More on Mastering the Art of Influence

In my last blog, I passed on some sage advice from my leadership mentor, Marshall Goldsmith.  I promised you more from Marshall, and here it is.  Paraphrased below is additional valuable advice about influencing the decision-makers from one of the world’s most recognized and lauded leadership thinkers.

  • Realize that powerful people also make mistakes:  It is realistic to expect decision-makers to be competent;  it is unrealistic to expect them to be anything other than normal humans.  When your manager makes mistakes, focus on helping rather than judging;
  • Always be respectful:  Treat decision-makers with the same courtesy that you want from them.  When in doubt about whether or not your remark is respectful, hold back.  Don’t share it;
  • Support the final decision:  Even if the final decision is not the one that you recommended, treat it as if it is.  If you do less by distancing yourself from the result, you will be perceived as a messenger not a leader.  People are watching.  When you get to be a decision-maker, you want them to model your good behavior;
  • Make a positive difference:  Don’t just try to “win” or “be right.”  Keep your focus on what you are doing correctly instead of what others are doing wrong.  Influencing “up” requires dedication to making a positive difference for your organization; and
  • Focus on the future and let go of the past:  Do not whine about the past.  No one wants to hear it.  Keep your eye on the future and how you can influence others to become a decision-maker yourself.

I am sure that you will agree that this is great advice.  Follow Marshall Goldsmith on his blogs, and you will be prepared for the challenges of business and law.  Read his most recent book, What Got You Here Won’t Get You There:  How Successful People Become Even More Successful.  I have read it, and it definitely is a MUST READ.

Good luck with these new career and leadership concepts.  Apply them liberally!

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Thought For The Day

There’s only one way to succeed in anything, and that is to give it everything.

Vince Lombardi  (You may not know that I am a GB Packer fan through and through)

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Lawyers Need to Master the Art of Influence

Some of you may recall that I am a career and leadership counselor trained by Marshall Goldsmith.  Marshall is recognized by the Wall Street Journal and the Harvard Business Review, among others, as one of the best leadership thinkers in the world.  I was fortunate enough to spend a weekend in Chicago last year training with Marshall as part of my certification as a career coach with the Indiana University Marshall Goldsmith Leadership and Executive Coaching Academy, which will launch officially this Fall.  I am joined by 43 other coaches in this exciting venture to serve Indiana University alumni around the globe.  Here is what I blogged about at the time I was having this amazing experience.

A weekend training with Marshall Goldsmith is worth its weight in gold.  I learned so much, and Marshall continues to share his wisdom with me through his coaching academy.  Here is some advice from Marshall on influencing decision-makers, which I think is particularly valuable and relevant to working as a member of a team of lawyers.  See what you think.

Marshall’s advice starts with this quote from Peter Drucker, the famed management consultant, educator and author.

“The great majority of people tend to focus downward. They are occupied with efforts rather than results. They worry over what the organization and their superiors ‘owe’ them and should do for them. And they are conscious above all of the authority they ‘should have.’ As a result they render themselves ineffectual.”

Presumably, you do not want to be ineffectual, so read on.  Sometimes I think that lawyers and law firms forget that they are businesses and that the concepts of effective business management apply to them.  Law firms are full of decision-makers, and knowing how to speak to them and influence them is key to success in the business of law.  Paraphrased below is what Marshall Goldsmith has to say about influencing decision-makers, including upper managers, peers or cross-organizational colleagues.

  • Accept the facts:  Decisions in business are made by the people with the power to make them.  That is not always the “right” person or the “smartest” person or even the “best” person to make the decision.  Life is not fair.  Accept it and move on to learning how to influence the decision-makers;
  • Realize that you must sell your ideas:  It is your responsibility to sell and not the decision-makers responsibility to buy.  Be prepared to teach the decision-maker why your idea is a good one;
  • Focus on the benefit for the “greater good” of your organization rather than on the achievement of your personal objectives:  In other words, be a team player.  If you also can accomplish your objectives with that approach, all the better;
  • Strive to win the big battles:  Take the long view, and be prepared to lose on some of the small points.  Winning the war is far better than winning a few small battles along the way.  Do not get hung up on trivial points that involve too much of your energy and your psychological capital.  Be strategic and understand that the time of decision-makers is very valuable, and you do not want to be accused of wasting precious time;
  • Present a realistic “cost-benefit” analysis of your ideas:  Selling benefits is not enough.  You also must acknowledge the costs and how it will affect your organization; and
  • Always acknowledge issues of ethics or integrity:  Never do anything that presents an ethical violation, no matter who is asking you to do it.  Bring it to the attention of a mentor or upper management and let them know your concerns.  The people up the ladder are paid the big bucks to make those kinds of decision.  You are not.  Don’t risk your career thinking that you are.

That is a lot to think about until Thursday’s blog when I will present more sage advice from Marshall Goldsmith, my mentor and friend.  Stay tuned!

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Thought For The Day

Be nice to people on your way up because you’ll meet them on your way down.

Wilson Mizner

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Thought For The Day

Manners are a sensitive awareness of the feelings of others. If you have that awareness, you have good manners, no matter what fork you use.

Emily Post
American Author On Etiquette

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The Measure of a Woman

For the last week I have been saying goodbye to one of my favorite people.  My father-in-law died last week, and I lost a true friend.  He was a wonderful, kind, caring and gentle man, who also was one of the strongest and wisest men I ever had the privilege of knowing.

At his funeral, my husband read a poem that his father had read to his sons and to his grandson as each approached manhood.  My father-in-law would recite that poem from memory at the 21st birthday celebrations of his male offspring.  It made an indelible impression on all of them, and, thus, it was so fitting to hear it read again at his funeral.

The poem, “If” by Rudyard Kipling, reminds the reader what is important to remember about becoming a man.  However, Kipling wrote the poem in 1895 when I suspect most people equated strength and leadership with men.  Not so today.  I believe that this poem is equally as applicable to today’s young women, who are coming of age and contemplating their futures in business and law and government and politics.

As a result, this poem also is for you, and I hope that you will read it and consider how much our business and law and government and politics would be improved if all of the participants, men and women alike, lived by the code of virtue and truth addressed by Kipling.  Would it be?  Probably not.  However, there is no reason why it cannot start with you and you and you.  Let this poem be the Measure of a Woman and live by it to help make a better tomorrow.


If you can keep your head when all about you   
    Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,   
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
    But make allowance for their doubting too;   
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
    Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
    And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;   
    If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;   
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
    And treat those two impostors just the same;   
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
    Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
    And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
    And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
    And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
    To serve your turn long after they are gone,   
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
    Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,   
    Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
    If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
    With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,   
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,   
    And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!


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Thought For The Day

Yesterday was Veteran’s Day.  We all are so grateful to our veterans, and I put some of my thoughts about my personal gratitude on Facebook yesterday.  Today I would like you to consider this quote from a veteran and great American, who exemplified true and ultimate sacrifice for country.

As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.

John F. Kennedy

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How are Your Listening Skills?

Listening skills are some of those things that we all need to improve from time to time. Achieving good listening skills is a critical step toward growth as a manager or an employer in all legal-related businesses, and it is even more critical in your role as a lawyer.  If advice and counsel is a lawyer’s stock in trade (which was clearly stated on a sign in the first of my father’s law offices that I remember), the best advice and counsel is derived from listening to the facts, to the opinions of others and especially to contrary opinions.  Listen first and advise second.

Here is an excerpt from a blog by Bruce Tulgan, a leading “thinker” on issues of management and a consultant to many leading business across the country and the world.  His company, Rainmaker Thinking Inc., is making a real difference for employers, managers and employees.  Check out his thoughts and services at

Here is what Bruce Tulgan has to say about the importance of interpersonal communications and how they can be improved.

Listen twice as much as you talk.
Never interrupt or let your mind wander when others are speaking. When it’s your turn, ask open-ended questions first and then increasingly focused questions to show you understand what the other person has said.
Empathize. Always try to imagine yourself in the other person’s position.
Exhibit respect, kindness, courtesy, and good manners.
Always prepare in advance so you are brief, direct, and clear.
Think of at least one potential solution , before trumpeting a problem.
Take personal responsibility for everything you say and do.
Don’t make excuses when you make a mistake. When you make mistakes, just apologize and make every effort to fix it.
Don’t take yourself too seriously, but always take your commitments and responsibilities seriously.
Always give people credit for their achievements, no matter how small.

Last week I posted a Thought For The Day that is based on a quote from Stephen Covey and is worth repeating here:

 ”Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.”

It is worth pondering.

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