Seljalandfoss waterfall at sunset in HDR, Iceland

Creativity – where and how do you find it?

As I enjoyed a beautiful day outside in perfect weather yesterday, I started reflecting on the times I am most creative and what inspires me: when time slows down, I wonder at the beauty of the world and am able to think expansively. It’s a goal of mine to increase the frequency and intensity of these moments in the coming year.

Is creativity a top value for you?

Does you need to consistently refuel your creativity to do your best work?

Where do you find that you are most creative?

Do you need to step out of your regular life to achieve it?

Where and how can you increase your opportunities to find wonder in the world?

Does exposure to the creativity of others fuel your own?

Can you generate more to fuel yourself and others?

How can increased creativity drive positive change in your life and career?

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Top image: Seljalandfoss waterfall at sunset in HDR, Iceland (Shutterstock).

Text and bottom images (taken in Tampa, FL; Norwalk, CT; New York, NY; and Cruising Altitude, Somewhere, USA; respectively) copyright 2016 Anne Marie Segal.
All rights reserved.

Time and idea

 

How can you successfully manage your time when the next great idea could strike at any moment?

How do you make time for inspiration in any already busy day?

As a coach, I provide answers. As an individual, I have my own questions. One question that I have been struggling with this past year is how to foster inspiration while maintaining a sense of balance. I must admit that these two goals often work at cross-purposes in my life, as they do for many others who are blessed with the creativity bug.

Often the more I am inspired I am, the harder it is to be at peace. Channeling inspiration is a nagging, messy, guarded and complicated process. It makes me want to wake up at the wee hours of the morning and start going, and it propels me to extend my day much beyond the time my body is telling me that I need rest. It urges me to skip lunch and feed it instead.

Inspiration says, “don’t stop and eat lunch, feed me instead!”

I can set a perfect plan – at 10 am I will be doing X, by 11:30 am I will move to Y. But inspiration is jealous. It does not know how to share. It threatens to abandon me if I leave it on its own for too long, so when I return at 12:30 pm, it may be grumpy like a child.

Of course, I need inspiration as much as I need water, and I am sure you do too. The more inspired I am, the more I find passion and meaning in my life and the more energy I have for the other tasks in my day. On the days that I am most inspired, my output can be 20x the days that I am not.

To that end, I have become a huge fan of energy management rather than time management. If you focus on energy management, you channel your activities with the end game of increasing your overall energy for the day, so you can be at your best in each task. This matches many of us more than straight time management, in which we try to fit inspiration into a set of pre-programmed times.

Yet our days don’t always work that way either. Inspiration on one topic may strike at 1 pm, and a critical meeting on another may start at 1:15. So the question may become how to push and pull inspiration, weaving it into our free hours (however many or few those may be) without dampening those very creative ideas and the flow that can accompany their execution. 

This is hard. In fact, it may be one of the hardest things that we need to do as human beings. Coaxing inspiration to fit into the ins and outs of modern life is akin to shaping glass – you need just the right amount of heat, skill and supple touch – and you need to risk that your project will be a bust. Yet the more you practice, the better your results will be.

I have found something that has worked for me, so I wanted to share it. It’s a cliche, but made new again in this analogous context. Here it is:”If you love something, set it free.”

I love inspiration, so I have set it free. Right now, for example, I am writing this post at 9:50 am. I will stop at 10 am to prepare for my next meeting. If it means that I lose my train of thought, there is always another train. I cannot control inspiration, but it doesn’t control me either. We live in harmony with each other.

Inspiration will not leave you if it knows you are coming back.

If you live in the world of inspiration long enough, it starts to feel like home. It’s like an old friend with whom you can pick up a conversation started 15 minutes or 15 years earlier. Or a child who knows that although you have left the room, you will always return. If you trust inspiration, it will trust you back.

9:58 am. Inspiration, it’s almost time to go. It’s farewell and not goodbye. See you soon!

Anne Marie Segal is a career and leadership coach, author and resume writer for attorneys, executives and entrepreneurs. Her book on job interviews, Master the Interview, is available on Amazon.com

Image above from Adobe Images.

 

Woman working at home

Working On Your Career vs. In Your Career – What is the Difference?

If you have ever spent time in an entrepreneurial role, you have likely heard the phrase “working on your business” (versus “working in your business”). Working on your business means investing time in activities that will build the business over the long term,  such as marketing, streamlining of activities and professional development. While these activities may serve your immediate clients, they also are critical to assure that your business is headed in the direction that you determine will best position you for growth. In fact, a crucial part of working on your business is figuring out where the future growth lies, aside from how to achieve it.

Employees at companies, as well as new graduates, often do not have the lens of working on their careers as well as in them. In fact, a large part of my work with my own clients is helping them understand the importance of also lifting their heads up, rather than always keeping their heads down. To rise to the higher-level (and more interesting) roles, you need to lift your head above the fray of everyday life and activities to see the bigger picture. We know this intuitively, but we are often too busy to stop and do it.

In addition, it is only the fortunate few who are encouraged to think beyond the box. In a minority of workplaces (and sometimes only for a minority of employees in them), leadership is expected and part of one’s contributions is to develop that presence and state of mind, which can only be achieved when there is time and space to work on developing that goal rather than letting the days go by consumed by urgent deadlines and ill-defined projects whose benefits have not been fully vetted.

Instead, we are often taught in school and tacitly (or openly) encouraged in jobs to keep plugging along, rather than being strategic about where to place our efforts. We move from academia where assignments are determined by a professor or instructor to the workplace where tasks are doled out by bosses or leadership teams.

Due to this constant source of new projects from above, it is not hard to understand why many people go through their careers expecting the decisions to be made for them, rather than seeking out leadership and decision-making opportunities themselves. I often call this “gotta make the donuts” after a commercial by Dunkin’ Donuts in which an beleaguered store employee kept running back to the store every few hours so that his customers (you and me) could have fresh donuts to eat. How different are many of us in our jobs, running from task to task, so harried and hurried that we almost forget why we are doing what we are doing?

Beautiful young woman working in her office.

A large part of my work with clients is helping them lift their heads up, rather than always keeping them down.

In yesterday’s post, I shared that there are 10 weeks until year end. I encourage you to spend a meaningful amount of uninterrupted time – and at least one or two hours – this week or next thinking about how you will spend them.

In the rush of holiday parties and vacations, it is tempting to go on autopilot, with the chief goal of just getting there, making it to year end, rather than actually achieving something meaningful in the time until the calendar turns over to the next January 1. You may have a rush of New Year’s resolutions, but don’t let this time be lost time. There’s a lot you can achieve even before 2017. Here are some ideas:

  • Set up 3-4 networking events or activities in the months of November and December
  • Write an article on a current topic in your field
  • Line up a public speaking event or, better yet, give one
  • Finish ONE project that has been nagging you all year
  • Start ONE project that you can (and will) complete by year end
  • Take the first step in a project that can complete by mid-year 2017
  • Attend a conference that is meaningful to your future
  • Learn a new skill that you need now or to grow in the future
  • Update your resume
  • Find a new mentor or sponsor who can help propel your career
  • Strengthen an existing relationship by a few acts of giving and kindness
  • Help mentor a younger person in whom you see great potential

When working on your career, it is not enough to just do something. Choose the best idea based on what will bring the most benefits to your career. If you don’t know what that would be, you have just identified your greatest area of need – figuring out what will benefit you based on where you want to take your career next (and, possibly, determine where exactly that is). Can you do that, or make significant progress toward that goal, by year end? Yes, but only if you work on it!

Anne Marie Segal is a career and leadership coach, author and resume writer for attorneys, executives and entrepreneurs. Her book on job interviews, Master the Interview, is available on Amazon.com. Her website is at www.annemariesegal.com.

Images above from Adobe Images.

 

January 1 Sunday

Psst… January 1 is almost here!

Did you accomplish everything you wanted to achieve in 2016?

I know I haven’t yet. Although I did write a book (my first), there were many other goals I set for myself that remain undone. One of these was writing 50 posts for this blog in 2016. So far, I have written 21 posts, plus one guest blog and this post totaling 23. And I have only 10 weeks to go.

You may have your own goals that remain unmet….

Earlier in my career, I was obsessed with the smaller goals. Set a goal, and meet it. Set another one. It was textbook tunnel vision.

Over time, I learned that the TRUE GOALS are to live your best life and make the greatest contributions to your work (writ large) and the world. Sometimes our smaller goals, if we let them take precedence over our greater goals, obscure what is really important. Other times, when we are doing it right, our smaller goals support our greater goals.

When we are doing it right, our smaller goals support our greater goals.

So in the last 10 weeks of 2016, what now?

Now, you get to decide how to spend the rest of this calendar year, before you rip off the last page and turn to January 1, 2017. (Did you ever think we would be here?) No pressure. These are YOUR days to live. Make them count.

There are 10 more weeks until the end of the year, and less if you plan to take off for holidays or vacations between now and then. May I suggest you take an hour or two this week to plan your days for the rest of the year? You will be much further along in meeting your goals before we ring in the New Year.

Here’s the key: prioritize. 

Here’s the key: prioritize. Not every goal needs to be met. How much time do you actually have? What can you reasonably accomplish in the weeks and days that remain of this calendar year? Which goals are the ones that will bring the most results in the short-term and long-term? What do you want and need to do? How can you set yourself up for next year and beyond?

Anne Marie Segal is a career and leadership coach, author and resume writer for attorneys, executives and entrepreneurs. Her book on job interviews, Master the Interview, is available on Amazon.com.

Image above from Adobe Images.

 

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Becoming a General Counsel (GC) or Chief Legal Officer (CLO), or making a move to a more senior GC or CLO role at a more prominent company, is not simply a matter of rising through the ranks or toiling away for years at a law firm and then deciding one day that you would like to throw in your hat for the position. Years ago, longevity in the legal field, motivation to fill the role and a projection of confidence may have been sufficient to mint a new GC or CLO, but the world has changed and the role of General Counsel has evolved along with it.

In today’s complex and competitive marketplace, successful General Counsels and Chief Legal Officers need to excel across a range of key, identifiable areas (spelled out below) and demonstrate their ability to be a key asset to their companies, helping make or break their long-term success. Often,  GCs and CLOs also run a legal staff and provide leadership and management of other attorneys, compliance professionals and/or administrative personnel. In addition, they may be members of an executive team and collaborate with cross-functional groups to give input on diverse areas such as product development and marketing.

Successful GCs need to excel and execute across a range of key, identifiable areas.

If you are currently in a GC role and want to raise your game (or emphasize your value proposition in an upcoming interview), or if you are looking to become a GC or CLO from a law firm or in-house counsel spot, here are eight core qualities you must cultivate to be successful in this key role.

Know the business inside and out.

1.  Understand the big picture of the business and industry. This point is emphasized so often that the words “big picture” begin to sound cliché, but it is nonetheless #1 on the list of attributes for a successful General Counsel.

The most effective GCs focus on the business first and understand that the legal aspects of any deal, regulatory requirement or dispute must be viewed from the lens of the business goals. (In the case of a non-profit organization, the “business” is the “mission,” and the same principals apply.) This point is especially relevant for attorneys who are aiming to switch from a law firm setting directly to a General Counsel role, as they may not have been as close to the day-to-day needs of the business while working on high-level matters such as acquisitions, litigation or other big ticket items.

To facilitate your top-down understanding, you should ask yourself questions such as:

Corporate Matters:  How does the current acquisition, joint venture, contract or other transaction create value for our company? What risks or implications does it hold, what failures are possible (and how likely are they to happen) and how does it fare in the overall cost-benefit analysis? How will we integrate what is new into what we already have, and who needs to be on board? What should we be thinking about that hasn’t yet been raised?

Compliance: What is the impact and true cost of compliance with current and proposed regulations, and how can we effectively meet our obligations or, if appropriate, obviate the need to comply?

Disputes and Litigation: What is the best approach to meet our short and long-term objectives in the case of a dispute? What unintended consequences can result from our range of possible litigation strategies and how could they affect our business? Is there a better way to get to the right answer?

Marketplace: Are there disruptions in our industry that present opportunities or threats, legal or otherwise? How should we address them and/or get ahead of the game?

Generally: How else can or should we be pro-active in any areas that could have an impact on our business or legal strategy and what economic, political, technological, industry and cultural developments should we monitor? How often? Whom shall I engage (in meetings, conversations and otherwise) in order to stay informed and make the best decisions on that front? 

And personally, you should ask yourself:

How does my role as an executive and attorney fit into the big picture? What do I bring to the table, and how can I bring more?


A key part of understanding the big picture is having a strong handle on financial matters. Understand and take ownership of P&L (even if at first it is only for a single project, or you have “derivative” or shared ownership), speak about your accomplishments in terms of the value you add (money in or costs and risks avoided) and know how to maximize the return on your company’s investment in you and your team.

2.  Demonstrate good judgment. Gain a reputation for making the right calls and connecting the dots with limited information to help your team make it to the finish line on deadline and without any snags. (Note: The best way to cultivate good judgment is by rolling up your sleeves and practicing decision-making under pressure – which may mean stepping out of your comfort zone – to gain exposure, confidence and feedback. It can only learned by doing.)

Good judgment is sometimes called a “sixth sense” or an “ability to see around corners” from business and legal perspectives. Whatever you call it, you cannot be an effective GC without it.

Talk like a business person. Not a lawyer.

3.  Don’t talk like a lawyer. Talk like a business person. Sometimes this is called “talking in English rather than legalese,” but it goes beyond that. The best GCs can prioritize and communicate the key business points and know how to signal and address potential legal issues without dragging business leaders into the fray or wasting their time on concerns that the lawyers need to work out among themselves. They also know how to gently reign in business folks who get ahead of themselves by ignoring those legal risks with which they actually should concern themselves, including business risks that are masquerading as legal risks.

One of the best ways to learn how to talk like a business person (or, more specifically, unlearn how to talk like a lawyer) is to spend time with them, hear them converse, get into their heads and internalize their concerns. In other words, the road to GC is not paved by putting your head down and doing your work. Like good judgment, you can only learn to communicate better by doing.

The road to GC is not paved by putting your head down and doing your work.

4.  Be humble. At the end of the day, the legal function is a support function. Yes, lawyers help steer the boat, but a successful GC understands that sometimes business leaders make decisions that do not follow the best advice of counsel, taking on what a “reasoned head” might decide is too much unnecessary risk. Your potential recourse in this situation, if you disagree with your business counterparts on whether your legal advice is required or simply “advisable,” is fourfold:

(a) you could move over to the business side and do a better job yourself,

(b) you could leave (if you feel consistently disrespected or are concerned about ethics or the longevity of the company or your role);

(c) you could find ways to strengthen your own and/or your team’s standing within the organization so that your advice is taken more seriously (if not always followed); or

(d) you could hold your ground (withholding legal approval) and/or escalate your concerns.

Save the fights for when they really matter, not for when they help you feel vindicated, save face or appear to know best. Having a reputation for “resistance” to business needs is not a good long-term strategy at any company, as it undermines your authority. If you feel that you are too often at loggerheads with your business folks, the best strategy may be to move on to a company that you believe has better business practices or is a better match for your own risk-tolerance levels. (Conversely, if you are at a company that loses out on opportunities because it never takes sufficient risk, in your opinion, you may also be well served by seeking a stronger fit.)

5.  Take leadership roles. Don’t wait for opportunities to present themselves; you need to create them. This means getting in front of the Board of Directors, President or CEO whenever appropriate and possible, making presentations to industry or key clients, spearheading/overseeing important projects and making yourself known as a person of vision and action within the company and outside of it. The best way to get tapped for a GC role, or increase your impact if you are already in one, is to be (and create the reputation of being) someone who effectively leads, mentors, sponsors, motivates, teaches and influences others. In short, make leadership a centerpiece in your professional mission and personal brand.

Make leadership central to your professional mission and personal brand.

6.  Cultivate your political capital. Form relationships and maintain consistent lines of communication with key people inside your company, across your industry and beyond. The greater your political capital, the more you can leverage your current role and be considered for positions with increasing responsibility. If you are a law firm partner or counsel hoping to transition in-house, increase your network of in-house players and business leaders, so that you understand their perspectives and have them in your corner when the need arises. In addition, if you have raised your political capital in the marketplace, you will present as a stronger candidate if and when the opportunity for a lateral move or promotion becomes available.

7. Learn to manage others and delegate work. There may be many GCs and CLOs who have taken on the role without knowing how to manage a group of talented professionals and assign the right tasks to the right players, but to build a successful career as a General Counsel, you will need to guard your own time while managing the performance and workload of your team (which may include outside counsel). 

8.  Have a solid and broad range of substantive legal skills. Increasing and broadening your substantive legal knowledge is only one piece of the GC equation. I address it last because while having a well-developed legal “head” and intuition is a baseline, legal knowledge alone is not sufficient to be an effective General Counsel.

The problem with many legal roles is that an attorney becomes siloed (or niched) into a particular area of practice, whether it is litigation, contracts or otherwise. To be effective, GCs need to address directly or oversee all legal needs of their company or organization. This means they may need expertise or at least a passing knowledge (to “know what they don’t know and should find out,” as the phrase goes) in commercial matters, corporate governance, employment, litigation, real estate, tax, executive compensation, compliance and risk management, in varying orders and degree.

If your goal is to raise to the level of General Counsel or (if currently a GC) become a bigger fish or swim in a bigger pond, you should conduct what I sometimes call a “gap analysis” to determine what is missing in the mix, then work on how you can deepen and round out your skills. Not only will this make you a stronger GC candidate, it will make you a better lawyer and add to your ability to provide judgment in a crisis and day-to-day.

Find and close any gaps in your substantive legal skills. 

Clearly the role of a General Counsel is dynamic and requires a broad range of talents and skills that cannot all be captured in a short summary. Instead, treat these seven points as a roadmap, and feel free to leave me a note in the comments section with your own insights. For further reading, I also suggest “So You Want to Be a General Counsel? How to Maximize Your Chances,” published in the ACC Docket and also available here.

 
Anne Marie Segal is a career and leadership coach, writer and resume writer for attorneys, executives and entrepreneurs. In her practice serving lawyers, she coaches General Counsels, law firm partners, counsel and associates, as well as government, academic and non-profit attorneys. 

© 2016 Anne Marie Segal. All rights reserved.
Image: Adobe Stock.
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Stepping Out of Your Comfort Zone (Adobe Images)

I welcome my first guest blogger, Melanie Glover, a personal friend on the career path journey. Melanie is a young attorney and certified personal trainer who writes about professional development, health, nutrition and exercise at Balanza and Beyond.

Melanie Glover
Stepping Out of My Comfort Zone

Every time I have pushed myself outside of my comfort zone, it has hurt.  But I have not once regretted it. 

It was the beginning of my legal career, and I had to cover a hearing for my supervisor.  The hearing was supposed to be simple and straightforward.  It was not supposed to take long.  However, everything turned out how I least expected. 

The hearing that was supposed to last five minutes lasted five hours as I waited for other attorneys to take their turns with their clients before the Judge.  I came back a second and then a third time; I went back and forth with the Judge on the record; and I interacted with my client.  I was not prepared for that marathon day in Court when what I had been expecting was a five-minute hearing.  At the end of the day, I just wanted to hide:  despite my all-afternoon efforts, we would have to appeal.

I confess:  I felt like I had let my client and myself down. 

The hearing was supposed to last five minutes.
It lasted five hours.

Then, after several months, I took a step back and reflected.  I learned practical things, such as (1) always to take my Statute with me to Court, and (2) to always be prepared for a hearing to last all day. 

But I also learned a deeper lesson to apply to life in general both in my professional and personal lives.  I learned that undesirable situations might just bring a person to the edge of discomfort only to come out on the other side with a fresh perspective, a new relationship, or some other productive and creative energy or opportunity.

That day I felt less than my best self in front of my colleagues, the Judge, and my client.  But after further examining the experience, I realize that I also made a valuable friendship with another attorney who went through the same experience by my side.  And out of that friendship, I have been able to commiserate, receive advice, and even give advice.  In summary, I have learned that even what seem to be the most challenging situations at the time can still produce hope; you just have to look – and practice looking – for it.

When we reflect, we learn.  And when we fall, we do not have to stay defeated.  We can stand back up, and we can learn from the tumble.  Coming to a positive conclusion after enduring hard circumstances is not comfortable.  In fact, it can be a bit reckless; but it is unexpectedly worthwhile. 

When we fall, we do not have to stay defeated.
Search for that unexpected gift.

My overarching advice for young professionals is to search for that unexpected gift – a lesson, relationship, or new skill – in difficult circumstances.  Searching deep and wide for the good within the bad is definitely a practice that I have had to acquire intentionally.  But those trying situations have allowed me to practice seeking the underlying positive message despite the adversity. 

Guest post insert and image © 2016 Melanie Glover. All rights reserved. Originally published at Balanza and Beyond on July 22, 2016. 

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Melanie Glover is a young lawyer and certified personal trainer who blogs about creating a healthy, balanced lifestyle through tips on fitness, nutrition, and self care.  Her blog is a personal endeavor to help others become the best versions of their personal and professional selves and can be found at Balanza and Beyond. Melanie’s book on an American’s view into a Spanish kitchen, Fusión Cultural, is available on Amazon. 

Stack of books and binders in front of a businesswoman at desk
Derive More Meaning from an Unfulfilling Career (Adobe Images)

Looking for more meaning in your career?

Kathy Caprino Has Some Answers

Kathy Caprino, a coach and contributor to Women@Forbes, is one of my favorite career writers, as I have said in the past

Recently, Kathy wrote another great article called “4 Ways to Get More Meaning and Value From Your Career Starting Today,” which is also posted on LinkedIn.

Among other things, I love Kathy’s practical approach on career transitions and suggestion (that I often make myself) that you do not need to wait until you have the “ideal career” to start making your career more ideal today. As she says:

“Most professionals believe that they have to chuck their entire careers and start over, in order to find more meaning in their work. They often fantasize about doing something creative or altruistic (like start a non-profit, join the Peace Corps, work on a communal farm, write a book, start a bed and breakfast, or move to another country entirely) to bring more meaning into their work.  But they are often mistaken. You don’t have to uproot your entire life and career to create more meaning and value. You can do it literally starting today, wherever you are.”

-Kathy Caprino

To read more, include Kathy’s excellent roadmap on how to “dimensionalize” your own personal version of meaning in your career – since meaning is different to each of us based on each of our individual experiences – please click here. With her thoughts in mind, if you are contemplating a career transition, you may also wish to (re)read my prior posts on Career Exploration and Vetting that discuss how to take yourself through the process.

Anne Marie Segal is a career coach and résumé writer for attorneys, executives and entrepreneurs. She helps clients with career exploration and other stages of the job search process, as well as presentation skills through interview preparation, resume writing and LinkedIn. For more information, please visit her website at www.segalcoaching.com.

© 2016 Anne Marie Segal. All rights reserved.