Succeeding in today’s legal profession is a bit like playing the reality game show Survivor: Outwit. Outplay. Outlast. And like Survivor, in order to win…everyone else must lose. Or must they?
In today’s cutthroat world, it sure seems that way. The level of stress and anxiety among legal professionals is at an all time high. And lawyers are struggling to find solid footing in a profession with a foundation that feels like it’s built on Jell-O. This, and pressures like financial and family responsibilities, status anxiety, professionally driven self worth, and the need to “win” have given rise to a widespread survival mentality. A mentality with a single focus. A focus on…
What’s in it for me? What can I get for me? How can this person help me? What can this person give me? Can this person hire me? Who can this person introduce me to? Can this person get me a job? How much can I get for me? Me. Me. Me.
After many years of observing and counseling lawyers at every level, I can tell you without a doubt, that the Me Mentality will lead you astray. It will not make you happy. It will not win friends or gain admirers. It will not earn respect. Sure, it might bring some short-term success and sporadic gratification. But you will never feel totally fulfilled or reach your maximum potential as a person…or professional by following this selfish approach.
In order for you to achieve the greatest success and “win” in this game of career Survivor, those in your orbit must to win too. You see, winning is not just in the take. It’s also in the give. Why? Because giving makes you feel good. It empowers you. It makes you strong. It fulfills you. And it gives you character. By bringing a self…less mindset to every professional encounter, you open the door to more meaningful relationships, stronger partnerships and more gratifying experiences.
So what’s the secret sauce to a more selfless existence? Below are a few key ingredients:
- Adopting a value system of “How can I help?” “How can I add value?” “What can I do for you?”
- Being a good listener and actively engaged in what others have to say
- Being attuned to the wants and needs of others
- Considering these wants and needs and acting on them: i.e. with an introduction, a recommendation, a referral, a friendly ear, advice, a compliment, facilitating a job search, helping build a network or putting in a good word on another’s behalf
- Having the judgment to determine when acting for someone else’s benefit should outweigh yours
- Possessing good boundaries
- Making time for others
- Being collaborative and team-oriented
- Possessing sympathy and empathy
- Willingness to go the extra mile at times for someone else other than “Me”
That’s not to say that you forget about…You in all of this. Your needs and goals are extremely important as well. And you must not be afraid to ask for what you want and to pursue your own dreams. But a selfless mentality will also support and enhance your efforts.
At the end of the day, we’re all trying to navigate our way through these changing times. And while it may not feel so, there’s plenty of success to go around…for everyone. So there’s no need to fear. Instead, extend your hand and help your fellow traveller from time to time as you move forward in your journey. You’ll be better for it. S/He’ll be better for it. And so will our profession.