“When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” –overused trite saying
Yes, I went there.
In running our law firms, we all have points of frustration—“pet peeves” or repeated annoying occurrences that feel to us like fingernails running across a chalkboard. Maybe it’s an associate who repeatedly drops the ball. Perhaps it’s a client who pays late every month, or a client whose stated desire is a constantly moving target. Whatever the frustration is for you, you have a choice: You can let it drive you crazy and distract you from more important things, or you can leverage that frustration into something more productive for your law firm.
As for me—I choose the latter option, and I recommend the same for the attorneys I coach. Let me take you through a step-by-step process for identifying your frustration points and using them to your advantage.
Identify What Annoys You
You can’t begin to address a problem if you don’t really know what it is. Sometimes the annoyance may occur in the background like a buzzing fly, and it may take some conscious thought to figure out what exactly is bothering you. Try making a list of annoyances in your office (there may be more than one) and narrow it down to one or two things that bug you the most.
Examine Your Feelings
What, exactly, do you feel when employee ____ does ____? How does it make you feel when that client keeps changing the plan without telling you? Take a moment to reflect and be honest about your feelings and whom they are directed toward. Don’t minimize them; feelings are feelings, and as such, they are valid—regardless of what you do about them.
Try to Find the Trigger
Quite often, the issue you’re mad about isn’t the real issue. That annoying employee or client may truly be crossing a line, OR their actions may simply be triggering a deeper emotion in you that’s tied to something else. Take time to reflect until you discover the root of what is actually rubbing you the wrong way, and why it annoys you.
Make a Plan to Deal with It
If you’ve identified a legitimate issue with a client or employee that needs correcting, you don’t want to ignore it because the wound can fester, and you may end up overreacting at some point. Find a way to address it constructively in a way that resolves the issue for both you and the other person. If the other person really isn’t doing anything wrong, but it’s triggering an internal emotion, do some soul searching to see how you can break that internal association.
Learn from It
Once you’ve identified and resolved the point of frustration, the final step is to evaluate what happened to see if anything can be done to prevent a repeating pattern. For example, if you’re correcting a late-paying client, perhaps you’ll implement more frequent invoicing or automatic billing to prevent late payments in the future. In learning from the experience, you effectively turn a pain point into a point of improvement.
Frustrations are par for the course when running any business, law firms included. By identifying and dealing with them early, you can often prevent small problems from becoming big ones—not to mention giving you greater contentment and peace of mind in the process.