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Leadership Institute: Corporate Hawaii, Part II – Afternoon Session

This is a follow-up to the previous Leadership post, where I shared all the insights that the morning panelists of Corporate Hawaii discussed with the fellows. The afternoon was did not have a moderated panel, but a speed dating type of deal between the following executives:

This was a much more free form and shorter meeting with these lawyers-turned-executives. So I will impart just a couple of ideas from them in no particular order, but feel free to incorporate into your own business or practice or thinking about it.

Darcy – stated that she does not have as much control over work and life, even though many attorneys feel that they have no control; she said life as an executive was busier with meetings; finally, she felt that business development was about cultivating relationships.

Bryan – stated that you should meet as many people as you can, in fact that is how he met Eddie Flores, at a political function. From that encounter, Eddie used him as an attorney, but through working for him they built trust and getting to know each other.

There, I think this highlights the whole going out and meeting new people aspect of networking.

Stanley – said he was ready for change, when he went into a nonlawyer position, but for beginning lawyers he recommends starting in government or if you are going to try and become in-house counsel promote yourself in business-relations, and that a JD-MBA helps. He also said that a lot of lawyers are good at IDing the issues and risk assessment, but the BEST lawyers give solutions and get it done proactively in fixing problems. Finally, he said that the skills a lawyer takes with them into business are: (1) good writing skills, BUT you need to change into business writing; and (2) think logically, to persuade/convince others.

Well, that’s it for Corporate Hawaii. Next post I will pose a question that was discussed at Corporate Hawaii, that I think will provoke conversation, so I welcome responses. In addition, I will talk about the special session on “Managing Diverse Networks” by Dr. Tanya Menon.

Happy Holidays!

Leadership Institute – Corporate Hawaii, Part I – Morning Session

For readers, know that that this session in the Leadership Institute series was done by former lawyers (who are now executives) for the benefit of upcoming lawyers, but my hope sharing them is insight to the legal world and some the things said are just in general for leadership and management skills regardless of industry.

What this Session was All About

This leadership session happened over a month ago and was of great interest to me, as all of the panelists included attorneys who had gone over and obtained some sort executive position at a large local corporation. It was very interesting hearing how they made the transition from attorney to corporate executive. For the most part, many of them did NOT plan on it, and many of them thought they would practice law for the rest of their lives. I will be breaking up this write-up into two posts.  Today’s post will cover the morning discussion and the following one will be for the afternoon session.  The morning was a set of panelists that were moderated and the afternoon was a speed dating type of deal.

I will give a list of the panelists, then list the series of questions asked by the moderator, under each question I will select several quotes or paraphrased thoughts that I thought was interesting or poignant to share with you all.  The panelist that provided the quote or thought will be identified through their initials. Remember the underlying theme is leadership, but for this session it seemed directed at the path of experiences toward leadership.

The Panelists and Moderator

So here is the list of the morning panelists, their titles, and companies:

They were moderated by Melissa Pavlicek, President of Hawaii Public Policy Advocates.

The Questions and Quotes

How do you identify yourself? What is the first thing you say?

  • AO – “Once a lawyer, always a lawyer.”
  • CN – stated she is first a banker, but being a lawyer usually quickly follows
  • MR – introduces himself as the CAO
  • CM – hated being a lawyer for the first 10 years (laughter), but by the time he left practice he enjoyed it

How much of where you are today was planned?

  • FK – none of it was planned, it took an intervention from a friend to change her mind for her career path, and things never turn out the way you expect
  • MR – no planning, he was open to anything and his advice to everyone is to take advantage of opportunities, but be prepared when you do
  • AO – as a generation, the Vietnam War colored his, so planning for him was out of the equation – he feels that his generation did not have the luxury of life choices early on due to the war
  • CM – you don’t plan it so much as “create the opportunities for lightning to strike you”

In terms of skills, do you improve what you are given? Or do you try getting new skills?

  • MR – start with values, and you should be true to yourself; in general, some things you have to learn, but you should also focus on your natural talents; “know the landscape” and be ready to adapt – his personal example, was when he came here for the CAO job, he knew was a “guest” and went out of his way to understand an appreciated the local way of doing things

What skills are valuable?

  • [I can’t remember who said this, but here it is anyway]: legal analytical skills were critical beginning, but leadership skills become more important (due to responsibilities) ; thus as a lawyer we tend to micromanage, but as you transit into a leadership/management it is about empowering others to do the tasks
  • AO – since not every lawyer is a complete package, if you build a lawyer firm you try to complete the package and have complimenting attorneys – but you do want listeners, they understand what the client wants to get (objective-based); if you answer a client’s question with legal answers, many times it is not helpful

What about Outside Activities?

  • In general, all of them are active diverse people. I think the main thing to have gotten out of this part of the moderation was to find some clubs, non-profits, or associations and help out. It is good for networking and actually provides a different kind out outlet for your energies.

This is the last one, there is more, but I thought this question would be a good stopping point for this blog (lol): Are lawyers deal killers? How should lawyers handle saying “no” to clients?

  • AO – not a deal killer, but to new attorneys learn a little bit of litigation to figure out alternatives to trial
  • CN – they are more ready to say “no” early on to things, but risk is a part of business; in-house counsel understands the business better  and can help manage risk better
  • FK – as CEO, she aggress it is managing the risk of the company, so when you, as an attorney are being asked for answer, you have to determine what kind of answer is being asked for (i.e. is this it might be right 50% answer, this is mostly right 80%, or we spent all day and night researching this,100% answer); put another way, how much risk is embed in the question; an attorney’s job is to work with the client
  • MR – sometimes you do have to say NO due to risk identification, BUT the attorney then should direct the client with advice and help to reach a decision in light of that response

Anyway, I hope this was interesting I will be following this write-up hopefully within a week to reach the afternoon session panelists and interesting things I learned there. Finally, some great conversations took place during lunch that sparked off some interesting commentary, and I would like to bring that to you all and get your feedback and sentiments on the issue.

So check back soon!

Leadership Institute – We the People, Part II – Civility in Government

Following up on the prior Leadership post, the We the People seminar’s afternoon panel was very interesting. Recall that we had Chief Justice (CJ) Recktenwald, Senator Sam Slom, and former Deputy Chief of Staff, Andrew Aoki with Kirk Caldwell moderating.
I have to admit being a political junkie that I found it interesting having Senator Sam Slom and Andrew Aoki there, as I did not know what to expect. I definitely think that Senator Slom presented the best case for civility (and humor) in government and of course why shouldn’t he? He has the honor of being the lone Republican in the Hawaii Senate, and on the national level is the only one in such a position.

The civility in government subject, with the panelists present, turned on what civility meant in the judiciary, politics/executive, and legislative branches. What follows are some of the quotes that I took with me from that afternoon and my thoughts.

Judiciary

“Lack of civility increases the cost of litigation.” From CJ, and I definitely think he is right because civility means that the modes of communication remain open, as soon as they break down the barriers go up, which we all know from a purely market system causes things to be more expensive.

He followed that quote with, “Lack of civility undermines, fundamentally, the judicial system.” The basic rationale is that citizens watch their attorneys behaving badly and if that is the case what does that say about the system as a whole?

Politics/Executive

Echoing CJ’s tone, Andrew Aoki agreed that in politics that the lack of civility creates a barrier to access politics. Basically, that it turns people off from participating in the process. I think especially here in Hawaii that is the case, we found in the Hanabusa-Djou race, as mainland money poured in, the tone of the message became nasty (by Hawaii standards) and a lot of people felt that did not have to be the case.

Finally, Andrew felt that it is “Easier to run on fear, then hope.” I think that his blanket statement sounds nice, but I found that it sometimes too easy to fall back on. I think with times being very tough it is always easy to want to give people hope, but the reality sometimes is some of the people’s fears are legitimate and credible. The problem is from a top-down perspective you have to weed out all the noise of what is fear-mongering and what needs be addressed. Once again it boils down to communication.

Andrew felt that there was more civility than not here in Hawaii. In fact, that someone managing here needs to deal with passive-aggressive nature tendencies and that you need to learn how to cooperate and be agreeable.

Legislative

Finally, Senator Sam Slom felt that civility is a part of your ethics. He felt that in recent times we have created all these educational programs on corporate, government, medical, etc . . . ethics, but really there is just ethics. It comes down to your core.

Finally, in the legislative arena, lack of civility leads to escalation and tension-building. It was definitely evident you have thread that balance of sticking to your opinion and focus on the issues, but do not burn bridges. He also emphasized respect the people you serve.

I will leave off with he said something that I think applies to anyone trying to deal with people and gain their trust and buy-in:

Do not over promise, but over deliver.

See you next time for the Write-Up on Corporate Hawaii!