Hello everybody, it's Star Blogger time again!
Every now and then we like to honour a Defero Law member with 'Star Blogger' status. A member who contributes insightful, informative and entertaining blog posts that are of benefit to our members and audience.
Mike likes to tell a story or two, and when he's telling them he's usually offering the often shy legal profession a wealth of tips and advice on how to get the most out of networking events, improve their public speaking prowess and help those lawyers who aspire to be great managers as well as awesome lawyers.
If you're a regular visitor to Defero Law, your attention will almost certainly have been grabbed by Mike's great headlines:
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Let's dive behind those headlines and see what Mike is all about in a Q&A.
Welcome, Mike ....
You’re a lead trainer on courses including ‘Networking Skills’. Tell us a bit about that and how lawyers can benefit …
I love delivering our networking skills course as I’m a serial networker myself, the lengths I’ll go to get a free butty and a vol eu vent is legendary! As a business owner I understand the importance of getting out there and getting myself and my brand known and face to face networking is brilliant for doing this. Networking, like many things in life is about having confidence and being able to build genuine relationships. Our course introduces delegates to many practical tools so that they can approach their next event confidently instead of nearly passing out before they even get through the door! We look at techniques for opening and closing a conversation assertively as well as looking at ways to keep the conversation flowing and making sure that they’re able to make a lasting impression (- and for the right reasons!) long after the event. Of course face to face networking is only the tip of the iceberg if it’s to be of real value and so we also concentrate on the strategy that underpins these activities in order that our clients are best placed to develop long term, sustainable business relationships and reach more diverse audiences’ with the aim of generating more business opportunities.
To that end, more and more lawyers are starting to actively network these days and it’s great to see those that do benefitting from taking a focused approach to identifying/targeting networking prospects with a view to strengthening existing key relationships but also forming new associations in markets they may previously not have been able to penetrate. There are still some however (as with every other sector) who clearly haven’t got a strategy whatsoever and unfortunately don’t appear to even know why they are there! In these cases, it appears individual representatives (chosen completely at random it seems) have been sent on a particular networking event to ‘see who’s there’ or they’ve seen an advert and thought they would ‘just pop along to see what’s what’.
For, me it’s all about having a clear and structured plan for what I need to personally do before, during and after each event. The feedback we are getting on our training sessions has been fantastic. Lawyers are commenting that their confidence has gone through the roof and that they are actually even enjoying going networking! Ultimitaly these people will reap the rewards. It might not happen overnight as networking is a patient game, but there rewards will come to those who are willing to embrace it properly.
Your website says “Every business and every individual has potential. It's in there somewhere - you just need to find it”. How do you find the legal profession responding to this mantra?
We’ve seen a really positive shift in developmental focus from the legal profession since we started our business just over 3 years ago. More and more firms are now asking us to help develop their teams in areas such as public speaking and core management skills/competencies. Previously, law firms who simply told their lawyers to get up and talk to a room of 50 people, or handed them responsibility for 20 staff even though they had no previous management experience are now realising that it pays to invest in:
a) Identifying the right people to do these jobs in the first place, but also
b) Helping their people to learn the necessary skills and behaviours in order to do these jobs well.
In addition, where lots of individuals in past years have certainly had the potential to achieve their career goals, in many cases they were never in a position to fulfill them properly due to a lack of opportunities on offer to be able to develop and hone these skills. In more recent years this is where we have seen the biggest shift. Some forward thinking firms are now speaking to us before even appointing managers. One recent example of this where one of our Manchester firms invited us in to design and deliver an ‘Aspiring Manager Programme’, aimed at a selection of their lawyers who will eventually move into management positions as part of the firm's approach to Succession Planning & Talent Management initiatives. Home grown talent with a readymade knowledge and understanding of the culture of the firm definitely sounds like a business maximizing its potential to me.
What are the core skills that you think lawyers need to develop when it comes to networking and public speaking?
If you look at networking, many people who network face to face are experts in their field and this comes across when you ask them about what they do. They speak confidently and are self-assured which of course are both great. However, it’s some of the other key ingredients that make up a really good networker which lawyers sometimes lack e.g. properly identifying network prospects including intermediaries, influencers and potential clients as part of their preparation before an event, setting tangible networking goals, opening a conversation, moving on and of course, following up. Mix these practical tools and a workable strategy with unquestionable legal expertise and you’ve got yourself one killer combination to stave off fierce competition.
Public speaking is very similar. If I watch a lawyer present, I see someone who has bags of knowledge, expertise and personal aptitude in their chosen area of law and it’s quite often the nuts and bolts that fit around the topic that fail to engage the audience e.g. failure to grab the audience from the start, not telling stories that the audience can relate to, failing to build a rapport and then ending on a damp squib and not answering questions properly.
Due to them not always having an extensive toolkit of presentation skills and techniques, many lawyers approach presentations and networking with a total lack of self belief and confidence and this comes across to the people they are talking to, whether it’s one to one or in front of a room of 50 clients.
I find working with lawyers brilliant as they’re so open to learning and usually willing to challenge and push themselves to the limit. Most come onto my courses openly admiting that they need help and are willing to step out of their comfort zone to try out new ways of networking and presenting so that they can raise their confidence levels and at the same time, raise their game in order to gain a clear advantage over their counter-parts.
So you're seeing a shift in attitude from the legal profession towards the types of courses that you run?
Without a doubt, yes. We are seeing a real shift from some of the more traditional and technical ‘know-how’ sessions towards some of the more personal softer skills initiatives such as ‘The Engaging Manager’, ‘Personal Effectiveness’ and ‘Having Difficult Conversations’. Up until a few years ago many firms simply wanted the ‘norm’ but a shift in outlook and market forces has seen many of our clients try out new programmes which strengthen their culture and their brand identity and of course they are now seeing an increase in retention, morale and a definite return on their investment.
We enjoy your amusing and anecdotal blog posts. Blogging is clearly something you love to do. How did you get into it and what benefits does it bring you?
I’ve written blogs ever since we started the business. Right from the outset I wanted them to be easy to read and lighthearted but with a clear point, message or tip. I chose to talk about myself and my own experiences and in some cases I create a character that the reader can relate to. For me, there are three main reasons for writing blogs. Firstly, it demonstrates my credibility and expertise in the world of management and personal development. Secondly, it helps to drive people to our web site and therefore increases our visibility as a training provider. Finally, it also helps me to get across my personality, which I feel is crucial in my line of work as it gives the reader a flavour of how I deliver my courses. By writing them I hope that it paints picture of me and my style. This could of course work against me!
Are the stories your blog posts tell, erm, made up for the sake of a good blog?
I would say the vast majority are blogs about my own ‘true to life’ experiences. However, if I want to explain something that I personally havent experienced I will sometimes make a character up to help get my point across. Most readers love a good story and I think they can relate to a character within a storyline more than if I composed a completely uninteresting factual list of bullet points for example. Well written stories are also proven to make learning much more memorable, so I guess that’s another reason why I’m such a big fan.
Word has it that you love to talk; in fact rumour has it you can talk under water. True?
I don’t think I do but the current Mrs O obviously does as she put that under my profile outline on our website! (I call her ‘current’ to keep her on her toes). In all honesty, if you did a straw poll of my friends, family and clients I’m sure they would agree with her. I’m getting conscious of talking too much and a bit paranoid about rambling now so I’ll stop!
Thanks, Mike, and welcome to our Defero Law Star Blogger club.
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