Thursday, October 18, 2012

In-house counsel are for change, before they are against it

Change is hard,” says first lady Michelle Obama. “You Can Keep the Change,” sarcastically sings Hank Williams, Jr. And there are the change flip-floppers on both sides, who are for change, before they are against it.

Presidential politics aside . . . if you’re trying to change things like work habits, personal competencies, and work loads – change really is hard, even for in-house counsel. So before you lead your next change, make sure you spend enough time thinking through what obstacles may be thrown in your path and how to best overcome them.

Below are a few suggestions on change management, including a couple of solid lists-of-10 for your endeavor.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Coaching tips for the “leadership sauce” of in-house counsel

How is it that some in-house counsel have strong relationships with their corporate clients, peers, and bosses, while others don’t? Why do opportunities seem to come faster for some counsel than for others with similar talents? Is there a “secret sauce” for success?

Every in-house role requires a combination of technical and personal skills (think of these as ingredients). These ingredients - properly measured and mixed - comprise a "leadership sauce" that varies by counsel (you), and by your company, boss, team, and client constituents (because they’re all different, too). If your leadership sauce is a little off, commit yourself to improving your personal competencies and adapting them to every new situation.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Stress-Busters: Six Suggestions for In-House Counsel

Stress! It's just part of being an in-house counsel. It can come from your workload, a teammate, your boss, your internal clients, your compensation, or personal issues outside of work.

With some discipline and commitment akin to New Year's resolutions, you can take steps to manage your stress. If you've run out of ideas for reducing yours, then consider stress-busters such as more exercise, more sleep, and more actions to change the things that stress you.

Hopefully, one or more of the six approaches discussed below will work for you or someone you're coaching:

Thursday, August 23, 2012

To save job of your direct report, Olympic effort (and build trust)

There are proven techniques to getting rid of under-performing in-house counsel. You can ignore them (let them hang themselves with poor performance). You can manage them out (document clear expectations you know they will not meet). You can outright fire them.

Is that the best use of your time and your company’s money? Think of how expensive and time-consuming it is to find and train a replacement (your HR consultant may have the numbers to prove it).

Consider the alternative; harder, but better for the bottom line. An Olympic effort to manage to success!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Nominate for ABA Blawg 100

Dear readers. If you have enjoyed, please take a few minutes to nominate this blog for the ABA Journal Blawg 100. You may submit your nomination/vote for at the following link:

Thank you for your support.  Perry Cone

Legal Notice and Disclaimer

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Get buy-in: leadership lesson from "Salmon Fishing in the Yemen"

There will come a time in your in-house career when you are a visionary. And you fail at it, because you misjudge what you can accomplish and how. That's my leadership take-away from Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, a British romantic comedy-drama film viewed this weekend.

If you're in a legal-compliance risk-mitigation role, you often see things others do not. You have this vision where the organization needs to go. You do a decent job at communicating the issues, the risks versus benefits, and the range of reasonable solutions. You may encounter problems, however, if you skip critical next-steps, as illustrated in Salmon Fishing.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Embrace your "difficult boss," in-house counsel

Whether your boss is the CEO, the general counsel or managing counsel, you should want your boss to be reasonably demanding. A boss that challenges you helps you get better at doing your job as in-house counsel.

If your boss is grumpy on any given day, that's a prerogative of being "the boss." But if you find your boss to be very "difficult," is it your boss who needs to change, or is it you?

Conventional wisdom is that you can't change your boss. So start thinking about how you can change you  to help you embrace your difficult boss.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Hard to hit the "off" switch outside the office

The mythical work-life balance remains a myth for me as I suspect it is for many in-house counsel. Just to prove how hard it is to follow even good advice, here I am at home this evening writing this blog post about turning "off" my work mode at home at night.

I was inspired by Overcome Your Work Addition, which posits that those who visualize themselves as "workaholics" might actually be "successaholics." Rather than some deep-seeded satisfaction from working long hours, "successaholics" are obsessed with work "because of the satisfaction we get from the kudos for achievement."

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Assertiveness - what's the right balance for in-house counsel?

Most corporate clients want their in-house counsel to be knowledgeable, have opinions, and be tough, but not necessarily opinionated, and certainly not pushy. So having the right level of assertiveness can be tricky business.

If you're a difficult person, with a little fine-tuning, you may be able to turn your difficult nature into the desired competency of assertiveness, I wrote in my “difficult boss” post earlier this year.  Like Bob Sutton, I view “assertiveness” as an important personal competency, when properly measured. And it needs to be tailored to each of your clients and situations at hand.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Horizontal career moves are good for in-house counsel

Do you view a successful in-house career as being “vertical” (up the corporate ladder) rather than “horizontal”? Don’t feel alone, but think again.

Legal career opportunities are mostly horizontal (lateral). Although vertical moves (promotions) can be desirable, they also are rare for in-house counsel. So obsessing on promotions may lead to job unhappiness.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Difficult boss? Challenges for in-house counsel

It's no secret that bosses can be difficult people. So why would in-house counsel think they are immune from having one? On the flip side, if you supervise others, have you ever been surprised to learn that your direct reports consider you to be difficult (and you don’t)?

Being “difficult” can be in the eye of the beholder, with many shades and meanings. It can be good for direct reports and the organization, when change requires a forceful approach. When a supervising attorney is a "bad boss," it can have disastrous consequences.

If you're a difficult boss, consider these strategies and reminders:

Monday, January 16, 2012

Personal development plans for in-house counsel - performance review 201

You've had your annual performance review, so now what?  It's time to work on your personal development plan, for those aspects of you (your "competencies") that you want to improve.

Your plan also articulates how you're going to change yourself, your time-frames for doing so, the means to measure your success, and your support network. If you were not provided with a template and task list, I suggest that you take the initiative and make them up.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Performance review 101 for in-house counsel – how to “receive” your review

Surprise manHate them or love them, performance reviews are a potent reminder that in-house counsel are corporate employees – mere mortals – and not just lawyers.  If your annual review is coming up soon, here are five suggestions for the recipient (laced with a few thoughts for the review writer).

1.  Good feedback makes us feel good.  Even the most humble enjoy a little positive feedback now and then.  A good source is your annual performance review.  If you know you are due some positive reinforcement, but not getting enough, you may want to remind your boss (gently) about how important feedback is to his/her team.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

What if Penn State had in-house counsel in 2002?

Penn State

If there had been a general counsel at Penn State in 2002, would Joe Paterno still be its head football coach?  We will never know for sure, but I have to think that events might have turned out differently and better for everyone involved.

Missing from media reports is the fact that Penn State had no in-house general counsel’s office when the key events of 2002 occurred.  Instead, the general counsel role was performed by a local outside law firm for more than five decades.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Moneyball’s coaching lesson for in-house counsel

Moneyball is the antithesis of this blog, thematically speaking.  The theme of the movie (and the book) is using analytics and statistics to get an edge on the competition.  The theme of this blog is in-house counsel using leadership and coaching to get an edge in performance.  Such differences aside, Moneyball provides a lesson in coaching well worth a mention.

In the movie, Brad Pitt – portraying baseball Oakland A’s general manager Billy Beane – exhibits the characteristics of a bad boss.  He is manipulative, secretive, and autocratic – to name a few of his overstrengths.