Do you enjoy the 'hamster model'?

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Published on 6/18/07

Hamsters are energetic creatures, as anyone who has watched one running in its exercise wheel will attest.

In fact, hamsters may be unsurpassed for amount of effort expended in inverse proportion to results achieved. They run hard and never get anywhere, just the same as many lawyers who expend a tremendous amount of effort to do a task that would have been much easier if they had asked for help or even delegated the task to another member of their team.

What type of tasks, and who do you ask? I believe the answers are, respectively, "anything" and "a coach."

Readers of this column know I believe that a coach can help you achieve success more quickly than you would achieve on your own. Coaches work with people in real life, discussing and exploring roadblocks as they are encountered and working to remove them.

Coaches have generally encountered many times the real life problems that may be frustrating a given attorney. And a coach who has practiced law for years can even counsel you on the nuances that often must govern a coach's advice.

The coach who has actually "walked in the shoes" of the lawyer being counseled generally provides much more practical advice, advice that will produce a simple solution that would have taken the lawyer far more time and effort than necessary to overcome the challenge or achieve the desired objective.

Consider this example: A coaching client called me, frustrated because she and her staff were missing filing deadlines on key litigation steps. She had explored case management software programs but found them expensive and with a high learning curve. She didn't have the staff for complicated record-keeping notations.

I recognized her frustration because I had heard it many times before. I suggested she take a sheet of paper for each case and mark out four columns: task to do; person to do it; date for completion; and completion confirmed.

The tasks to be noted above are basic steps, each of which must be done before the next is to occur. This simple system will enable peace of mind and better control of her practice.

Coaches don't have all the answers. Rather, they provide an on-going sounding board for your problems, questions and ideas.

Coaching provides instant support and feedback right over the phone. A coach can help you get results quicker than you would on your own, by applying proven lessons learned in helping others.

While one solution might not work for every situation or lawyer, the coach can usually provide alternative suggestions.

Lawyers may believe they lack one ingredient such as the knowledge of running a business or business development skills or staffing collaboration.

Whatever the missing ingredient, their colleagues can't help them because they're busy in their own world and their families don't know the answers to the lawyer's challenges.

That's when the coach becomes a key team member, who can listen to the challenge the lawyer faces and provide advice based on years of experience and years "in the field," as a practicing lawyer.

Unless you find the "hamster model" of management appealing, I suggest you turn to a coach the next time you face a tough problem.

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