Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Pi-Shaped Professionals - A Model For Professional Success

The symbol 'Pi', denoted by the Greek letter π - pronounced 'pie', is one of the most common constants in all of mathematics. It is defined as the circumference of any circle, divided by its diameter. Nobody knows its exact value though. Because, no matter how many digits you calculate it to, the number never ends. 

Pi is representative of my essential belief that business development initiatives never end. I learned this important lesson many years ago when I started my consulting practice. I found myself caught in a turbulent peaks and valleys cycle of business development success and failure. I had to smooth out my search for work to avoid these intense and sometimes painful fluctuations. Not only did I learn that business development needed to be a regular and consistent part of my daily work schedule but in observing the most successful rainmakers I found that their success came from who they knew, what they knew and how they were. With that realization, the Pi-shaped model was born.

The Pi-Shaped Model of Business Development

What You Know

Back in the late 80s, IBM introduced a concept called "T-Shaped Professionals" which it used to describe its ideal engineering professionals. T-shaped professionals are characterized by their deep disciplinary knowledge in at least one subject matter area, an understanding of and use of the best systems and processes, their ability to function as “adaptive innovators”, and their ability to cross the boundaries between disciplines. This symbolism caught on and IBM became known as a company dedicated to the power of specialized knowledge. Lawyers, too, share these same benefits when they distinguish themselves as subject matter experts.  

Who You Know

Deep knowledge also applies to one's relationships. The people with whom we are connected are the largest source of work for most professional service providers. We all travel through life meeting new people through various professional, social, spiritual and educational endeavors. We collect the names from each interaction and add them to our mental database of connections. Some of the connections are weak and temporary- that is, we did not have much of a connection and they will move on from our lives. Others are weak but recurring-that is, we did not have much connection but we share 'ecosystems' or networks and connect with them periodically. But with others, we form deep connections and they become part of our social and professional networks. All of these connections however, have value inherent in them-either to others or us.

Few of us, however, take the time to explore how these various relationships can add value to our professional lives and even our collective human experience. We rarely inventory their knowledge, experience, station or connections. We do not set up a regular system for communicating with them and build the tools and resources to contribute to the value of the ecosystem of our related networks of connections. But rainmakers do.

How You Are

The cross beam of the Pi shape professional symbol are the characteristics that make up your personality. Some characteristics contribute more to your success in gaining trust, respect and interest from others. The characteristics that are most prevalent in successful rainmakers include empathy and compassion; a commitment to giving more than receiving; an unrelenting positivity; a discipline in executing the fundamentals of business development; and a willingness to invest your time, resources, knowledge and connections to ensure others benefit from knowing you.

I have observed this formula at work in hundreds of successful lawyers. Observe carefully, you will see it as well. Some lawyers will be more focused on thought leadership. Others emphasize their relationships. Some exhibit all three equally. A few succeed purely on the grit of their persistent efforts. But these characteristics are shared in some degree by every successful lawyer I have ever observed.

Make no mistake. There is no silver business development bullet. Building a rainmaker’s gravitational pull of clients takes time. These are not easy competencies and disciplines to incorporate into your time constrained daily routine. Nor can you fake compassion or feign positivity. The key to these competencies are in the authenticity of them. You cannot simply ‘talk the talk.’ To be a rainmaker with gravitational pull, you must learn to ‘walk the walk’ and walk it every day. Fortunately, attraction is more powerful than promotion and more consistent with the gravitas to which most lawyers aspire.

Making these changes takes effort and focus. They require a deep personal commitment and continuous self-awareness and self-improvement. For those willing to take the journey, the payoff is not just in greater performance, but also in greater happiness, deeper career fulfillment, heightened peer respect and more interesting relationships- all benefits reported by the rainmakers that I have had the intense pleasure to observe and coach.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017


If you are actively engaged in business development, there will come a time when you will feel like you botched a conversation or lost the pitch. These experiences can be demoralizing. Many people focus on the one point in the meeting where the conversation seemed to turn, amplifying the negative implications of that single point in time. As a result, either consciously or unconsciously, many retreat from proactive business development activities including direct client contact. That’s not good.

Failures happen to all of us. We all say things we wish we hadn’t. The key is in how one deals with the failed meeting. New research suggests that re-imaging the meeting leads to a more constructive understanding of what transpired and can change your view of the meeting- and with it your willingness to engage in other meetings.

The research, conducted by Professor Ed Watkins at the University of Exeter is surprising because typically running over troubling events, or ruminating, is linked to worsening depression and feelings of anxiety.

According to Professor Watkins, “this method of re-imagining is different because it is constructive. We know from research that rumination about upsets and losses is a big factor in getting and staying anxious and depressed. And that this can lead to less motivation to engage in those uncomfortable situations in the future.”

Dwelling on the Process as Opposed to the Presumed Outcome.

So how does one do this ‘re-imaging?’ The trick is to focus on the specific sensory details, context and sequence of the meeting rather than on the meaning or implications of the meeting.

In professor Watkins’ studies, people were trained to focus on the sensory details of an upsetting experience. By doing this, they rewired their brains to learn from experiences rather than ruminate about experiences.

For example, after the meeting take a moment to review the sensory details, context and sequence of the meeting. Think about the sensory details such as the client’s tone of voice or their facial expressions and body language. Review the context of the discussion by thinking about the exact words used by each of the people in the discussion. Then consider the sequence of the discussion. What was discussed beforehand and what was discussed afterward?

The mind has a tendency to jump to the implication and meaning of the discussion, often times before the implications are even known. It is the primal ‘flight or fight’ reaction we have to stressful events or stimuli. Examining the details of the discussion immediately following the meeting however focuses your mind on ways in which the meeting might have been improved. This gives you a greater sense of awareness and control that can be used in the next client meeting. Focusing on the potential negative outcomes and applying a meaning to actions and words gives you a distinct sense that you are not in control which leads to rumination about the negative potential consequences.

Lack of control is why many people shy away from business development. Business development can be uncomfortable and foreign, feelings that are reinforced when the meeting doesn’t go well. Re-imaging helps you regain that control, focus on the positive aspects of the meeting and give you the tools to positively influence the outcome of your next meeting.