Executive Interview Preparation: The Checklist

If you are a typical executive, it’s a challenge to find time on your calendar to prepare for interviews. When you do carve out that space, here’s a checklist of what you should cover.

Businesswoman working in the office

Due diligence – know as much as you can about the target organization and management beforehand, including what they do, why and who else is in the game

If you are extra short on time and not familiar with the market, management team, products or other other important data points, check if there are videos online that you can watch or hear while going about your other activities. 

Common ground – find out what you have in common with your interviewers and who else you might know (or can get to know) at the company; use LinkedIn® and other resources; reach out to colleagues and their networks where appropriate

Posture / Energy – plan how you can gear up on interview day with a power pose; watch your body language in the room (eat well the night before and that morning!)

Confidence – “I can handle it. Here’s what I’ve done that’s analogous….”

Concise, targeted value proposition – why should they hire you? what do you offer?

For phone interviews, you can have this in front of you, with a page for each of your three to five most important points and examples that support each.

Edge – what’s unique about you that others won’t bring to the role?

Curiosity – ask light, open-ended questions to get better answers

Story / Narrative – who are you as a candidate and a person? why is this organization a fit?

Accomplishments – have accomplishments ready to discuss that fit what you will be asked to do in the role; give examples (without revealing proprietary information)

Behavioral or hypothetical questions – be ready for “what would you do if…?” e.g., if the organization is expanding into new markets or lines of business and they hit a snag (legally, reputation-related or otherwise), if an employee came to you with a certain problem or opportunity, how you would handle a poor judgment call by the Board or another senior leader, etc. 

About you – be ready for “tell me about a time when…” e.g., work style, challenges, successes, etc.; have a short list of versatile examples prepared for these questions

Reason for leaving current role – have a positive way to tell the story; negativity doesn’t sell; give a concise answer and move to why current role excites you

Organizational vision – if you will be leading a company or team, share your vision

Resume – know your experience cold, be open to discuss anything on your resume

Gaps – if you have any that are key to the job, be ready to address them head on

Weaknesses – prepare for the ubiquitous “strengths and weaknesses” type questions

Follow-up – ask intelligent questions to determine if it’s a fit, tailored by interviewer

If you falter, do it gracefully – have a plan to recover from surprises

Interview them back – it’s a conversation, not an interrogation

Compensation – be ready to “talk comp” if they ask; know how you’ll approach this conversation and deflect tough questions

Red flags – save the toughest questions for when you have the offer letter in hand, but note them so you don’t forget

Re-read the job description (if any): prepare for any point that might come up; research terms you don’t know, so you can sound intelligent on what you might be asked

Concise answers – answer the questions asked; avoid tangents; speak to your value

Close well – find out next steps on their end; know yours; if you want the job, make it known

If you need help formulating a personal value proposition, check out my worksheets here.

Congratulations on your interview! Best of luck!

Anne Marie Segal - Web Image (Credit Alejandro Barragan IV)

Anne Marie Segal is an executive coach, resume writer, Forbes Coaches Council member and author of two well-received books on interviewing and career development. She was a corporate attorney for 15 years before launching her coaching practice.

Image above: Adobe Stock.

General Counsel and Other Lawyers as Business Partners – Building Vision, Capacity, Judgment and Leadership

Eight Core Qualities of General Counsel and How to Achieve Them is my most-read article on this blog, receiving many hits per day and more than 2,500 views since it was published in the late summer of 2016. (Click here to access the article.)

As a coach, I often receive requests from General Counsel, Assistant General Counsel and other in-house attorneys – as well as law firm partners and others who wish to obtain those roles – to coach them on building their capacity and visibility as a business partner within an organization.  Both of these aspects are important – exercising the right proactivity, judgment and skills and being recognized and rewarded by the Board and senior management for such contributions. This involves not only building relationships and moving outside of what is commonly called one’s comfort zone – a lawyer with excellent substantive legal skills – but also learning how to position oneself as a strategic member of the leadership team.

AdobeStock_131225997 (woman GC or CEO).jpg

To succeed as General Counsel, you need not only to build relationships and move outside of what may be your comfort zone – a lawyer with excellent substantive legal skills – but also position yourself as a strategic member of the leadership team.

I intend further explore the expanded General Counsel role in the coming months, so please subscribe to my blog or sign up for my mailing list if this is a topic that moves you. In the meantime, I have started to compile a list of articles around the web from recent years that have addressed the evolving General Counsel role, which I am posting below to help you explore and master the expanded General Counsel relationship.

If you hold a CEO, CIO, CFO, COO, CTO, General Counsel, law firm or other role and would like to post another resource in the comments or join the conversation, I appreciate your input.

I may update this list from time to time. Thanks in advance!

Attorneys – General Counsel and In-House
Vision, Judgment, Capacity Building and Leadership

Eight Core Qualities of Successful General Counsel and How to Achieve Them,” Segal Coaching Blog, Anne Marie Segal.

So You Want to Be General Counsel? How to Maximize Your Chances,” ACC Docket, David M. Love III, Mark Roellig.

Do Lawyers Make Better CEO’s than MBAs?,” Harvard Business Review, by M. Todd Henderson

The General Counsel as Senior Leader: More than “Just a Lawyer,” Korn Ferry Institute, John Amer.

What GCs and CCOs Can Learn from Each Other,” Thomson Reuters, Thomas Kim.

An Open Letter to GCs and Law Firms,” ACC Docket, Daniel Desjardins.

General Counsel: Guardian and Conscience of the Company,” Forbes, Mark A. Cohen.

The Rise of the General Counsel,” Harvard Business Review, Ben W. Heineman, Jr.

General Counsel’s New Role: Business Strategist,” Forbes, Brian Jones.

Anne Marie Segal is an executive coach, writer, resume strategist and former practicing attorney (including as a law firm partner and Deputy General Counsel of a private equity and hedge fund). The majority of her clients are senior attorneys, and she has coached hundreds of professionals across law, finance, engineering, technology, marketing, non-profits, government and other fields.

Anne Marie is also author of Master the Interview and the newly published Know Yourself, Grow Your Career: The Personal Value Proposition Workbookavailable at Amazon, Barnes & Noble and other retailers. 

Click on a sharing option below to share this post on LinkedIn, Twitter or other social media sites. Please leave a comment if you want to join the conversation or share an article, video or other resource for the list.

Image credit: Adobe Stock.

Four Steps to Creating Emails that Get Results

With everyone pressed for time and email inboxes overflowing, one of the worst things you can do is fire off an email that is unread, left lingering or summarily deleted. Not only do poor emails waste time on both ends – minutes and hours that could be used more productively – but they also may create negative impressions about your ability to think, solve problems and communicate.

If you want to be known as someone who acts strategically, demonstrates leadership and otherwise has a positive professional outlook, writing better emails is a crucial place to start.

 ✔︎ Prepare

 ✔︎ Write

 ✔︎ Review

 ✔︎ Follow-Up

Click here or on the icon below to read my results-driven system to writing effective emails on Forbes.com. Click here to request my 12-point checklist “Write Emails that Get Results.”

fb456860008648447783c0751c3e7a5f

Anne Marie Segal is an executive coach, author, resume strategist and member of Forbes Coaches Council. She is founder of Segal Coaching, author of Master the Interview: A Guide for Working Professionals (available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and through local booksellers) and a frequent public speaker in New York, Connecticut and beyond.

Image credit: Adobe Images.

A Career Coach on a Snow Day: Grit

Red plastic shovel with black handle stuck in fluffy snow.

Here’s a quick thought about snow days from a career coach and mom, as the East Coast is being pummeled by Blizzard 2017, the snowmaggedon or whatever we are calling it today.

As a snow day gives you time to reflect on what you want for your life and career and (for many of us) what you want to pass on to the next generation, I was thankful for the snow.

My son took the snow blower and cleared the driveway this afternoon, which shows grit. He doesn’t always have grit. In fact, as a talented yet distractable boy, it is a key skill that we know he will need to build over time, as it does not come naturally to him. So we try to create situations that require grit but will not overwhelm him, so he will be motivated to push forward.

Grit is as old as time and has become the new power skill, as it is needed in just about every life situation. Here’s some more about instilling grit in children and educating students about grit:

The Carnegie Foundation

The Atlantic

NPR

I think often about how we build grit as a world and within our own families. In particular, what can we do to help children appreciate the skills they need to serve as leaders in the future and “show up” the right way to succeed? Today, the answer fell from the sky.

Snow Day Grit - Snow Blower

Anne Marie Segal is a career and leadership development coach, author, resume strategist and member of Forbes Coaches Council. She is founder of Segal Coaching, author of Master the Interview: A Guide for Working Professionals (available on Amazon.com) and a frequent public speaker in New York, Connecticut and beyond.

First image above: Adobe Images.
Second image copyright 2017 Anne Marie Segal. All rights reserved.

 

Where and How Do You Find Wonder and Inspiration? A Photo Essay

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?

img_2570-waterfall

img_5059-butterfly

img_4521-times-square

fullsizerender-13-flying

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.

How Can You Be Pro-Active in a Reactive Job?

Fire alarm push botton

A client recently asked:

If you spend all day putting out so-called fires at your job – in a very reactive environment – how can you possibly plan or address your career pro-actively?

Preliminaries:

First, let’s define some terms:

  1. Pro-active: creating a situation or causing something to happen
  2. Reactive: responding to a situation (rather than creating or controlling it)
  3. Fire alarm: a colloquial way to describe a frantic and urgent situation or deadline in a corporate environment, often one that is a “false alarm” created by lack of planning rather than a true emergency

As Randy Pauch said, in the last few months of his life, “time is the only commodity that matters.” We need to manage our time just as we manage our money, and in fact the time management piece is even more important. In addition, as you may realize already, most leadership roles are only achieved by individuals who have learned to address matters pro-actively, yet most environments today are full of fire alarms that require us to react rather than plan our time.

Answer:

Here are some ways to manage your time, even in a pro-active environment:

  1. Stop the bleeding, then take care of the patient. Sometimes an emergency has pieces that need to be addressed immediately and other parts that can wait. Can you schedule your day so that you can still get the important things done while addressing what is urgent? Are there portions you can delegate?
  2. Block your calendar, and then block it again. In order to plan, you need to block out uninterrupted time on your calendar. If an emergency (real or otherwise) creeps up on you, the first thing to do is to move the blocked time on your calendar a few days out, so it stays scheduled and is not forgotten.
  3. Break things into small steps. While you may not be able to plan the next few months and what you would like to achieve, you can start to plan individual pieces of it. If you only have 10 minutes, you can empower yourself to do one thing that really matters.
  4. “Do the right things, rather than ‘doing things right.'” I owe this quote to Randy Pausch and the lecture I link above. As he said, “You don’t need to clean the underside of the bannister.” In other words, put your efforts where they pack a punch. For more about that generally, see my posts on the 80/20 rule and high profile/high need tasks.
  5. Know and remember the goal(s). Ask why. Start by asking yourself, and then (if appropriate) politely and directly ask the person who created the task. What are the intended benefits of the work you are doing? Don’t just do something because you are told to do it; think about what results you are individually and collectively trying to achieve. This will save you time if you can find more efficient ways to get to a solution – and avoid unnecessary iterations – rather than just following steps assigned (which may not have been well thought out in the first place). It will also keep you focused on the point in #4 above.
  6. Stop wasting time during your day. Be more organized and match your workload to meet your peak energy levels. Also, eliminate distractions. I’ll talk about all of this more in a future post.

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

Image above from Adobe Images.

 

8 Core Qualities of Successful General Counsel and How to Achieve Them

AdobeStock_52598491 (GC:CEO).jpg

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.
If you enjoyed this post, you may also like: