The lawyer personality
If you’re anything like the lawyers I know, you’ll be a big fan of fast and practical solutions to problems. And I’m not just making sweeping generalisations here! Research into their personality traits reveals that lawyers do indeed share a group of characteristics that are different from the general population. Dr Larry Richard studied the personality traits of thousands of lawyers over a 20 year period and found that they scored very highly on the traits of scepticism, urgency and autonomy. In other words, lawyers like to apply intellectual rigour rather than emotion, analyse, question, get things done, and work independently. And this type of personality obviously suits the work that you do as a corporate lawyer. Being self-directed, logical, unemotional, thorough, paying close attention to detail and being deadline and results driven is ideal for working with large amounts of complex information, drafting contracts and negotiating deals. But what about for your personal career and life progression?
The trouble with personality traits is that they don’t only apply in the specific scenarios where they are useful. If you like clarity, practical strategies and swift solutions in your work as a corporate lawyer, this may also be how you approach other aspects of your life. Many of the high-achieving lawyers I have coached or who have attended my workshops are looking for this sort of straightforward practical help with their careers and work/life balance. They want practical tools and tips to help develop specific skills and improve outcomes, fast! And of course – there’s nothing wrong with wanting these things (and wanting them now!) If you find public speaking hard, practical tips about what to wear, how to stand, how many jokes to throw in, the tone of voice to use and where to look are helpful. If you need to build your personal brand, practical tips about marketing yourself, networking and building a social media profile will definitely be of benefit. But these are only superficial solutions to problems. The real issue is not ‘how’ to fix the problem, but ‘why’ it needs fixing. What are the underlying reasons that you find public speaking hard or haven’t been able to market yourself effectively? It is only when you tackle the background to a seemingly straightforward problem that you can move on to taking practical steps. You must do this ‘internal’ work on yourself before proceeding to the practical strategies. Instead of looking for results to validate who you are, look at who you are to get the results you want. Self-awareness comes before practical solutions. There is no such thing as a ‘quick fix’.
The house metaphor
Think of it this way. If you buy a house with beautiful decor and wonderful appliances, but it is poorly built or not structurally sound, then having great decor is pointless at this stage. The house may well suffer from damp or subsidence and then your decor will be ruined. In order to ensure the structure of your house is sound – you should do a structural survey. Once you have identified and completed the work that’s required to make the foundations and structure sound, you can then move onto decorating and installing your appliances. Your house can then, and only then, become a real home. The structure of the house here represents your internal self, and the decor and appliances, the practical life-skill tools. So do a structural survey on your internal self – an internal audit if you like! identify any issues, your values, your limiting beliefs, your strengths and weaknesses, your mindset – evaluate them, work on them, hone them. This foundational work is key to you becoming your best self. It will unlock your potential and empower you. It will show you that you have control of your own destiny and will help you move on to find your own practical solutions.
What does this internal work look like?
‘Self-awareness: the recognition of your responsibility in creating your reality’ – Caroline Nderitu, Performance Poet and Motivational Speaker
‘Self-awareness is a key to self mastery’ – Gretchen Rubin, Author.
The internal work you do is all about becoming self-aware. A great starting point for understanding this process is the book ‘Emotional Intelligence’ by author and scholar Daniel Goleman. Goleman demonstrates how it is Emotional Intelligence, rather than IQ, that is crucial in an individual’s life success. He suggests that it is the qualities of ‘self-awareness, impulse control, persistence, motivation, empathy and social deftness’ that identify those who excel, and offers guidance as to how you can grow and strengthen these abilities.
Of course, if it was all that easy and straightforward, we would all have already done it! As I mentioned earlier in the blog, it is definitely not a quick fix, but is essential work for unleashing your own power and potential. And this is where a coach can come in.
The value of coaching.
The difference between practical solutions and foundational internal work is really the same as the difference between training or mentoring and coaching. Instead of offering a blueprint or practical steps to follow like a mentor, a coach helps with your internal foundational work which then empowers you to help yourself. Coaching can help you take responsibility for assessing your strengths, clarifying your vision, identifying your goals, taking appropriate steps, and finding your own solutions. In fact – having a coach is the ultimate in ownership. It’s you who is in charge – you who has control – you who owns the ability to effect change. (For more information on this see my blog on the power of coaching).
So imagine – when it comes to public speaking, standing up in front of a room full of corporate lawyers to present or lead a meeting – what is more helpful? That you know intellectually and practically that you should speak up, make eye contact, and smile – or that you have explored and overcome the limiting beliefs that made public speaking so hard for you in the first place? If you have managed to confront and vanquish your self-doubt, speaking up and making eye-contact are much easier. It’s not the knowing what to do that’s important – but the feeling that you can actually do it. Similarly when it comes to marketing yourself, you may learn practical solutions – that what you need to do is network and put yourself forward as a thought-leader in your field of specialism, but if you are suffering from imposter syndrome how can you really do those things effectively? The issue is not the marketing itself but the underlying lack of self-belief. Address the underlying issue and the practical solutions will follow.
So – think foundations first BEFORE practical solutions. Think about your values – in other words, identify your inner motivations, your purpose, where you find meaning. (Tips on how to do this are in my blog here). Think about your beliefs. Do you carry limiting beliefs from your childhood or background that make you think you don’t deserve to succeed or are incapable of truly excelling? (Check out my blog on how to challenge these here). How is your mindset? Do you struggle with negative thoughts? (Here are some ways to work on developing a more positive attitude). Are you resilient? Can you use knock backs and failures to your advantage, to learn and bounce back stronger? (Read more about building a resilience strategy here). Tackle this underlying work first, and you will be in a much better and stronger position to adopt straightforward practical solutions when you need to improve specific skills. This is how to get the real results you want.
For more ideas on how to approach this foundational work, tune into this week’s podcast. I can help you access this personal knowledge and power through my Having It All coaching programme. As a coach, I can provide a framework of support, guidance and encouragement to help you unlock your potential and forge a strategic path ahead. Contact me firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.