Providing Full Spectrum Legal Advice: Partnering in Both Business and the Law

Now more than ever, lawyers are called upon to provide full spectrum legal advice to clients.  Legal engagements often include advising clients on strategic business implications of their decisions in addition to providing legal solutions when assisting clients with complex and routine problems.  Join Anne in New York for NAWL’s Annual Meeting and explore how to combine being a savvy lawyer with being an effective communicator and trusted advisor.

Do You Resist Change or Advocate For It?

Who knew that change and thinking about change could be so complicated? Even if the change is the one we advocate for, embrace, and want, it can cause stress.

You are the agent of change and change happens to you. You are the agent of change when you take a new job, a first job, move up the ranks, or take on new responsibility. Change happens to you when the market for your services crashes and you are made redundant, your organization’s business model morphs, or there is new leadership with new visions and work practices.

Regardless of whether you are the stream (making change happen) or the leaf (carried by the stream), change can be brutal. Bridge’s Transition Model helps us understand what happens in people’s minds during the three stages of change and the corresponding emotions:

  • Stage 1: Ending, Losing, and Letting Go. Resistance and emotional upheaval mark this stage. Even when you embrace change, you will experience this stage, if only for a very short time.
  • Stage 2: The Neutral Zone. This stage is spaced between the old and new; people hold on to the old way, but are trying to adapt to the new way.  People can experience resentment and low productivity.
  • Stage 3: The New Beginning. During this stage people embrace change and are excited about it!  They experience early wins and productivity gains.

How quickly a person moves through the three stages depends on a number of factors, including problem-solving style. Adaption-Innovation Theory (A-I Theory) and Kirton’s Adaption-Innovation Inventory (“KAI”) address who are the so-called resisters and advocates of change. A-I Theory measures the problem-solving style, which has implications for whether one resists or advocates for any particular change. Under A-I Theory, we all advocate for the kind of change that is consistent with how we prefer to solve problems.  We tend to resist change that is inconsistent with our own problem-solving style.

Problem-solving style typically runs the continuum between more adaptive and more innovative. People who are more adaptive prefer to keep the current paradigm in place. The type of change they advocate for are improvements; they want to make the current system better and are risk averse. This is because their preferred problem-solving style is to leverage the system in place, as-is, to solve problems.

People who are more innovative prefer the efficiency and flexibility of devising a solution and then modifying or replacing the system or process to accommodate that solution.  They are also less risk averse and more interested in trying something different than their more adaptive colleagues.

The tension in an organization struggling with change boils down to this: the change either goes too far or not far enough.  And, no one person is always a resister or always an advocate of change. When it comes to a radical change (and remember, whether the change is radical or not is in the eye of the beholder), the more adaptive are likely to resist and the innovative are more likely to advocate for it.  Similarly, when it comes to tweaking or perfecting the current system, the more adaptive are more likely to advocate and the more innovative will resist because the change doesn’t go far enough.

Under Bridges Model, so-called resisters resist because they’re still in Stage 1 and are likely experiencing, fear, denial, anger, sadness, disorientation, frustration, uncertainty, or a sense of loss.

So, if you’re trying to lessen resistance, that is help your colleague move from Stage 1 to 2, be sure to listen for the essence of your colleague’s feelings and needs. Moreover, it’s important for new leadership to communicate a clear picture of how the new organization will look and feel and that they will provide the support necessary to successfully transition and thrive long term. Don’t forget to acknowledge difficulties and to take the time to explain the reasons for change. Authentic communication goes a long way toward moving people from Stage 1 to Stage 2.

In this regard, usingThe Win-Win Conversation, and then Coaching Skills to collaboratively identify a solution that meets those needs will likely engage these so-called resisters, achieve buy-in, and leverage that person’s best thinking not just on meeting his or her needs, but on how to implement change more effectively and with less stress for all.

Change happens and we all make the transition eventually. If we didn’t, how would we progress?

An Actionable Approach Is The Approach That Works

Would you like to be able to successfully address interpersonal challenges, collaborate effectively 360 degrees and foster others’ best thinking? In this case, you need what we refer to as Actionable Approaches to People Problems. At the foundation of Actionable Approaches is being present and aware so that you are able to choose how to respond rather than just react as if you were on “auto pilot.”

Being aware means being aware of your own feelings and needs in any given situation, being aware of the other person’s feeling and needs, and focusing on a desired outcome for a particular conversation. Being aware doesn’t mean, however, that you have to know everything. For example, there is an Actionable Approach to address an issue with a colleague for which you don’t have an answer, and give constructive feedback, and improve your team’s effectiveness.

You ask, what exactly are Actionable Approaches? They are the proven tools for addressing just about any workplace situation. You can even apply them to your spouse, teenagers, or toddler!

First, the Win-Win Conversation is a five-step process for coming to an agreement, key elements of which are:

  • Stating fact neutrally, avoiding loaded words and judgment
  • Being aware of your own feelings and needs about the situation

In addition to workshops and a workbook, we now offer online courses that feature Actionable Approaches. If you look at our packages, you’ll see that you can combine our Win-Win conversation and Coaching Skills eLearning workshops or get them separately (at a New Year’s discounted price through February 11th!)

If any of your New Year’s resolutions happen to be related to becoming a better communicator or teammate or if you’re determined to become more effective, productive and known for your strengths, look at the sample page from our Win-Win Conversation online workshop below and see if it’s right for you. We wish you good luck in the New Year!

Sample page from the Win-Win Online Workshop:

Definitions of Goals and Strategies

  • A goal is what you are trying to accomplish.
  • A strategy is how you get there.

There are often many strategies that you can utilize to achieve a particular goal or satisfy a need. To identify a solution that works for both of you, you must identify the goals and needs at stake and then focus on a strategy that meets both parties’ goals and needs.

Example: Working it out

Read the example of Working it Out and consider the goals, strategies, and how the needs of both Joe and Tom are met.

Tip 52: Ask Good Questions

Use good questions to help filter the goals and needs of a situation from the possible strategies for achieving the goals.  Do this before you focus on potential solutions or strategies to resolve a situation.  This increases the chances of an efficient and effective process by creating a collaborative dynamic as well as reassuring both parties that their needs are important and will be met.

Tip 53: Shift The Dynamic

You don’t have to be the nominative leader to use the foregoing technique.   Use questions to focus colleagues on goals any time the goals are unclear, communication is unproductive, or when people seem defensive or closed to others’ suggestions.   You have the power to shift the dynamic by asking good questions.

Tip 54: Pause And Reflect

Introverts tend to “pause” more readily, especially if they also prefer Feeling Judgment and Perception. Introverted Feeling Perceivers are hard-wired to check in with their values and determine how they feel.  Introverted Thinking Perceivers will pause to check in with their Thinking Judgment, that is, analyze accordingly.  Pausing can be a challenge for Extraverted Judgers and Extraverted Sensing Perceivers because they are hard-wired to be in action.  Preferences aside, all Types benefit from pausing to reflect and then making a deliberate choice to respond in a Win-Win manner.

Tip 55: Clear The Air

If you know you tend to avoid conflict and let issues fester, you may have to push yourself to respond so that you can clear the air.  Feeling Judgers are more likely to experience avoidance unless they are practiced at confronting issues.  Feeling Judgers tend to be motivated to address conflict in order to preserve the relationship.  INFPs and ISFPs are often most challenged in this regard because they prefer the inner world and, when extraverting, prefer to “go with the flow” rather than confront issues.  Thinking Judgers typically are more comfortable addressing objective issues such as the failings of another’s work product than deeply emotional issues.

What’s The Problem?

In a recent management team workshop, the leader made an interesting observation about a coaching demonstration. One of her colleagues role-played a very upset and frustrated staff member and I played the manager. We didn’t rehearse either. The leader was struck by how much more effective interactions with staff are when the manager doesn’t get sucked into the drama and, instead, focuses on what is really going on: how much the staff member cares about the issue and how much she is upset that she doesn’t know how to address the situation.

As the manager-coach, I:

  • listened for the staffer’s feelings and validated them,
  • very deliberately used opened-ended questions to encourage the staff person to articulate the root of her frustration – lack of adequate training, and
  • then used opened-ended questions to support the staffer in both focusing on the act of problem solving and then on creating potential solutions.

In this case, the problem was inadequate training for staff, who are on the ground dealing with the fallout of a monumental change in policy.

Whether it’s in a workshop or an individual coaching session, I help managers and leaders use coaching skills to both develop their staff and to get underneath the upset to the real problem so that everyone can focus on solving problem. The reason?  Because, a solution focus is always more productive and, it’s what everyone wants. So when you see that your colleague or a younger associate is struggling, listen for the concern underneath the “story” about what happened, clarify that you understand the underlying concern by paraphrasing, and then identify their unmet needs. In my example above, the unmet need was knowledge or a strategy; the solution was better training, which will empower the staff with working knowledge of how to handle problems as they arise.

The reason my approach worked was because I stayed calm and listened for “signal” instead of getting caught up in the noise. (The same principle as when you’re listening to the radio!) So the next time you see your colleague struggling, figure out the source of the problem and focus on the solution!

Use Coaching Skills To Run An Effective Meeting

Using coaching skills, that is asking focused, open-ended questions is one of the best ways to enhance collaboration, manage conversations more effectively, and ensure your team meets its goals. The coaching process transports you and your team from having no plan to a well thought-out plan with accountability built in.

The first step on your way towards running an effective meeting is to establish the focus. Establishing the focus is all about clarifying the purpose of the conversation by asking questions such as “What is the best use of our time?” or  “Of all the issues, which is most pressing?” It eliminates guesswork and time wasting. Identify the topic, the goal with regard to the topic, and the takeaway for the meeting and you’re on the right track. Besides, when the conversation wanders off course, it’s easier to steer it back by reminding everyone of the focus of the meeting.

After you’ve established the focus, the second step is to encourage productive brainstorming. While it may be more challenging to support your team members in seeing the possibilities for success when they are experiencing high stress or lack of confidence, you can ask and offer options to shift a negative mindset. If a colleague has a negative view of a situation, try asking questions such as “What have you seen work for others?” “What else could you do?” “What would your mentor/hero do?” You can also “prime the pump” by offering suggestions.  If a team member is truly stuck in his or her negative mindset, asking for alternative interpretations of what happened as well as offering alternatives can go a long way in shifting the person’s mindset. Remember, if you are a person’s manager and tend to think out loud, your ponderings might be mistaken for giving instruction or the “right answer.”

Creating an action plan is the third step in running an effective meeting. You can support your employees in creating the action plan by asking such questions as “How can you break that option down into steps?” or “What do we need to do first?” The focus on developing concrete steps is helpful for everyone. Judgers (people whose personality type is such that they like tasks and items to be scheduled, organized, and decided) prefer knowing what needs to be done, by whom, and by when. They can rest more easily with a plan in place.

On the other hand, Perceivers (people whose personality type is such that they have a natural tendency to flex around constraints and schedules and go with the flow in most situations) benefit from planning because it breaks down big projects into smaller phases and sets milestones. Perceivers embrace options and often dislike having to choose one, especially if there isn’t a clear winner. You can support a Perceiver in choosing next steps by a process of elimination.

After you have a plan of action, you need to identify and remove any obstacles, which is the fourth step. Explore resource needs – including whom you need to include in the project — and time constraints, as well as potentially conflicting goals and, importantly, ask your colleagues what resources they need and what concerns them.

And, finally, the fifth step is to review and commit. It’s important to ask your colleagues to review the points of action and, if appropriate, share his or her takeaway or insights from the meeting. Resist the urge to summarize for the team; each person needs to say what they will do and by when, which is the foundation of accountability.

Remember accountability is a great tool for success, so show support and don’t forget to agree on when and how your colleagues will follow up. Accountability needs to be geared towards achieving the team’s goal, not assessing blame. So embrace the open-ended question as your friend, share your personal experiences as suggestions, and run a truly collaborative, effective meeting!

Got Advice?

Giving advice is sometimes important and appropriate. And, since few of us enjoy “being advised on how to do things,” how we deliver advice matters. We usually don’t want to give others an impression that we don’t trust them, think they are not capable of completing a task or that they don’t have good judgment. The solution seems simple – try turning advice into a suggestion! For example, you can suggest another option or you can say that you’ve seen strategy “A” work for others. If we use neutral language and a tone of suggestion instead of “should” (and when we don’t imply that our strategy or suggestion is the best and only choice!), chances are our colleague or associate will accept our suggestion amiably.

However, there are also times when we need to deal with another’s defensiveness. Even if you don’t mean to criticize, using such words as “always” and “never” generally put people on the defensive – just because they are exaggerations. If you sense that your colleague is getting defensive, it usually helps to make him or her feel safe and keep the focus on resolving the issue. Especially for managers, it is useful to frame their message in their commitment and concentrate on mutual goals.

As any other relationships, professional relationships benefit when we act thoughtfully and responsibly. It’s important to be sensitive to allowing another to save face. Instead of saying, “Well, if you had followed the procedures I emailed to you last month, it would have worked out” go with something like this: “I’m sorry this didn’t work out. Would you like to talk about it?” Besides, acknowledging our own part in creating a problem is a meaningful step towards making your colleague understand they are safe and are not being criticized.

And, finally, managers have a great opportunity to become coaches to their younger associates. So, before you decide that someone is an under-performer and give up on them, ask yourself whether you’re making the best use of the person’s skill set. Are you giving the person the right kind of support and guidance? If the person is coachable – open to making changes – you’ve got hope!