Friday, November 25, 2016

18 Donuts and Attention to Detail

I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving holiday.  I'm full of turkey, done with my black Friday shopping and was ready to get back to work.  Working for a small start up that is open most days of the year, we take turns playing the 'grown up' on site during slow times like the Friday after Thanksgiving.

Since I wasn't leaving town or hosting family, and being one of the newest members of the team, I volunteered to be the adult today.  I woke up early and got an extra long walk in, getting my 10,000 steps by 6:30 am.  Got ready and hit every green light on the way in.  I was in such a good mood, I even stopped to buy donuts for the few of us that were on the black Friday shift.  As I rolled into the parking lot around 9, I noticed there were only about 6 cars in the entire lot of the multi-tenant building.  Thinking it would be a really quiet day, I pulled out my donuts, balanced my tea as I tugged on the building door.  Locked.  I went around the other side - also locked.  I went to the front entrance, and it was also locked.

I had never thought to ask if the building would be closed for the day. I don't typically work in the building after hours so building access had never been an issue.  I have access to our offices within the building and VPN access for working from home when I need to pull a late night or get an early start.  The company is limited to the number of building access cards we're allowed to have, so we're particular about who gets them.  It's one of the obvious details that often get overlooked, because it's so obvious.  We think it a given and don't pay attention.  Focusing on the big stuff, the stuff that matters - the indemnification clause, the proper reps and warranties, the timing of the patent application or the marketing material disclosures.  We assume that the little things are taken care of by the process, by the administrators, or are the natural state of things.  Until we get locked out of the building juggling our tea and 18 donuts.

Because of my commute I had an understanding with my boss upon being hired that I wouldn't be working after hours at the office. It never occurred to the office manager that I would need one to work on the unofficial 'holidays' when the building is closed but the office is open.  So this morning, I stood at the door for a few minutes laughing at myself. And then I took my donuts home to the kids - giving some away to a panhandler on the way, because no one needs 18 donuts at home.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Thanksgiving 2016

It’s that time of year again, time to contemplate the things in our lives for which we are thankful.    Every year the family creates a list of things that we’re grateful for – given the youth of some family members, toys and candy usually make the top of the list.  Given my fondness for champagne, so does bubbles.  But the thing we’re most thankful for are the members of our family – mom, dad, brothers, Nana, Papa, cousins, and the many friends with whom we share a bond stronger than blood.
This year has been one of ups and down and I’m more grateful than ever for the wonderful people in my life.  For old friends and new, I have been more than blessed with the love, mentorship, support, laughter, and encouragement from so many.  And for that I am truly thankful. 

As a legal blogger (of sorts), I also have to attest to my absolute dependence on technology and provide proper gratitude for the tools that make my job easier.  From my smartphone that keeps me connected 24/7 and allows me some semblance of balance in my life to the software that automates once manual processes that allows my team to shine, technology has had a major positive impact on my practice. 

I am also more than thankful that this election season is over.  I hope that my social media feeds become a friendlier place and I can go into the office without worrying about a fist fight breaking out over the latest twitter war or email leak. 

And because it’s my list, I’m thankful for bubbles.  What are you thankful for?

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Head up or head down?

Every couple of months you’ll see an article, presentation or infographic trying to define the line between a leader and a manager.  Often they’re full of platitudes like leaders listen more than they talk and surround themselves with “A” people.  One of my favorite useless platitudes is that leaders have their heads up while managers have their head down – meaning that a true leader will come up with ideas and delegate the execution to people more capable of pulling it off.  While those who have ‘only’ reached the manager level, will still keep their heads down focusing on the work right in front of them instead of thinking the big thoughts.

For many of us in small departments, it really isn’t a choice.  There’s just no one there to delegate to, or if there is, they are so far in the weeds that it’s not fair to pile more on them.  Of course that doesn’t relieve you of the obligation to think outside of the box and come up with innovative solutions to the problems your company is facing. 

So does that mean that we’re not leaders? Or all hope to developing leadership skills is lost?  Of course not.  Everyday leaders of all stripes are able to inspire others while getting their own jobs done well.  The trick is to know when to put your head down and when to look up.  Every day there is real work to be done.  And that’s what our company’s pay us to do.  Sure, they love the great ideas that increase efficiency or improve the bottom line, but they expect us to do our day jobs too. 

The first thing you lift your head up for is increasing the efficiency in your day job - contract management, process development, alternative fee arrangements, etc.  This gives some breathing room so that your ‘heads up’ time doesn’t just occur between the hours of midnight and 5 am. 

Once you’ve established that, you use what you’re learning from your ‘heads down’ time to inspire and innovate.  Your day job gives you unique insight into the challenges of multiple areas of the business.  For example, knowing what contracts are in the queue gives you a unique view into the direction the company is actually heading regardless of what is being said at the quarterly all hands.  Being able to raise your hand to call attention to a department entering into outsourcing agreements because they can’t meet unrealistic project deadlines can highlight the issues with the project.  It also gives you the opportunity to identify synergies between departments – IT has just contracted for a ticketing system that has a lot of the features that marketing is looking for in project management, have the teams talked?  Dealing with employment claims allows you insight into areas of the company culture that need improvement. 

The list goes on and on.  There’s a reason why a good general counsel is worth their weight in gold, and you don’t have to suck at your day job to get there.