The Payoff Principle: On Process

Contributed by Dan Sheedy.

mark-516277_640In previous articles – The Payoff Principle: Producers Wanted!, The Payoff Principle: On Purpose, and The Payoff Principle: On Passion, I’ve looked at the power of purpose (the direction you take your life) and the power of passion (the fire that ignites purpose). The power of process is the final component of the payoff principle as defined by Dr. Alan Zimmerman in his book The Payoff Principle. As you may recall, his formula is Purpose + Passion + Process = Payoff. Simply put, it is the series of actions you employ with your skills to achieve your desired payoffs.

How many times have you heard “trust the process, the results will come?” That sounds great, but what if you don’t know what process to trust? There are thousands of books and guides on various processes but there is no single book on process that will enable you to tackle every challenge you will encounter.

Peter Drucker said, “We now accept the fact that learning is a lifelong process of keeping abreast with change and the most pressing task is to teach people how to learn.” In The Payoff Principle, Dr. Zimmerman identifies four critical processes behind every success story and explains how implementing these steps can more effectively transform purpose and passion into reality. The good news is that these four processes (two self-focused and two other-focused) can be learned and practiced by anyone. Let’s run through them:

1) Affirming Achievement- How do you think about your life? The process of affirming achievement involves changing how you think about yourself. It is the process of moving from “I can’t…,” “I never…,” “I’m not smart or good enough…,” “I shouldn’t…” by resetting your thinking to “I am good enough…,” “I am smart enough…,” “I can do…” These affirmations determine your mindset and how you show up every day. You change your life and direction when you change your mind and focus. Clearly thought out and written down affirmations give you focus towards the payoff you desire.

2) Continuing Education- Are you open to learning and change? Are you intellectually curious, always searching for more? The process of continuing education acknowledges that you are always learning. The portrait of your best self is never complete. Dale Carnegie said, “Knowledge isn’t power until it is applied.” I like to think of the process of learning as a reminder that what got you to where you are in your profession or career won’t keep you there. There is always something we can do to improve ourselves and we cannot settle for “good enough.”

3) Connective Communication- Does communication breakdown drive you insane? The failure to communicate is a core issue across organizations, teams and relationships. The process of connective communication according to Dr. Zimmerman involves avoiding “communication breakups” or things that push people away from you emotionally and send a message of that you don’t trust, respect or care about them. We need to replace those with “communication makeups.” The message of a “communication makeup” is “you count, you matter, you are worthy of my time, energy and attention.” Clear, open, honest communication is far more efficient than the destructive and time consuming results of a failure to communicate.

4) Compassionate Listening- Stephen Covey said, “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” Studies have shown this especially true the higher someone rises in an organization because they feel less “forced” to listen to others. Of course, this is the time when they need to listen more and more compassionately. The process of compassionate listening only begins with the listener listening with intent to reply. Listening then evolves to listening to every word and nuance of the conversation and even further to listening at a level where you are aware of the mood, conscious, tone and impact of the conversation. It means actively listening at a deeper level and understanding by clarifying facts and feelings with powerful questions. American columnist Doug Larson summed it up, “Wisdom is the reward you get for a lifetime of listening, when you would have preferred to talk.” I have seen my business and relationships improve with this approach. Perfecting the art of compassionate listening can provide you maximum payoffs.

The power of process is behind every success story and is a series of steps that you can implement into your daily life. Combined with the direction of purpose and the fire of passion, the power of process turns dreams into reality and helps you achieve the payoffs you desire.

What will you do today to make this happen?

The Careerist: Zen and the Art of Lawyering

Contributed by Dan Bowling

biker-manLawyers are often thought of as a miserable lot: depressed, anxious, bitter and frequently alcoholic. Whether this is true or overstated is a matter of debate. But the view that lawyers are unhappy is ubiquitous, and there’s now a growing scholarship devoted to lawyer well-being. And if the nascent literature has a canon, Nancy Levit and Doug Linder’s 2011 The Happy Lawyer—a straightforward look at the psychological and social issues plaguing lawyers—has a prominent place in it.

Now, in The Good Lawyer, they’ve written an excellent follow-up. More philosophical in tone and expansive in scope, their latest work is a sort of quixotic quest to fine the qualities that define “good lawyers.”

Like many undergraduates in the 1970s, co-author Linder was obsessed with Robert Pirsig’s book, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, a reflection on the metaphysical notion of “quality.” Pirsig defines quality as something innate, a manner of thinking blending the formalistic and the intuitive. Mind and heart, so to speak. Levit and Linder borrow Pirsig’s construct of quality and his picaresque narrative structure to take us on a cross-country journey to look for those “good” lawyers who embody both mind and heart in their work.

What do they find? That “good lawyers” share certain positive cognitive and emotional traits—like empathy and realistic optimism—as well an unwavering commitment to professional excellence.

Although Levit and Linder teach law, they quickly dismiss any notion that “quality” is taught in law school. To the contrary, the authors argue that law school, in its overly rigid and formalistic pedagogy, strips students of intuitive and emotional thinking. In the process, the goals that attracted many of them to law school—to serve clients well, make a difference in people’s lives and society—are willfully exorcised.

But The Good Lawyer is far more than another attack on law school and legal pedagogy, like Brian Tamahana’s 2012 Failing Law Schools. Instead, Levit and Linder seek to inform and inspire through stories of the “good lawyers” they find in their journey. Organized into 10 chapters built around specific virtues, behaviors, and cognitive skills (“The Good Lawyer is Empathetic,” “The Good Lawyer is Courageous,” “The Good Lawyer Uses Both Intuition and Deliberative Thinking,” “The Good Lawyer Pursues Justice With Integrity”), it presents, in fine narrative style, a wide variety of characters who embody each trait.

For example, the chapter on courage tells the story of John Doar, a justice department lawyer who risked his life in the streets of 1963 Jackson, Mississippi, to prevent a race riot. The chapter on empathy takes us to the Wyoming ranch of legendary trial lawyer Gerry Spence, who teaches lawyers that the ability to stand emotionally in the shoes of clients, jurors, and victims—empathy—is his winning secret.

Most of us won’t do anything physically heroic like John Doar or win as many jury trials as Spence. That said, the authors argue that advances in psychology can help most lawyers find or rediscover the innate qualities of their practices and professional lives. Relying heavily upon the work of Martin Seligman and his colleagues in positive psychology (disclaimer: I have worked with Dr. Seligman for the past five years) as well as behavioral economists and neuroscientists, they argue that building one’s optimism, open-mindedness, willpower, resilience, emotional intelligence, and character strength is a path toward greater life and professional satisfaction. Those steeped in the positive psychology literature might quibble with their relatively indiscriminate survey of studies in the field. But their larger point is convincing—that a growing body of research provides a path to harness our emotional and psychological states to become better lawyers.

The Good Lawyer finds most of its subjects outside of the world of Big Law. That’s not surprising. Until major firms start recruiting and developing attorneys who embody the virtues and traits of “good lawyers,” progress will be slow.

Levit and Linder offer few compelling suggestions to change Big Law’s collective mindset, admitting it will require “bucking some trends.” Trends? Like the power and riches of those running top firms as businesses rather than partnerships, and the elite law schools that supply them with cannon fodder every year? Those are more than trends; those are entrenched business practices.

Finding the irrefutable link between professionalism, profits, and happiness in Big Law has been elusive so far. But I maintain hope. When a lawyer’s well-being is seen as elemental to his or her professional being as hard work and critical thinking, real change will occur in the profession. And thanks will be owed in large part to the groundwork laid by Levit and Linder.

Until then, read their fine book.