You may recall that at the beginning of 2014, I put together five posts on my wishes for you for the coming year:
- 10 Wishes for 2014 - Plan & Be Open
- 10 Wishes for 2014 - Be Social, Online and Off
- 10 Wishes for 2014 - Taking Small Steps Can Mean Big Changes
- 10 Wishes for 2014 - Focus on Content & Get Personal
- 10 Wishes for 2014 - Focus on the Small Stuff & Think Like a Client!
More than wishes, these posts were full of challenges to you on how to make 2014 a better year professionally. So how did you do? Let's see if I took my own advice in 2014...
Plan & Be Open
I am, by nature, a huge planner. I LOVE lists and keep them everywhere, and I enjoy the challenge of putting together a marketing and business development plan for the coming year. So this was a no brainer for me.
But I did really focus my efforts on planning this year:
- I finally gave myself an editorial calendar for Zen, and I stuck to it. The topics were broad enough to encompass the discussions of the day, but specific enough to keep me from getting too far into writer's block. It resulted in a LOT more writing here.
- I continued with my annual business development & marketing plan, but I added handwritten reminders in my agenda at the beginning of the year to check in with it each quarter. I would then use that check in to set up the tasks I needed to be focused on in the following quarter in order to stay on track. That meant I was making progress throughout the year, and constantly evaluating, instead of scrambling in the last couple of months.
What planning tools and tricks worked for you?
I also worked hard to stay open-minded and to learn from others. Not everything I tried worked, but everything was successful - some things worked, and everything else was a lesson. Staying open-minded is an ongoing challenge for me, but I plan to continue working on it for 2015, and my business development plan is a good example of that!
In 2014, I got to:
- Start the General Counsel Corner here on Zen. I thought there was no way that GCs would be interested in sharing their thoughts on the inside/outside counsel relationship with me, but they were! I'm glad I pursued it!
- LMA's P3 conference: I don't deal with a lot of pricing and project management concerns in my day-to-day work, because I am an extra step removed from my lawyer clients. But because my CLIENTS deal with that everyday, I know that I need to get entrenched in it to be able to effectively support them when needed. I had the opportunity to attend the LMA's P3 conference, and it was an excellent experience, for education and networking with some of the brightest minds in this space.
How were you more open-minded in 2014? Are there any new ideas that you thought would crash and burn, but they turned out wildly successful?
Be Social, Online & Off
It won't surprise anyone to hear that I continued my social media efforts in 2014. But if I'm honest, I stayed with my tried and true tools and didn't branch out. For 2015, I'm going to be a little more adventurous. Over on the LMA's 12 Days of Social Media, which I mentioned last week, my fellow leaders have shared some really interesting ideas and tools. I plan to explore them in the coming months to learn what I'm missing, what may be useful, and what may not be that important.
Because social media changes minute to minute, it seems, it's important to stay up-to-date - fortunately, there are people who do this full-time who can do that for me, and then share the salient points.
What I DID manage to do this year was to:
- Make use of all of LinkedIn's profile features to make my profile as robust and professional as possible - if I'm suggesting that my lawyers do it, I need to do it too.
- Periodically spend some time focused on Twitter, and work on engaging and not just broadcasting.
- Using my RSS reader as an idea generator for Zen, which helped me find new ideas outside of the legal industry as well.
- Watched my lawyers really benefit from engaging with each other on Facebook, which is getting me to think more about how it can be used in other ways.
How were you more social online this year?
As I often say, online social relationships are not complete without taking them offline as well. And I used the two interchangeably this year:
- Used the LMA Annual Conference to strengthen the relationships I already have through social media, and to meet some new people, who have become good friends and professional connections.
- Used the LMA P3 Conference to meet some new people who I'm not normally exposed to, and some I've only chatted with via email. I managed to break my toe on the way to the conference, which was a great icebreaker after I'd tweeted out that I'd be the girl in flip flops and a suit.
- Used social media to continue the in-person relationships I've developed with my lawyers, including my favorite use of social media this year: a Skype call to meet the new baby of one of our Danish lawyers. I love technology.
It can be easy, depending on your personality type, to rely on one or the other for relationship maintenance. But a good combination of in-person and online social interaction can keep your relationships strong around the year. Did you use both this year?
Taking Small Steps Can Mean Big Changes
The two suggestions I had in this post - doing one business development activity a week, and adding a day to your travel - do add up to big changes if you're consistent. These are still areas I need to challenge myself a bit more in, but I did (moderately) push myself to do these more, and it did make a difference!
- Because of the planning I did with my marketing and business development plan, I had something on the schedule each week that was progress towards one of my goals. Not all of them are business development goals, but they are all important. So that kept me moving forward.
- While I'm normally found in my room on the first day of an ILN conference, trying to get work done, catch up on emails, meet with planners, or the like, I was able to take some time instead to be available to my clients. In Oslo in September, I had lunch outside with our Executive Director, and we ended up attracting a table of about 12 of our lawyers, which gave me the opportunity to catch up with them. In Costa Rica in November, I spent the afternoon sitting with a large group of our lawyers again. When I can get my head out of the busy-ness of my work, I can actually do a better job of what's most important - connecting with my clients.
- I took an extra few days in Europe before our Oslo meeting to travel to Budapest and visit with our new firm there. It gave me the opportunity to see their offices, connect with our lawyers there on a more focused basis, and be able to answer any and all questions they had for me. It's something we do fairly regularly with our firms, and it's always a wonderful thing.
How about you - did any of these resonate with you for 2014?
Focus on Content & Get Personal
These are another two areas that are very important to me, and are things that are a part of my regular repetoire. I can't emphasize enough how essential it is to put out substantive content. There are some things here at Zen that are not substantive, but are more showcase pieces for my clients. And those things will always be necessary and have their own value (in many cases, they have a value internally that drives our publication of them more than any external value).
But the majority of what we put out here, and on our website, is not news or self-serving - it's substantive content that we hope will resonate with someone, and maybe help them. How did you do on that this year? Were you putting out mostly links to things you were quoted in? Press releases on new partners? Or was it full reprints of articles that you contributed to, with your comments in the social sharing? New blog posts on your area of the law? Content marketing continues to explode in all industries, so 2015 will be the year to make sure you're on the mark with it.
How about the second piece of this, getting personal? Did you share more of yourself with people? As I mentioned earlier, I watched a number of my clients, who had formed in-person relationships at conferences, "friend" each other on Facebook this year. They then regularly engage with each other, joke, post questions, add photos, etc. None of that is business-related, but ALL of it is relationship development (which, by the way, leads to business). Don't be scared to share who you are.
Focus on the Small Stuff and Think Like a Client
Finally, my last two wishes for you in 2014!
Focusing on the small stuff continues to be important - not just because it leads to better professional relationships, but because it's just the right thing to do. For example, our Executive Director sent an email to our firm in Sydney last week when a gunman took people hostage in a store there. While none of their employees were directly involved, they were all on lockdown because of their proximity, and it was a scary situation - it mattered to them that half a world away, their ILN friends were thinking of them.
Today, a number of people in Glasgow were killed when a lorry ran into holiday shoppers. Our Executive Director reached out to our friends in Glasgow with his good wishes, and while none of them were involved, it was again comforting that they were on our minds.
The small stuff adds up:
- Our Administrative team drove 90 minutes each way to have lunch with one of our Scottish lawyers and his wife, staying in Philadelphia.
- We also drove two hours each way to have lunch in New York with one of our English lawyers and his wife, staying there.
- After our Annual Meeting, I had photos printed and sent handwritten notes to each of our delegates with shots I thought they might like. For the host who had done a ton of work for the meeting, I blew up a photo of him with the Senator we had speak, and framed it.
Things like that don't take a lot of time, but they create goodwill and warmth in the relationships that make us all happier in the long run. Is there something you made a regular practice this year that produced big dividends?
Thinking like a client continues to be one of the most important things we can do for professional success. It's something I worked diligently at this year:
- Attending the P3 conference, as I mentioned above, which I knew would be of assistance to my lawyers.
- Creating the General Counsel Corner to help them serve their clients better/
- Staying open-minded so that I could listen to what they really want - for example, there were several comments and suggestions at our most recent conference, and although there are some I'm not convinced will work, I included every one of them in our marketing and business development plan.
- Doing a few more late-night email sessions - I know my clients work late, so although I'm a regular late-night-emailer, I put in a few more of those sessions this year, checking email on my laptop before bed, so that I was getting them the answers they needed more quickly.
- Staying mindful of different time-zones - I serve clients worldwide, and that means not everything is convenient at EST. I hosted a webinar at 4am EST this year so that our Asia Pacific and some of our European clients could dial in at a time convenient for them - exhausting, yes, worth it, YES.
What did you do this year that showed you were thinking more like your clients, and less like yourself?
All in all, 2014 was a strong year. There is always improvement to be found, and I'm looking forward to a very busy and productive 2015!