You need strong, thriving relationships in order to produce great work. Build your Collective!
So says Todd Henry on an episode of the excellent podcast series, The Accidental Creative. He identified three kinds of relationships: mirrors, circles, and guides, that go into creating your collective. Here’s a summary along with some thoughts adapted to law firm life.
Mirror – Identify someone who will speak truth to you.
Ask yourself: Who speaks unvarnished truth to you? Who is willing to tell you things you don’t want to hear? Who do you go to seek honest opinions and feedback about your work?
The person you identify and choose is someone who is invested in you and wants to see you succeed. Someone you trust.
For law firm associates, that person is not generally a partner. Those relationships are usually reserved for full-fledged mentorships. And, though they often already loudly speak the truth, it’s not always in the constructive way this exercise warrants. Instead, seek out senior associates, or other members of the firms. It doesn’t have to be another attorney.
Employees of the firm who are not attorneys should also do this. Go outside of your department to find someone.
After you’ve chosen your mirror, a question to start off the relationship with is:
- What’s something obvious going on with me that you see and that I don’t see right now that could derail me?
Circle – These are folks that keep you focused, inspired, and engaged. Form a group of 5-7 people and get together every six weeks or so.
Social media can help with this relationship. Everyone’s on Facebook and many are on it every day. Start a private Facebook group and share victories, challenges, tips and resources.
Here are three questions Mr. Henry recommends asking at your first group meeting:
- What are you working on right now or what problems are your trying to solve right now?
- What can we help you with?
- What’s inspiring you right now?
The last question is particularly useful for discovering meaningful new resources for everyone in the group.
Guide – Mentorship is very important–some would say necessary–to reach a high level of success. But it can seem intimidating or like too much of a commitment. Or, maybe you’re having trouble locating the right person since it’s a commitment for them, too. Or, perhaps you’re just not ready for it. See: Practical Tips for Lawyers on How to Find a Mentor.
Consider seeking out a guide, instead. Someone who can give you specific advice when you need it. Someone who is more experienced, who may have gone through your situation. Someone who understands where you’re at and what you’re going through.
You can go outside of the firm for this. Colleagues in bar associations and other professional associations are prime candidates for this relationship. Twitter is also a great resource for finding “guide” relationships. Yes, Twitter – the public journal of professionals going through similar situations. Scour blogs and initiate contact with those who share your challenges.
Big upside: The relationship you have with your guide is often a journey to mentorship.
Together, these three groups of people, these three types of relationships become your collective.
Beware: As Mr. Henry noted, when you get busy, often, the first thing to go are your relationships. I suffered through this during my three-year stint as a consultant. But it should be the opposite. That’s when you need strong, thriving relationships.
When it comes down to it, much of our work is done in a silo but innovation and creative solutions happen in collaboration with others who challenge us, encourage us, and push us to do our best work. Our collective.