In our last post, we discussed an idea that most attorneys would agree it is true–that problems in your firm can be your biggest source of learning.
We also talked about how to become mindful during a crisis to avoid reacting impulsively (and perhaps destructively). Putting out fires is one of the key jobs of the entrepreneur. The buck stops with you. If an employee fails to deliver; if a client fails to pay; if your husband gives you grief because you’re working every weekend and never helping him with the kids—these responsibilities all ultimately belong to you.
To succeed, you want to learn the lessons of failure as quickly and as painlessly as possible.
Let’s talk briefly about one cool method to do so. This exercise is pretty simple. Just open your journal and write down—almost as if you were a journalist—what happened. How did the mistake transpire?
For instance, your entry may read something like this: “Tom (co-partner) was supposed to handle an important deposition on the Fowler case, but his daughter’s boyfriend got into a car crash. So he decided to fly to Ohio to help them, leaving me with extra work that forced me to cancel my vacation with my own daughter.”
Be like a reporter. Don’t editorialize or talk about your feelings or anything like that. Just state the facts.
Next, write down 3 questions, and answer them.
- Why did this failure happen?
- Given the facts on the ground now, what can I do to fix the situation?
- What systematic changes could I implement to prevent this thing from happening again?
Notice that all three questions are designed to get you to start thinking. To stretch your mind. They’re open-ended on purpose.
Why? Well, to figure out the root cause, you may have to drill pretty deep.
- Maybe the problem is that Tom constantly abandons you to take care of personal things in his life. You can't count on him.
- Or maybe the problem is that you don’t have anyone else to backstop the firm’s work.
Likewise, the immediate, ideal solutions and the key changes you need make going forward could be elusive. You need to think to get to them:
- Maybe you need to hire a part-time associate to be a backstop.
- Maybe you need to fire Tom.
- Maybe you need to take on different types of clients, who won’t put you in these urgent time binds.
The point is that you want to do this thinking on paper in your journal, so that you have a record of your thoughts. As the Chinese proverb goes, the faintest ink is clearer than the strongest memory. You also write to clarify thoughts in the wake of a disaster, so your emotions won’t rule you. Finally, writing things down gives you a reference point when you come across similar situations in the future. You won’t reinvent the wheel.
Our team is always here to help, whether you’re in the midst of crisis or working to maximize the learning you get from catastrophe.