With everything going on in the world right now, it is safe to say that most people are under much more stress than usual. From concerns about health and safety, managing the constantly changing day-to-day barrage of headlines and politics, to feeling a whole spectrum of emotions about all the change that has happened in such a short period of time. Business owners and employees with young children are having to juggle their own set of challenges trying to navigate the upcoming school year, while the technologically-challenged have been completely overwhelmed with a very quickly adapting virtual world.
With all of this, many business owners (not just estate planning professionals) have noticed the following in the workplace:
- Disagreements, disconnects, and miscommunications
- Distractions, interruptions and a decrease in productivity
- Reactivity and unprofessional behavior
- Lack of boundaries
- Increased mistakes and details falling through the cracks
- Full on meltdowns
Have you noticed an increase in any of these lately? These are just a few of the kinds of challenges that face so many businesses on the regular, but more so right now during this pandemic. As many business owners try to manage their own concerns and fears about being able to survive this pandemic, emotions and tensions are at an all-time high.
TIPS FOR ATTORNEY BUSINESS OWNERS
If you’re the attorney business owner (or any business owner, really), and you’re struggling with some of these challenges, here are a few tips to help you improve the current situation in the firm.
TIP #1: Check-In With Your Staff (Individually & Group). It is important that you keep an open line of communication with your employees. While you don’t need to know every detail of their personal life and what’s going on with them, it will be helpful for you to know what challenges are facing your employees to help you better understand where they are coming from. Make sure that they feel they have everything that they need to complete their job and if there are any concerns that they may have. If you aren’t already regularly having meetings with your key staff people, this will be even more important than ever. In fact, you may even need to increase the frequency of contact, as some offices are still working remotely (or a hybrid version). Also, if you aren’t already holding firm meetings (even if they need to be by Zoom), make sure that you create a sense of “team” with everyone in your office to connect and discuss how the company is doing and bring everyone together during a time where many employees might be feeling very disconnected and isolated.
TIP #2: Encourage Employees to Take Time Off (and Take Time Off Yourself!). Many people are not taking vacation this summer, but everyone needs a break to get away from thinking about work. Especially those working from home, home has become work and work has become home. It’s created a lot of blurred lines and even if productivity may be down, many people are working (or thinking or dealing with work) way more than 40 hours per week or every single day of the week. Take a look at which employees may be overwhelmed and burning the candle at both ends and really encourage people to take some personal time off. And, make sure that you are too! A rejuvenated, refreshed, well-rested, and healthy business owner will make the world of difference to any company right now!
TIP #3: Learn When Good is Good Enough. This is a tip that we recommend all the time, but let me preface this one by saying that this tip is not suggesting that you should accept shoddy work. However, an expectation of perfection all of the time creates a great deal of pressure and a work environment that leaves everyone in the firm working in fear. It creates a culture that is not healthy and if you have high turnover of employees, it is helpful to recognize if this issue might be the culprit. The truth is, even the best employees are making some mistakes right now. There are some things falling through the cracks. Many companies have downsized or have completely had to rearrange their operations and employees are trying to navigate through that the best they can managing the changes and added tasks and responsibility. Address mistakes appropriately and professionally. Become a part of the solution instead of adding more stress and pressure during such a challenging time.
TIP #4: Check Yourself. It is always a great business practice for a business owner to practice self-awareness and know when he or she may be contributing to some of the challenges going on in the company. As a business owner, there is considerably greater stress on your shoulders right now, on top of anything else that may be going on for you personally. Be sure to take some time to check yourself and make sure that you are still showing up as the best example, leader, and professional to your employees and clients as possible. If you haven’t been the best leader in the past few months, that’s okay. That just means there’s room for improvement. And whether you have or haven’t, this is where the next tip will be extremely helpful…
TIP #5: Hire a Business Coach. An outside business coach can be extremely helpful to address these kinds of challenges and serve as a mediator between disconnected parties. In particular, find a business coach that specializes in the area of conflict resolution, such as David Giuliano of Without Boundaries Coaching. He can provide an experienced, expert third-party opinion into the mix to help resolve some of these issues.
TIPS FOR EMPLOYEES & STAFF
If you’re a staff member and you’re noticing that there’s a lot of tension in the firm, there are things that you can do to help, as well. Check them out.
TIP #1: Communicate Your Needs. It is important that you properly communicate your needs during this time, because everyone is caught up in what’s going on and what is in front of them. If you need help getting your work done or need some accommodations to be able to properly work, be sure that you speak up. Your employer may not be able to fully accommodate your request, but they will absolutely not do so if you never communicate those needs. Too often employees wait until it’s too late to ask for help or speak up and then there’s little that can be done to help at that point, so if you see something that you need in order to complete a task or do your job, speak up.
TIP #2: Take Time Off When Necessary. Be sure that you are taking time to take care of yourself. Even if you aren’t able to go on your usual type of vacation, don’t let that become an excuse not to take any time off. See what your vacation hours look like for the rest of the year and figure out how you can take some much-deserved and much-needed vacation time to get away from work and recharge your batteries. It can do wonders for your mental health.
TIP #3: Set Healthy Boundaries. During this time, a lot of people are experiencing a breach of usual boundaries. This could be from keeping your personal life separate from your professional life to opening up your own personal cell phone as a line of communication. But, it’s important that you set healthy boundaries. Making yourself available to work doesn’t mean that it comes with being on-call 24/7/365 either. So, do a self-check about what boundaries may be getting crossed and going back to Tip #1, communicate your needs. (Also, here’s a link to an article with some helpful tips about setting healthy boundaries.)
TIP #4: Check Yourself. It is important that you check in with yourself. First, make sure that you are taking care of yourself (mentally and physically), but also, it’s a great opportunity for you to check in and do a self-evaluation about how you may be contributing to the challenges in the workplace. Are you making a lot of mistakes? Why are those mistakes happening and how can you come up with a solution to help eliminate those mistakes? Are you overwhelmed and stressed, so find yourself being on edge and reactive when asked to take on a new task? It is okay to feel this way. Many people are feeling an extreme amount of stress right now, but it is important that you are still maintaining a respectable, professional demeanor with your boss and other employees.
TIP #5: Be Compassionate (to Yourself and Others). Perhaps you recognize that you aren’t being the best version of yourself. Maybe you recognize that others you work with or even your customers haven’t been the best they can be either. Try and find some sense of compassion for yourself and them. Recognize what my be a part of what we are all going through and not an issue with the person’s character. By becoming more aware for yourself, you can figure out how best to self-correct and address these issues and improve overall.
In conclusion, miscommunications, conflicts and disconnects in the office right now does not mean that all is lost. The fact of the matter is, many businesses and companies are experiencing a lot of this right now as everyone is trying to navigate this different world that we are living in. However, one thing is for certain. Ignoring them and simply hoping that they will get better or will go away is not the answer. Hopefully some of the above tips, whether you’re the business owner or a staff member, can help you make some progress towards improvement and a more positive working relationship.
THE ULTIMATE LEVEL HAS GONE VIRTUAL
The Ultimate Level is an event unlike any other you’ve ever attended. It helps teach all of the things you’ve never learned in law school or in any continuing education events about how to actually develop, set up, run, and manage your law practice. It also covers marketing and how to drive in revenue into your firm, including a component about how to market your firm during these challenging times.
What used to be a 2-day live event has now been converted into a 3-part interactive webinar that you and your entire firm can attend from the convenience of your own office (or home). We have our final event scheduled for the year and we’ve just opened up registration, so if you want to join us to help your practice, now is the time to join us!
Plus, you will want to act now because we are still offering the option for you and your entire firm to attend for $0 down and $199 per month for 6 months. For more information and details, click here.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Kristina Schneider is the current Executive Director of The Ultimate Estate Planner, Inc. She graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration from Pepperdine University in 2004 and was hired right out of college to work for the Law Firm of Kavesh, Minor & Otis, coordinating and facilitating Philip Kavesh’s “Missing Link” Boot Camps while also providing administrative support to Mr. Kavesh as his Executive Assistant for over seven years. Through her direct hands-on experience in Mr. Kavesh’s law firm, Kristina has been able to assist numerous estate planning professionals through The Ultimate Estate Planner and, equally as important, many of their staff members, in the successful implementation of Ultimate Estate Planner’s products and systems. You can reach Kristina at (424) 247-9495 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.