Don’t Lead with NO

I was listening to a story on NPR recently that caught my attention.  It wasn’t the topic of the story that was memorable.  It was a statement made by the speaker.  It was simple:  “Don’t lead with no.”  This sentence could have slipped by unnoticed so easily.  For me, the message rings absolutely true. It triggered a memory for me that has been monumental in developing my career.  I’ll spare the details, but here is the gist.

When I was a young and newly minted graduate entering the workforce I landed my first job in marketing. It is more clear today than ever that I knew very little about marketing, but I had enthusiasm to get me started. So, paired with my lack of experience, was plenty of fear that someone would figure out that I didn’t know anything about my new field of marketing.  I learned a ton in this job that I still use to this day.  So where does the “don’t lead with no” come in?  The memory the NPR story triggered was of my first performance review on this job.  My boss ran through the list of good things I had accomplished but then left me with one main thought.  He told me that I shouldn’t be afraid to say “Yes, let me figure that out for you” to a question instead of  responding with “I don’t think I can do that because…”.  This straight-forward advice set me on a path that has defined my career.  I consider these my “can do” years. Don’t get me wrong, I know my limitations and there is always more to learn (especially with quick-changing technology).  But I also know that if I think through a situation, work my network for nuggets of advice and commit myself to figuring out a path, I can do most anything.  What does this mean for the legal industry?  To me, it means a few things:

  • Don’t fall back on what you have always done and expect a different outcome.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help and different points of view.
  • Always be helpful to everyone you meet, no matter what!
  • Self-talk yourself through a situation/matter/problem.  Discover what you already know and put it to work for your advantage.
  • Never lead with “no” because that person will find someone who will say “yes” and they probably aren’t any smarter, stronger or better suited than you are to solve the problem.