How in the world do we “fit it all in” for the team and the attorney, while still being able to serve the clients each week? It usually comes back to “There’s never enough time!” The interesting thing is, this “never enough time” issue leaves the attorney and the team feeling overwhelmed, undervalued and unheard. How does this happen?
We began to break down the observations one small piece at a time. The team went from feeling overwhelmed and unheard to leaving the call feeling empowered, knowing there is a tool in their toolbox to take them (the team and attorney) out of the mindset that “it is what it is” and a life of reactivity that “it’s just part of being in business.” Well, it doesn’t have to be!
Bottom-line, the most successful solo small practice firms live a life of by design vs. by default. Everything we’ve heard, read and seen on success indicates that the common theme is that you want to model the belief, values and behaviors of successful people.
Here are three keys to success we’ve seen in successful entrepreneurs who are proactive, not reactive, to their businesses and their lives:
1. They control their calendars vs. their calendars controlling them;
2. They have proactive weekly communication with their team;
3. They have a process for what you do.
Here is how each of these keys can take away the sense of being overwhelmed, undervalued and unheard:
Overwhelmed: The No. 1 cause of feeling overwhelmed is reacting to whatever the day throws at you. The tool “Time and Money” spells out the technique that will eliminate overwhelm and replace it with focus, immediately. The folks who spend one hour (as a team) watching the “Time and Money” webinar are the ones who drastically decrease the feeling of overwhelm, of being on a roller coaster ride of emotions, feeling like there is never enough time, and that you can’t get to the important things. Weekly focus is the solution. Time and Money will support you in getting there.
Undervalued: Feeling undervalued stems solely from a lack of weekly, proactive communication. Not making the time to carve out weekly team meetings with a pre-set agenda will cause people to feel “undervalued.” The “typical” way people conduct business is by holding weekly team meetings where the focus is only on current work in progress, or by having hallway conversations. Conversations are started, but then time is up, and you never get back to them or you start communication ping-pong with emails and voicemails, to which there is no follow-up.
In our experience, the No. 1 reason team feels undervalued is simply because there is no follow-up to things the team brings up, and as team it is our job to follow up on these things. Team, we promise you: It is not the attorney blowing you off or intentionally not following up on the things he/she promised. It’s simply a result of not staying committed to having time together each week to handle these matters, no matter what! Weekly team meetings and production meetings are sacred ground and should not be violated. They allow for consistent communication, which is the solution.
Unheard: This nasty offender comes from not following process. When we derail from process because we are “too busy,” the resulting unforeseen chaos can be stunning. In our experience, the story goes something like this: “We start to get busier, and the attorney gets jammed up. The team is swamped, and we can barely keep our head above water. We start to blow off our weekly team meetings, skip workshop confirmation calls, pass over follow-up calls, ditch proper trust reviews, and next thing you know, you get team comments such as ‘I suggested we X, but she never confirmed if we can do that or not,’ or ‘I sent him an email about it last Tuesday and still haven’t received a response,’ or ‘I shared that the client was unhappy and needed a call back, but that still hasn’t happened,’ or ‘I know we don’t see clients on Mondays, but there is nowhere else to put them, and if I don’t get them in, they will go down the street.’ ” We are agreeing or disagreeing with the validity of the statements, BUT these are clear indications that the feeling of being “unheard” is beginning to permeate your team. This happens when everyone begins violating the structures and processes you have in place, just so they can “keep up.” When that happens, all vehicles that were your safety nets (focused calendaring, weekly team meetings and processes) have gone out the window due to survival. Process is the solution. “Skipping things” will never get you “caught up” and will cause everyone, team and attorney, to feel “unheard,” which carries even bigger consequences.
In our experience, you can set the calendar every 90 days for a breakdown of some sort stemming from some version of the feeling of overwhelm. The firm is finally feeling like we are grooving. Business starts coming in, and before you know it we are back saying, “We are so busy,” and that is when all abandonment of systems starts. This is not a conscious decision, but “too busy” is the catalyst that starts the vicious cycle.
To keep this destructive cycle from occurring, make sure you have the right people in the right roles. If you would like a complimentary diagnostic call, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org to register or for more information.
By Molly Hall