
    5. The Law of Receptivity

I remember thinking The Go-Giver is a fine book, so I picked up Burg and Mann’s most recent book, Go-Givers Sell More (Portfolio 2010) expecting to enjoy it and learn something from it. I am sorry to say I was disappointed.

First, Go-Givers Sell More assumes you’ve read The Go-Giver. I have, but I found I didn’t remember any of it, so Burg and Mann’s references to their previous book didn’t have any meaning for me.

Second, Go-Givers Sell More is boring. It is a classic example of the worst aspect of most self-help books, which is to say the same thing over and over and over again. Go-Givers Sell More consists of nearly two hundred pages, which I can summarize as follows:

Do. The. Right. Thing.
Think. Of. The. Other. Person. First.

According to Burg and Mann, you’ll be successful if you keep these lessons in mind.

I think Burg and Mann are right. I agree that the only way to give value to someone and to make that person an enthusiastic client is to think of that person first and to provide services that truly meet the person’s needs. If you are greedy and pushy, you’ll lose the relationship (and the sale).

Unfortunately, however, as far as I’m concerned, Go-Givers Sell More was such a tough slog to read I all but lost the message. Just read The Go-Giver and keep its message in mind when you deal with people around you; Go-Givers Sell More is unnecessary.

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