(ACC Docket — November)
Everyone should work retail or food service before embarking on a career path. I worked my way through college on the floor of an international retailer. As a part-time cashier, I was on the front lines, eventually getting promoted to customer service manager before I graduated. This job provided excellent training for my future. Working nights, weekends, holidays and being on your feet during your shift is excellent motivation to further your education so you have better options later on. The lessons I learned while working through college apply to every aspect of business, no matter your title or tenure.
1. Be nice while you work your way up the ladder. This is not a hard concept, but I see it abused often in business. The people you see on your way up are the same ones you see on your way down. You don’t have to put forth much effort to be kind or offer a smile to your co-workers. If you can’t, maybe it’s time to find another place to work or another profession. And, if there is someone you cannot stand coming down the hallway, keep your mouth shut, otherwise it will get you in trouble. Been there; done that.
2. Former IBM CEO Lou Gerstner said it best: “Never confuse activity with results.” I have carried this clip to every job I have ever held and it’s displayed where I can see it daily. I have worked in places where there’s a ton of activity but few results. Enough said.
3. Like what you do — it shows. Is this career the be-all, end-all for you? Probably not, but while you are there, do your best and make sure it shows to your clients, co-workers, management and customers. Put yourself in a position to be missed when you leave — and not because you held your company hostage with the knowledge you have. This issue’s feature “Transition Lessons for Taking Your First In-house Vows” is an excellent primer for anyone new to in-house — directly from a general counsel and his team.
4. Always make your boss look good. If you work for a good boss, the dividends come your way. If the dividends don’t show up, move on because your boss is not likely to change. Our “Contractual Cogitator” column always offers sage analysis on contracts that are a mainstay of business relationships.
5. Think before you speak … or email. This goes back to #1, and I admit this is a huge hurdle for me to overcome. Sometimes, you have to deliver bad news or news that will make co-workers, clients or customers uncomfortable. Try softening the news because it shows that you are aware of what is going on. If you are upset enough that your reply warrants an appearance on a talk show, pick up the phone or walk down the hall and talk to this person. Or better yet, wait to reply. If your perspective is the same hours or a day later, you can at least communicate with less emotion. November’s “Going Global” column offers suggestions to help you negotiate with your Chinese counterparts.
6. Be willing to be a maverick. I am not afraid to give my opinion, question authority or uncover the white elephant in the room — as respectfully as possible. If you care about where you work, then you might need to force change. You never know when your idea, comment or suggestion will spark change; usually you are not the only one around the table thinking it. Our regular “Outsource Resource” column was forward thinking before LPO ever became part of the legal profession’s vocabulary.
7. Offer solutions. The only people in your office who should not be offering solutions are the interns or perhaps a new entry-level employee. But, even after working for your company a few weeks, these staff members should be able to offer ideas. New staff tends to have some of the best ideas anyway. This feature, “Tendered is the Contract: Nuances of EU Land Development” helps you think strategically while conducting business with countries in the European Union.
8. Regularly make sure your cash drawer adds up. None of us are trained to manage money. And the accountants? They are trained to record expenditures and analyze the budget/expense data you provide. So, find someone on staff who is really good at budget management and ask them to help you hone this skill. Make friends with accounting. It will serve you throughout your career. Any of these features will help you enhance your commercial leasing skills: “Rent: Just One Side of a Commercial Lease,” “Don’t Sign Blind: Cost Allocation in Commercial Leases,” and “Tap into New Business Channels with Brand Licensing.”
9. Your inner core matters. No, I am not talking about muscle development, although that matters, too. I am talking about ethics. I know: ethical decision-making is not always black and white. But, if the gray area softens your core too much, you might not be pleased with the results. This month’s ethics columns, “Ethics and Privilege” and “Business Ethics” answer questions you may have.
10. Step up when it’s time to lead. Depending upon your job title, you hopefully have a mentor to thank, in part, for getting you there. Regardless of your job title, you have skills, perspective and wisdom to share. Find someone to mentor because someone else did it for you. My usual morning Twitter message @eicdocket is “Make it a great day for someone else. You won’t regret it.” You know, I usually never regret making it better for someone else.