Monday, April 2, 2012

7 things Lawyers should do to set goals and keep them - My Fifty by 50 Reboot

It's Monday. Usually it's my day to "reboot," which is tough for a barefoot barrister. Nevertheless, the office is cleaned out from a month of neglect, the week is new, taxes are at least to the accountant, so I can lean back a little and try to figure out what happened to March and what will happen in April.

This is a good idea for any practitioner. When I was deep in the bowels of Big Law, I would close my door Monday morning and do the same thing. Usually closed my eyes and wondered what I was doing in the bowels of a big firm instead of pulling weeds in New Hampshire. But gradually problems would present themselves, thoughts and solutions would form, and I could be effective for at least some of the week.

Every coach and mentor worth their speaking fee tells you to have goals. Long term goals, short term goals, and goals for the in between, whenever that is. They have to be S.M.A.R.T. or whatever, and you have to have tasks and plans to follow through on them.

Athena popped out of Zeus's head, a fully formed goddess.
This will not happen with your goals.
I hate 'em. HATE. THEM. I hate them because you can go through life setting goals and beating yourself up for not meeting them. I hate them because people expect their goals to spring out of their heads like Athena -- fully formed and doable. That is not going to happen.

There's a lot of planning, learning and underpinning beneath a decent set of goals. Instead, I set initiatives. These are just goals tied to a purpose. Business have "initiatives" all the time, generally after some manager has read "From Good to Great" by Jim Collins, which I also don't like. So instead of setting goals for the week, think about your obligations as initiatives.

Here are some quick tips to making initiatives I've found valuable. They are based on ideas from my friend and coach, Yoshi Ariizumi.

  1. Understand and own each problem underlying your initiative. Part of ownership is determining whether the problem is worth solving, and whether becoming embroiled in it is in line with your values. Believe me, if a goal is not deeply aligned with your core values, you won't be interested at all in meeting it. Determine what pieces of the problem belong to you. Ask what challenges the problem brings to you to be solved. More fundamentally and Zen-like, ask yourself what you bring to the problem or the question that needs to be answered. Ohm.
  2. A corollary to Ownership is ACCOUNTABILITY. Find someone to work with you who will keep you on track and advise you when you hit a bump in your desire to own and solve the problem. Usually these people are called coaches. They just aren't for rich golfers and football teams, so find one. A friend will sometimes work, but at times being kept on task by a friend can really strain the relationship. Get a third party who will facilitate your thinking and work with you in the learning experience. Pay this person. It's a business expense anyway.
  3. Assess what resources you have around you to help you solve the problem. These local resources can be indispensable, especially when they have skills you don't. Sometimes they cost money, or sometimes they could be a quick jog down the hall or a phone call away. Know what you need before you go looking around.
  4. Be totally engaged in the "practice" or the set of activities needed to accomplish the initiative. This is the learning process everyone goes through when they successfully achieve a goal. Practice is messy. Practice is chaotic, non-linear, and dynamic. Accordingly, your practice will have stops and starts and cycles. That's why a facilitator can help you assess your learning. Let's use a really good example. Tiger Woods, the best golfer ever, has had a bad run of it lately. He cheats on his beautiful Swedish wife, wrecks his car, and goes nearly 3 years without a win. The streak was compounded because other golfers were learning to swing like him, and learning his game.  He was also physically depleted, returning from Achilles tendon and knee surgery.
  5. Keep at it. But now, most golf experts are calling for a Tiger victory at the Master's Tournament this month. Why? Tiger has become totally engaged in the practice of winning. Not that he wasn't engaged before, he just wasn't TOTALLY engaged. He got distracted, and had to go back to the lab to rework his formula. Now, he has a great new caddie and several coaches who facilitate his learning. He has assessed his failures with his facilitators and learned from them. He's focused again: after his first win in 924 days, he said: "It was just a matter of staying the course and staying patient, keep working on fine tuning what we are doing and, well, here we are."
  6. PREPARE-ACT-REFLECT.  You can't just wander through an initiative without a plan. Your initiative is no good if you don't prepare yourself for phases of learning. Your preparation is no good if you don't act on it. You can't learn anything if you don't take time and reflect on the results of your actions. Be ready to do it over, and over.  At Bay Hill, Tiger's first victory since his collapse, he was constantly reassessing his game, fine-tuning and adjusting with his physical condition and conditions on the course.
  7. RECORD-REVIEW-REFLECT. You can bet Tiger's team was keeping immaculate records of his swing, his stringer, and everything else in his toolbox by every means possible. I'm willing to bet Tiger spends as much time staring at video of himself playing, and taking mental and physical notes on his playing. I'm willing to bet he thinks hard about the things he did right, but more especially how he could have prevented the things that went wrong.
So what, you ask, does the title mean? That's my initiative. There are some things I wanted to do for each of my core values before I turned 50.  There aren't 50 actual things - they all have something to do with the number 50. As I confidently stare 51 in the face, I'm not even remotely close to achieving ONE of them. But I'm still focused on the initiative. 

And the journey, well, that's been the fun of it. It's been a richly chaotic learning experience, and I've met some amazing characters along the way. Sort of like travelling my own Route 66 or something. 

And it's better that staring at a long sheet of goals I haven't met, mocking me each time I open my journal to the first day of January.

Now, what's YOUR initiative? 

This blog post can be reproduced in its entirety with the following information:  
© Tamar J Cerafici, The Barefoot Barrister™ 412-467-6141

No comments:

Post a Comment