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Legal Business Development: Do You Really Know Who You Are?

Do you really know who you are? Maybe… maybe not. When I work with lawyers to articulate their personal brand it is generally clear… that it is not clear. What is the solution? We need outside perspective. So, I have them ask a few people who know them very well, to answer a few questions. Such as… How would you describe me? What do you see as my strengths? The answers are often times extremely enlightening. We just don’t see ourselves as other do.

Why is this so? Heidi Grant Halvorson, a contributor to Forbes Magazine has some answers in her article… Q: Who Knows You Best? A: It’s Not You.

If you want to be more successful — at anything — than you are right now, you need to know yourself and your skills. And when you fall short of your goals, you need to know why. This should be no problem; after all, who knows you better than you do?

And yet your own ratings of your personality traits — for instance, how open-minded, conscientious, or impulsive you are — correlate with the impressions of other people (who know you well) at around .40. In other words, how you see yourself and how other people see you are only very modestly correlated.

Who’s right? Who knows you best? Well, the research suggests that they do — other people’s assessment of your personality predicts your behavior, on average, better than your assessment does. The truth is, we don’t know ourselves nearly as well as we think we do. When it comes to performance, our surprising self-ignorance makes understanding where we went right and where we went wrong difficult, to say the least.

At the root of the problem is the human brain itself. There’s a lot going on in there, but just because it’s your brain doesn’t mean you know what it’s doing.

In his fascinating book Strangers to Ourselves, psychologist Timothy Wilson summarizes decades of research on what he calls our adaptive unconscious, showing us just how much of what we do during every moment of every day — what we think, how we feel, the goals we pursue and the actions we take — is happening below our conscious awareness. Some of it we can notice if we engage in a little self-reflection, but much of it we simply cannot — it’s not directly accessible to us at all.

Wow…THIS make sense! How many times has someone paid you a compliment and you thought… “Who me?” We just don’t see what others see. So, that is why we need the help of the people who know us best to give us a little input in order to leverage the things that will help enhance, and minimize the things that will detract, from your personal brand.

The hard part is hearing it! Yes, you have to be willing to hear it and not argue, make excuses or deny that it is so! I realize that is a tall order for lawyers… But, I have faith that you can do it!

Here are a couple of real-life examples…

The “why” could help. A client who works for a large international firm was told… “You have the ability to get people to confide in you. They tell you intimate details that they would never tell anyone else, and they know you would never repeat it and if you do use it would be in the most discreet way.” The attorney knew that people are comfortable talking to him but he was completely unaware of the sense of trust he instills in them. Just knowing this fact gave him a greater sense of confidence in dealing with both clients and colleagues.

It’s all about perception. This client had to take a deep breath and bite her tongue. Her mentor told her… “I think others think you are disorganized because your office looks so messy.” She explained to me that she isn’t disorganized; she knows exactly where every file is and confessed that she is a bit of a “pack rat.” My question to her was… “Is this a perception that you want to continue or do you want to change it?” She replied… “I want people to think that I am organized because I am.” My recommendation… “Clean your office! Don’t let that be a topic of conversation. Appear as organized as you are.”

Listen and you just may get to know yourself better!

Black Pearl: I have talked about Heidi Grant Halvorson’s work before… Nine Things Successful People Do Differently. She has now created an assessment tool to help us measure our nine skills: it’s the Nine Things Diagnostic. It is a FREE online test that takes about 7-10 minutes. It gives you feedback on each of the nine things… what you have mastered and what you need to work on. It is great! I took it and as you might suspect, a couple of times I thought… “Who, me?” Try it!

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