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Global Productivity, Part 3

Daily Practices for Cultivating Global Leadership Skills

Making a difference in the world starts with making an impact closer to home.

By Paul H. Burton

In the first post in this series, “Productivity Tips for the Modern Workplace,” we focused on how legal professionals can work together more productively in the global marketplace. Part 2, “Running the Day Productively,” offered ideas on we, as individuals, can get our own work done more effectively and efficiently. Part 3 looks at how to exhibit leadership in ways that will make a real difference.

Making an Impact

Making a difference in the world starts with making an impact on the people you work with, and the people you lead. Leadership is not a position or a title — it’s a state of mind. Thinking like a leader begets leadership behaviors that impact others. The greater the impact, the better the leadership.

Below are some ways you can demonstrate that kind of global leadership.

1. Do Right Versus Be Right

Observe How the “Go-To” People Achieve Results 

Lawyers are paid to be right, and it’s important to be right when dispensing advice. Leadership, however, is rarely about being right. It’s usually about getting people to follow. The distinction can best be stated as, “It’s better to do right than be right.”

Undoubtedly, someone in your workplace is the go-to person when things need to get done. Every office has that person — the one who makes miracles happen. Rarely do these individuals have much direct authority over others. Yet they’re always able to achieve results.

Consider why this is. Could it be that they’re able to lead others to the desired result? Isn’t that an example of doing right, since there’s little value in being right in those instances? Watch how they conduct themselves when making those miracles happen. There is much to learn from people who get things done in the absence of authority.

Opportunities to refine this skill appear more often than you might think. Whenever the impetus to argue a point arises, pause and ask whether being right — right now — carries any lasting value. It rarely does outside the substantive practice of law.

Instead, consider what doing right would be, now that you’ve created some space to consider the alternatives in that pause.

2. Develop Field Vision

Envision the Path to Success

Humans are visual animals. We think in pictures. As a leader, you must envision the path to success and then communicate it to your team.

Focusing solely on the ultimate goal is a scorched-earth style of leadership. Everything is cast aside in the effort to reach the goal. Alternatively, focusing solely on the details often leads to micromanagement and team members who are afraid to act without direct instruction. A balanced leader keeps a hand in the team’s day-to-day activities while periodically reminding them of the ultimate goal.

3. Cultivate Every Relationship

Engagement Drives Results

Lawyers spend a lot of time cultivating relationships with clients and referral sources. The purpose is to develop strong bonds that, hopefully, lead to new business or career advancement. Consider how effective the same efforts can be with colleagues. People tend to perform best when they feel valued.

Feeling valued results from getting attention from others and receiving feedback. Conduct a personal one-on-one with each direct report at least once per quarter solely for the purpose of cultivating the relationship. The time spent will pay huge dividends.

4. Communicate Appreciation

A Little Recognition Goes a Long Way

“Thanks.” “Good work!” These few words pack so much punch. Spread them liberally among those with whom you work. The effects are immediate and lasting.

Making people feel valued was touched on in the previous suggestion. Communicating appreciation to others doubles down on this idea. Disengaged people do what’s necessary to earn their paycheck. Engaged people do good work with a great attitude.

Leaders understand the simplicity and value of acknowledging their team’s efforts.

5. Discover Hidden Talents

So Much Value So Close at Hand

Great leaders draw out the hidden talents in others. It’s similar to mentoring but without the formal framework or prearranged objectives — call it mentoring redux.

Mentoring redux focuses on unearthing someone’s talents and interests and then finding ways to employ them in the person’s current position. The win-win is that the individual gets to engage in things they enjoy, and the firm — and clients — reap the benefits. It also drives loyalty and reduces attrition because those engaged feel valued.

6. Guide Versus Direct

The Different Between Drivers and Passengers

Drivers learn the way to a new destination better than passengers because drivers have to pay attention during the trip. Leaders want drivers on their teams, not passengers. Stated differently, leaders want problem solvers, not problem spotters. Problem solvers learn which questions to ask to find the solution themselves.

Turning people into problem solvers requires the Socratic method — asking open-ended questions and allowing time for answers to be formulated. These questions allow the leader to guide colleagues to the answer they seek. The effort demonstrates how to solve a problem. It takes more time initially but pays huge future dividends in productivity and loyalty.

Which of these suggestions appeal to you? Put one or two of them into practice today and start demonstrating global leadership!

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Paul H. Burton

Paul Burton is a former corporate finance attorney and General Counsel who helps lawyers and legal professionals make the best use of their time. The author of eight guides on individual and leadership productivity, he delivers seminars and coaching services to busy professionals across the United States. You can learn more about Paul and his practice at

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