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About Natalie Loeb

Advancing Your Career for Attorneys

It is important to distinguish yourself among colleagues in your firm, especially for attorneys seeking to advance their careers.  Given the competitive nature of the industry, building networks and collaborating is part of the recipe to advance within your organization, but is there more?

As the legal industry continues to transform at a rapid rate, now more than ever, attorneys need to stretch themselves to advance in their career. Here are a few suggestions to help establish your path to success.

Make Plans

First and foremost, it is important to have a master plan. Create a timeline for career benchmarks and set realistic timelines to monitor your progress. Your plan may include:

  • Short-term goals (one to two years)
  • Medium-term goals (three to five years)
  • Long-term goals (10+ years)

Some short-term goals may include establishing relationships with at least three to five senior associates or partners within your firm. Reach outside your firm by participating in industry networking opportunities.  Take initiative to learn new skills and programs; asking questions is a good thing. Small steps of engagement can provide the confidence and familiarity to build the required skills for higher level assignments.

Medium-term goals can include client development and networking, building leadership skills by mentoring a junior associate, or take initiative and discuss with the partners opportunities to engage in higher level work within your practice area.

When designing your long-term goals, the seminal question that needs to be asked is what is the path to partnership, and is that a path I want to travel? It is not uncommon during the course of your career to consider lateral opportunities, in house positions or alternative career paths within your firm.

Planning your career requires ongoing monitoring of your progress and reevaluating your goals. It is not meant to be a blueprint you create and set aside. You can and should revise it as needed, consulting it frequently but tweaking it as your interests change. It is not meant to be prescriptive, rather it should provide you with some basic sense of purpose.

Get a Mentor

Having a mentor who can guide you along your career path is an invaluable relationship. Someone who has been through similar challenges, and who has experienced the highs and lows of practicing law can provide relevant career advice.

It’s important to find someone who can help you develop your legal skills, and help you navigate political and institutional hurdles. It may take some effort in identifying the ideal mentor, but don’t settle for someone who may not be the right fit. A good mentor can provide good insight and perspective on the internal dynamics within a firm and can anticipate potential blind spots.

Seek Opportunities

Ultimately, promotions aren’t going to be given to you; they must be earned. That may require volunteering for additional responsibilities and seeking leadership opportunities within and outside your firm.

Meet People

The way to stand out and brand yourself is by meeting people. Get to know the individuals in your office. Take them up on invitations to socialize during non-working hours. Sign up for professional conferences and networking events, and become involved in local legal organizations—often, that’s the best way to build out your professional network.

Hire a Coach

Coaching is a great way to raise your self-awareness, focus on emotional intelligence, prioritize goals and challenges, and elevate your leadership skills. With the guidance of an executive coach, you can develop your interpersonal strengths to complement your already established intellectual expertise.  At Loeb Leadership Development Group, our coaching services are designed for attorneys and legal industry professionals who are ready to be the best they can be. Let’s talk today about your goals; reach out to Loeb now!

 

Handling Coworkers Who Don’t Pull Their Weight

In a perfect workplace, every team member is equally committed to collaborating, achieving shared goals, and moving the company forward. But how many firms attain that level of excellence? Does the perfect workplace exist?

In many work environments, there are individuals who don’t pull their weight, lack knowledge of processes and/or procedures, or who are just not as industrious as the rest of the team. This can cause tension, especially among those who are dedicated and feel like they are going above and beyond. The question is, how can you positively engage with those coworkers who aren’t pulling their weight, and encourage them to be more productive?

What Not to Do

Before we get to our recommendations, let’s focus on the things you shouldn’t do.

First, don’t vent your frustrations to other coworkers. While it’s only natural to want to express how you feel to someone who understands your predicament, venting to colleagues is simply not productive. It may lead to further anger or frustration, may create a divide amongst your team, and may peg you as the office gossiper.

Second, don’t go directly to your boss without trying to work the matter out with your co-worker or team. Most bosses prefer that you are part of the solution, and try to work things out on your own whenever possible. Skipping this step, and jumping straight to “tattling,” can be counterproductive, as it may make you seem unable to work through a difficult matter.

Third, don’t feel like you always have to pick up the slack. Doing someone else’s job for them doesn’t help your co-worker, may foster further anger and resentment, and may alienate you from your colleagues. Assuming additional responsibilities may negatively impact your ability to do your job.

Positive Ways to Help Your Coworker

When a coworker isn’t pulling their weight, there may be a good reason. Addressing this head on, and in a positive manner, can be the most effective way to understand your coworkers perspective.

First, gently mention to your co-worker that they seem distracted. Being a “friend” can create a bond with your coworker, and can provide the opportunity for healthy conversation.

Second, ask if there is any assistance they need with processes or procedures. It could be that their training was not as robust, and that their unfamiliarity of the firm’s resources are holding them back.  Sometimes “jumpstarting” your coworker’s productivity can have a positive impact on performance and acknowledgement that they weren’t reaching their potential.

Third, be forthright with your coworker. Share you goals and ask what theirs are.  Perhaps the lack of productivity stems from gaps or blind spots that they need to be coached through.

When engaging your coworker, it’s best to keep track of all your interactions. Make a note of any offers to help them, but also how they reacted. If their lack of engagement or production persists, there may come a time when you do need to refer the matter to your manager, or to HR.  Maintaining thorough documentation can provide a baseline of fact as you seek a possible solution.

The truth is that it’s always frustrating to have a coworker who doesn’t put in their fair share—and yet it’s vital to address the matter without losing your cool. Hopefully, these simple, pragmatic steps can provide you a positive way to handle the issue.

To learn more about how to work well even with challenging colleagues, reach out to us at Loeb Leadership Development.

 

Managing Up (And Earning Your Boss’s Trust)

Does your direct supervisor really trust you? If not, that could be a hindrance to your career momentum. It’s vital for your boss to trust you so that you can receive more responsibilities and be involved in higher-level decision-making. But how do you actually earn that trust? The answer lies in a process called managing up.

Managing up is all about learning how to work more effectively with your boss—ensuring two-way respect and mutual trust. It’s a valuable professional skill, and one you can develop by focusing on some of the following strategies.

Best Practices for Managing Up

Have a clear sense of mission. Rather than bringing in your own agenda, talk with your boss about his or her big-picture goals. Remember that your boss is ultimately looking for you to support that mission, and frankly to make him or her look good. That starts with understanding the goals and objectives.

Don’t let your boss be blindsided. Unhappy customers? A client who’s considering severing their relationship with you? Those are unwelcome developments, but the last thing you want is for your boss to be caught off guard by them. Take the initiative to break bad news to your boss.

Know how your boss prefers to communicate. Does your boss do better with face-to-face? Does he or she really hate taking phone calls? Is texting your boss’s favorite way to interact, or is it email? Know how your boss prefers to engage and do your best to be accommodating.

Determine how your manager likes to receive information. Along the same lines, figure out the manner in which your boss prefers to receive information—with a lot of lead-up? With supporting data and reports? Just the facts? Adapt your reporting style accordingly.

Keep up with your to-do list. The last thing your boss wants to do is have to assign you work. Keep up with your own list of tasks and add to it as needed. Show your boss that you can be trusted to stay on top of the work load.

Know your strengths. Managing up is about knowing your boss, but it’s also about knowing yourself. Be aware of your greatest strengths and seek opportunities to volunteer them. In particular, look for opportunities to remove time-consuming tasks from your boss’s plate, taking them on yourself.

Ultimately, managing up can facilitate a more positive and productive relationship between you and your direct supervisor—and, it can open the doors to career advancement.

As such, it’s a skillset worth developing—and we’d love to coach you through it. To learn more about working with an executive coach, reach out to the Loeb Leadership Development team at your next convenience.

Get More Out of Executive Coaching

Working with an executive coach can help you identify and achieve key professional goals—whether that means cultivating certain skills, building your confidence, clarifying your management style, or climbing the corporate ladder.

But while an executive coach can be an invaluable guide, the coaching process is ultimately a two-way street. Passive participants can’t expect to get much out of the process; on the contrary, you’ll get out of it as much as you’re willing to put in.

How, then, can you invest in the coaching process and ensure you’re reaping its benefits? Here are a few ways you can prepare for a fruitful executive coaching experience.

Investing in Executive Coaching

Establish trust. In any new relationship, it’s important to get to know one another, and to establish a baseline of trust. Sit down with your coach and share some of your goals and your drivers; your likes and your dislikes; where you’d like to be in five or 10 years; and what you ultimately hope to get out of the coaching process. Candor is key for building trust between you and your coach, so simply take time to talk with each other in an authentic way.

Embrace routine. Executive coaching doesn’t work very well when it happens irregularly or infrequently. Be ready to commit to regular sessions with your coach. You can work out the ideal schedule together, but once you do, stick with it; make coaching a non-negotiable within your weekly and monthly routine.

Be open. You hired a coach to provide you with feedback and with perspectives you may not have considered—so be prepared to accept some constructive criticism and to engage with some ideas that might be new or even a little uncomfortable to you. Open-mindedness is invaluable to the coaching process.

Be goal- and action-oriented. With your coach, lay out some achievable goals that you can work toward. This will lend some structure to your coaching sessions. Also, make sure each session ends with an action item or two. Reiterate those action steps to your coach, ensuring you’re both on the same page.

Do the homework. Your coach might give you some things to work on between sessions. Follow through with this and show up at the next meet-up ready to discuss your experience. This isn’t busy work! It’s something your coach thinks is important for you to progress toward your goals.

Coaching Involves Give and Take

To conclude, simply note that executive coaching is not a prescription. It’s not something you do unthinkingly. It’s a process you engage with, and that can involve some give and take with your coach. That makes it doubly critical to find a coach you feel really comfortable with.

We’d love to talk with you more about the executive coaching services we offer through Loeb Leadership Development, and to walk you through the best ways for you to truly engage with our coaches and our processes. To talk about executive coaching with us, reach out to Loeb Leadership Development today.

Getting the Most Out of a Mentorship Program

Starting a formal mentorship program can be a real boon to your employee engagement. Among other benefits, it shows your team members that you have a serious investment in their professional development; you’re eager for them to grow in skill and in confidence.

Yet not every workplace mentorship program achieves this end. As you design a formal mentoring structure, it’s important to do so thoughtfully and strategically. Here are some ways to do that.

Tips for Designing an Effective Mentorship Program

Look at the big picture. What are you actually trying to achieve through your mentorship program? And, what metrics will you use to evaluate your success? If you don’t answer these questions from the outset, it can be hard to maintain enthusiasm for your mentorship program—or to see it as a success. Some good, bottom-line business goals you might pursue: Increase employee engagement numbers; improve retention; or see an uptick in women and people of color advancing into leadership roles.

Focus on relationships. You’ll need positive mentor/mentee matches for your program to get results; that’s because having a trust-based relationship is central to the mentoring process. So how will you determine these matches? There are different schools of thought here, including self-matching (employees choose these relationships) and administrative matching (a manager or HR leader picks the groupings). There is no one right answer. It’s simply about picking the model that best fits your business. For instance, if your employees show a real interest in the program but want mentors who align with certain career goals, you’ll likely want to give them a say in the matching.

Provide training. Your mentors will need direction—some practical tools they can use to ensure they’re imparting value and knowledge. And, mentees will benefit from training, too, ensuring they know how to get the most out of the process. Make training one of the bedrocks of your mentorship program.

Market it. You can’t assume that people will line up for your mentorship program just because it’s there. You’ve got to pitch it to them. Market the program internally, clarifying what the program is and what you hope to achieve through it. Really play up the benefits of being a mentor or a mentee.  Additionally, the mentorship program can be used as a recruiting tool to attract high caliber candidates.

Set Yourself Up for Successful Mentoring

There’s a lot to think about—but taking a strategic approach can ultimately be rewarding. And it’s not something you have to do alone; at Loeb Leadership Development Group, we’re advocates for mentorship programs, and would love to talk with you more about your program’s design needs. Reach out to us today to set up a consultation.

An Executive’s Dilemma: The Challenge of Supporting A Work/Life Balance While Holding Employees Accountable

by Gordon Loeb, Natalie Loeb, & David B. Sarnoff, Esq.

Anyone who has recently engaged in hiring has found out that it is a fairly tight labor market and quality candidates are in short supply.  While a focus on recruiting is important, equally so is to retain and inspire current employees.  This has proven more challenging than many executives, law firm partners, and managers expect.  What seems to be a constant theme of discussion in management circles is, how do we provide a culture where work/life balance is encouraged while still holding employees accountable for performance, meeting deadlines, and fulfilling responsibilities?  Due to the sensitivities around this topic, the interviewees preferred that they and their companies not be identified.

A senior-level executive at a media company states, “Work/life balance has to be part of the organization’s culture and that is set from the top down.”  This executive continues, “It’s about managing the whole person for success, not just the ‘work’ person.”  He says many employees are derailed when experiencing personal matters such as marital issues, substance abuse, depression, or an illness with a family member.  Executives and managers should show empathy for employees who are experiencing tough times.  This also sends a message to other employees that they matter, and the firm has their best interests at heart.

In the media world, there is constant pressure and deadlines and it can be a high stress environment.  This executive tells his colleagues and employees, “Take all your vacation time and don’t leave any on the table.  You need time to recharge your batteries.”  He is not saying that employees shouldn’t work hard.  However, he does believe that “managers need to take time and learn about their employees and what they need.  Leadership and managing is complicated and hard.  The easiest thing is to tell an employee ‘no’.”  However, each employee is different, and managers need to engage employees and find out about the “whole” employee; this helps establish culture and leadership.

With respect to “accountability,” the media executive states, “Executives and managers must establish a clear expectation concerning accountability.”  Is this a firm where you are expected to respond to emails on weekends?  Are employees allowed to leave for their child’s school play?  Are managers approachable when employees need to discuss personal matters that are affecting performance?  Are executives and partners willing to coach employees for career development or make accommodations that will make employees more productive?  This executive sums up that “millennials have made it clear that work/life balance is a priority for them and they want a full life.  It should not be a tough issue, but it is for many companies.”  Executives and partners will learn that disgruntled employees are not productive, and it is costly and disrupting to lose and replace high performers and high potentials.

Another CEO in a consumer goods company has a different problem.  “To be honest, a big part of the conversation revolves around the problem that some employees work too much instead of not enough.  This is a particular problem with people who work from home.  They often work way more than 40 hours and seem to never be far from work and never really leave it, so burnout is an issue.”  He continued, “I used to worry about remote workers goofing off all day but that has seldom been a real problem. Once in a while, but not much. I have more problems with my office staff texting and checking Facebook or doing online shopping.”

He adds, “Culture plays a big role. For us, the culture starts with how we try to foster a supportive atmosphere where it’s okay to make mistakes.”  He sums up by noting, “At the end of the day we have to balance the company’s needs to stay afloat and achieve our goals and objectives.  I have found that in general it is better to trust people and deal with the occasional abuser than to tighten the screws on everyone and have an uptight culture.  Most people are good and want to do the right thing.  The few bad apples end up self-selecting out of the system.”

Professional service companies such as law firms and accounting firms provide for other work/life issues.  As one law firm partner relayed, “When you bill by the hour, profitability depends on meeting and/or exceeding targeted billing requirements.  However, sometimes it feels as if you are only as good as your last monthly revenue generation.”  Law firm partners face many challenges in providing for work/life balance because of the nature of the profession.  At times, litigation can require significant time demands in engaging in motion practice, depositions, discovery, and preparing for trial.  Likewise, transactional practices require significant due diligence, document review, extensive negotiations, and document drafting.  Law firm partners seem to be confronting, more and more, a generational disconnect with associates that impacts a balance in work/life culture, policies, and how they are communicated and modeled to employees.  We hear from many partners that when they were associates, they “worked grueling hours on a regular basis and that was just an accepted part of the job description.”  One law firm partner stated, “I am still waiting to find a junior ‘me’ as an associate, someone dedicated, hardworking, and does what is required.”

The question that needs to be asked is: What is work/life balance? Is it leaders who model this culture for associates and staff to see?  For instance, leaving the office at a reasonable hour, not emailing late at night, and taking vacation days?  Conversely, is it leaving at a reasonable hour for whatever reason, but working late at night and on weekends to get the work done on time?  This is the challenge that companies face.  What culture does your organization support?  And how does it reinforce this culture?

Law firm associates, in many cases, have voiced concern over working excessive hours and spending time on routine or mundane assignments.  Associates want challenging and stimulating assignments, mentoring, and skills development to advance their career potential.  Additionally, they want their hours kept in a reasonable range.  Some law firms have raised compensation to attract and retain top talent.  However, increasing compensation alone doesn’t always lower attrition.  Research shows that when compensation is tied to other measures, there is a likelihood of greater job satisfaction.

Specifically, these measures can include the following: 1) Providing stimulating work; 2) Recognizing employees for work done well; 3) Nurturing a culture so that employees believe they are part of something bigger than themselves; and 4) Leaders should explore the goals and aspirations of employees and support the attainment of those goals. Research and studies, including work by B.F. Skinner, bolster the notion that money alone will not inspire and motivate employees in the long term. However, a positive and meaningful culture, paired with professional and personal development will have greater impact.

A company’s work/life balance should be firmly ingrained in the organization’s culture.  Culture is established and reinforced by executives and this behavior should be modeled by managers and group leaders.  Just remember, leadership and managing employees is hard work, if it is done right.

 

INFORMATION ON THE AUTHORS:

 

NATALIE LOEB is the Founder of Loeb Leadership

Development Group and an Executive Coach.

She can be contacted at natalie@loebleadership.com,

866-987-4111, or www.loebleadership.com.

 

GORDON LOEB is the COO of Loeb Leadership Development

Group and an Executive Coach.

He can be contacted at gordon@loebleadership.com,

866-987-4111, or www.loebleadership.com.

 

DAVID B. SARNOFF, ESQ., is the Principal of Sarnoff Group

LLC, an Executive Coach and a consultant to Loeb

Leadership Development Group.

He can be contacted at david@sarnoffgroup.com,

646-665-4899 or www.sarnoffgroup.com, and

dsarnoff@loebleadership.com, 866-987-4111, or

www.loebleadership.com.

 

Boosting Confidence Before A Big Presentation

It’s only natural to have butterflies in your stomach before giving your big pitch or presentation. Even those who give presentations regularly can struggle with jitters. The good news is, there are practical steps you can take to alleviate those jitters, and to build some confidence before your presentation begins.

Simple Strategies for Building Confidence

Consider some of these approaches:

Speak self-affirmations out loud. Self-affirmations aren’t just pop psychology; there’s real evidence to support the idea that, by speaking positively to yourself, you can boost confidence and calm your nerves. Direct some praise at yourself before giving your presentation: “You will give a great presentation. You are a dynamic presenter. You will be engaging and professional.”

Get some blood flowing. No, you don’t want to do vigorous exercise and work up a sweat just before giving your presentation—but there’s benefit to some light activity that boosts your heart rate just a little. A brisk walk or some quick stretching can work wonders.

Take a few deep belly breaths. Again, this isn’t just a cutesy cliché. Anxiety can tighten your muscles and cause you to be stiff, but some deep inhalations will loosen you up—which can, in turn, help you adopt a more confident and assured posture during your presentation.

Rethink your anxiety. Studies have shown that when you try to ignore your anxiety, it just makes it worse. When you rename it, though—calling it excitement instead of anxiety—it can help you be more positive. Don’t tell yourself that you’re feeling nervous; tell yourself you’re excited.

Emphasize the value you’re about to provide. Focus on the giving. Remind yourself that you’re about to share some information that will truly be helpful to people. Review some of the ways in which your audience is going to benefit from what you share. Emphasize your role as a gift-giver.

Rehearse your opening. You may not have time to run through your entire presentation before it begins, but you can probably find the time to practice your opening minute—which will allow you to start more confidently, looking your audience in the eyes and being sure of what comes next.

Know the area. Whenever possible, make sure you spend a few minutes checking out the meeting room, as well as the AV setup, before your presentation. Familiarize yourself with your surroundings so that you’ll feel a little more comfortable during the presentation itself.

Act like you’re happy to be there. In other words, smile! This relaxes the body and can help melt away a little of your apprehension. Plus, it helps you seem more approachable to your audience.

Become a More Confident Presenter

At the end of the day, you may not think of yourself as a natural-born orator—but the truth is, anyone can become a compelling and persuasive public speaker. We’d love to talk with you more about some of your specific struggles or presentation goals. Reach out to Loeb Leadership Development and ask us about our executive coaching services!

How New Managers Can Build Trust with Their Team

Imagine this: A room full of over 50 rocket scientists. Real rocket scientists. And, at the end of a presentation on building high-performing teams, a scientist sitting in the very back of the room raises his hand and asks: “One more time? How do you build trust?”

When preparing to lead this session, I was a little apprehensive. What could I possibly teach a group of 50 of the smartest individuals I had ever met?  The journals on the table in the reception room were in English but I honestly couldn’t understand them. These people were brilliant on so many levels—but I opened the workshop anyhow, and found more than a few who were interested in learning how to engage their team members, curious about how to build effective communication skills.

Eventually, the conversation moved towards “trust-building” and “trust-breaking” behaviors.  Establishing trust is at the foundation of all effective teamwork. Engaging in certain behaviors can help build this trust. And diligence and intention about these behaviors is a critical choice every leader (even rocket scientists) can choose to make every day.

The gentleman in the back of the room just wanted to confirm what he heard…and was intrigued by the idea that he could impact his effectiveness as a leader and intentionally build trust.

The difficult thing about trust, of course, is that it’s something leaders build over time. New leaders have no track record of goodwill to fall back on, it can be challenging to jumpstart that trust-based relationship.

Though it is challenging, it is by no means impossible. As you rise to a new leadership or management role, start cultivating trust from day one, facilitating honest and candid conversations that generate a real rapport. In this post, we’ll show some examples of what those conversations might entail.

Focus on Trust—Not Change

As a new leader, you may have an ambitious agenda you’d like to roll out, including some big changes you plan to implement. It’s fine to have those ambitions, but it’s typically best not to lead with them right out of the gate. That’s putting the cart before the horse; to get buy-in on your agenda, you first need to build trust—and that should be the focus of your first team meeting.

Put those grandiose ideas and sweeping changes on the back-burner, then, and instead work toward these short-term goals:

  • Prove to your team that you’re worthy of their trust.
  • Also show that you are curious, open to feedback, and willing to learn.
  • Show that your goal is to help and empower, not just to dictate.

These might seem like fairly modest goals—but keep in mind that you’re new in your position, and your team may be a little skeptical of you. Frankly, they have every right to be. It won’t be possible to get much done, or to move forward with any big changes, until you alleviate that skepticism.

Don’t Underestimate the Power of Relationships

One specific way you can cultivate trust is by spending some time actually getting to know the members of your team—something that may sound a little corny, but is actually critical for facilitating trust-based relationships.

In your early meetings as a leader, put the spotlight on your team. Ask them some questions that help you get to know each of them a little better—and take notes about what you find out! Use your gleanings to brainstorm some future activities you can do with your team, and also to piece together some different ways in which you can play to each employee’s strengths.

Also remember that relationship-building is a two-way street; be prepared to share some details about yourself. This doesn’t just mean listing some of your credentials, though that can sometimes be useful. Also talk about what motivates you to get up in the morning, and why you’re excited to be in the leadership role. Above all, be candid; a willingness to get “real” helps you build trust.

Come Ready to Learn

One more word of advice: As you approach a new leadership position, be willing to get vulnerable with your team members, letting them know that you’re very much in “learning mode.” Tell them that they’re the ones who really know how the team works, and that you hope to benefit from their experience and perspective. Show yourself to be open to insights and feedback, adaptable within your new position.

These tips can all help you generate trust amongst your team members, and ultimately to get off to a good start in your new managerial role. Yet, it’s just one component of being a successful leader; to learn more about thriving in any professional position, contact the executive coaches at Loeb Leadership Development.