Posts Tagged ‘trust’

With all the demands on our time to keep up with exponential complexity, it seems that moving forward with our personal development, business and career goals are perennially postponed.

Sometimes we get lucky and are our day-to-day activities actually produces a much sought after goal without a conscious strategy.  But we hardly know how to replicate those circumstances as we perceive them outside of our control.  For example, the proverbial: I was asked to work on this project by my boss because no one else wanted it and I did it.  I earned a reputation in the company, received a promotion, bonuses and was then hired by a competitor double for  my salary. Something like that….. 🙂

When it comes to goals, some people are quite capable of just ignoring everything and everyone to accomplish a goal. They have to make up later for having few friends or an estranged spouse and family. It seems that every time you commit to a goal with single-minded purpose, sacrifices to the god of accomplishment are needed.  Maybe not as dramatic as a virgin, or a first-born, but some aspect of your free time for recreation or relationships is sacrificed to make a focused and committed leap towards accomplishing a goal.  Some have solved this by turning their hobbies into work and their friends come from the same pool of activities.  Either way, one must let go of one’s previous friends and activities to make this change.

I was in a lifeline group of 4.  On the whole, we were weak at holding each other accountable. It seemed no one wanted to alienate the others by firmly holding them accountable to their goals. Maybe this was driven by a secret desire not to be held accountable ourselves. 😉   Despite some measurable success, it is no surprise that our year long lifeline group lost a key member last week.

Holding someone accountable is a genuine skill. It requires creating enough discomfort in the person whilst not alienating them or shaming them. It requires creativity in knowing how to help your friend or colleague solve the problem and inspire them to consistent action. There has to be some level of respect for each other and discomfort to NOT comply.  What is clear is that trust is an essential aspect of being held accountable. Trust that allows you to know that they are not trying to hurt you, but to help you. Trust to know they want you to succeed as much as you do. Trust to know that you’re safe and can be vulnerable without results being compromised.

When all of these elements are present, that relationship is priceless! May you inspire and invite someone to care enough to hold you accountable.


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A good friend recently asked me what the value proposition of The Online Bar is. Anytime a new way of organizing and working is introduced this question comes up. What to me is remarkable is how few of us ask that same question of our broken down institutions and modes of organization. Better the devil you know! 🙂

The Online Bar is primarily a community of trust. Dee Hock (Founder of Visa) gives a practical explanation of community below, which helps me express why The Online Bar is focused on building trust through community.

The essence of community, it’s very heart and soul, is the nonmonetary exchange of value…. The nonmonetary exchange of value does not arise solely from altruistic motives. It arises from deep, intuitive, understanding that self-interest is inseparably connected with community interest…that all things are simultaneously independent, interdependent, and intradependent. It requires only ordinary, caring people.” Edited from Dee Hock’s book, One From Many: Visa and the Rise of Chaordic Organization.

Money, markets and measurement have their place. They are important tools indeed. We should honor them and use them.  But they don’t deserve deification…..only fools worship their tools.”  Dee Hock

I see many lawyers broken and on their knees deifying money and technology. Sadly, they remain on their knees with work, lack of friends and a poor quality of life.  No fun, no joy and all hard work describes most lawyers today.

We are certain that a global community of lawyers built on a platform of trust can build anything it desires.

The fastest way to get what you want is to build trust with generosity – without demanding a reward – and collaborate.  Anything else is simply a deferred monetary bargain – a transaction. Trust relies on not keeping score.  Even if one quietly expects a direct monetary reward, trust will eventually be eroded. Sooner or later that person will demand their just rewards (with spam or a pitch) or feel terribly disappointed. Meanwhile for that  person any possibility of doing business at the speed of trust, of designing new and more enjoyable ways of practicing law and organizing is lost.

Don’ be that person. The world will leave you behind in a red ocean of all against all. A world where a bloody triumph will last but seconds before it is snatched by another that is faster and stronger.

Community is a marketplace of trust and generosity. Global collaboration between lawyers requires nothing less than trust and shared values of community.  A desire to have fun, meet, listen and learn from others also helps. 🙂 The Online Bar is evolving as do all communities of trust. Everyone in a community is responsible to lead, hence why where we are going is up to all of US.

Can we have some fun now? 🙂

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Let’s face it AVVO built it. But they didn’t exactly wait for you lawyers to come, did they?

They took your name, your public information, and cleverly announce their proprietary ability “to evaluate a lawyer’s background using a mathematical model that considers the information (they) know about a lawyer.”  Secrets are always a rapport breaker!! 🙂

This was downright clever, even if feels a little sleazy and taken by force.  It reminds me of those teenage movies Hollywood churns out, and, yes, I watch. The cool guys have the club and if you don’t play with them, you’ll be a loser. Clever! Stunningly clever, or is it?

Take a look at these less than raving reviews: “AVVO lost its credibility” http://bit.ly/bG1HW2 plus other critics of AVVO.  Nothing like “poisoning” your guests with the secret sauce.

From one perspective, Avvo played a rather heavy, paternalistic hand. After all how many lawyers would really have volunteered to play in AVVO.  Sure a few, but not enough to raise VC money with. Give credit where credit is due. And they gambled well, because the economy caused many USA lawyers to run into AVVO out of desperation.  Where else could you get a high ranking by having your friends, family and neighbors send in reviews of what a jolly good person you really are.

But can you build a long term strategy when one side is forced to play – albeit cleverly!  Does this build trust?

But what am I asking? Avvo was not built for our sake as lawyers, but the sake of the public….of which I think I still am.  It was built to help them navigate “the complex and confusing legal industry”.  BTW we’re not an industry. We don’t build anything – unless you count towers of paper files.  I agree with the ends, it’s the means.  Does it really serve the public? I guess it’s better than nothing, but force is force and it doesn’t lead to success in the long-term.  I would not trust those ratings when choosing my lawyer, why should the public?

Imagine if Linkedin dragged your name onto its site like chattel on a stage to be bid on by the public based upon a “secret sauce” rating system? Would you play? Yes. I’m sure you might, but for how long? 😉

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Remember reading your history books about people sentenced to exile from their city states.  I could not understand this as a punishment. I had no context.  At the time, I was living in the eternally cloudy and damp city of London.   Exile would be welcome.  Maybe I could go to Ibiza or the Caribbean and play on the beach all day.

In the context of those city state days, exile from Rome or Florence was devastating. One was cut off from “civilization”. One was removed from a tight-knit infrastructure of relationships that provided credit, intellectual exchange and a concentrated population for trading.

As more global business goes online and transacts exclusively in cyberspace, I can imagine the similarly tight-knit infrastructure of relationships forming by the social currencies of trust, candor and generosity. I can imagine intense trade and credit exchanged between the members of prosperous online groups.  These communities will be increasingly exclusive and selective as they grow. But they will be amongst themselves, open and inclusive. They will allow members to be increasingly candid, vulnerable and generous (predictable), without the constant anxiety of having confidentiality and trust violated.

Where there is predictability, there is trust.

The most successful individuals would be able to move between and trade with many groups, networks and communities online.  Their golden passport to abundance written in the  indelible digital ink of trustworthiness.

A violation of trust could amount to exile from a group. Far worse, this could be like branding a thief on the forehead, but in cyberspace.  No community or group will accept a branded exile.  At least not any group an exile would voluntarily accept.  I assume that would mean some form of justice or due process in a private tribunal, in which  case the jury really would be your peers! This puts into perspective the wisdom of building a public reputation for generosity, trust and credibility.  It could also be the difference between  having a group of trusted friends, business partners and work colleagues that would advocate in your favor, or a hostile mob “stoning you” back into the highly suspicious world of a brick and mortar economy.  OK, a little poetic license, but you get the point.

Whilst part of this may seem like scenes from an adolescent video game, I urge you not to ignore all of these evolutions occurring rapidly in cyberspace and with real consequences.  All the pieces are in place already, and with one exponential leap forward, we will be in that world overnight.

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It is great to see so many of us as lawyers now delivering all of our services as VLOs, from a laptop, and many more evolving from hybrid versions. The technological leap of emancipating ourselves from traffic congested commutes, expensive office rents (any rent is expensive if it is not returning to you more than 100% of the investment in it), parking, and the unnecessary use if natural resources like paper, gas, electricity.

VLOs can be so much more than your legal office from home or your laptop. The very nature of technology today, and soon to come, will actually make that business model obsolete. Most of us are still thinking of VLOs in a linear fashion: we moved out from an office with paper files and standalone servers to SaaS applications in the cloud, or to a laptop, or to remote servers that run our data. It’s the same business model but with virtual computer technology. That’s why I refer to this definition of VLOs as putting wings on a car and calling it an airplane.

As VLOS we have an opportunity today for a larger definition. Think of “larger definitions” as saying “more opportunity to make more money and do more of what you like.”  Sounds better, no?

For example: a big law firm is a form of organization that pools together the talent and knowledge of hundreds of lawyers in one marketplace. Like a mall, the buyer gets to visit one place that can handle all or most of the client’s needs. Brilliant, and still fun to visit! Except that it is today a less efficient mode of organizing. First, a big firm is committed to its exclusive talent (this is decreasing) and expensive proprietary infrastructure, including expensive leases. Second, anyone that can adjust and access talent much faster and much better talent will always be more efficient and more effective. Big law firms know this. That’s partly why in 2009 the ABA passed a rule lowering the ethical hurdles to lateral hiring. In fact, big law often sees the future before the rest of our industry, but they simply can’t adjust fast enough because of size and bureaucracy.  Like a 16th galleon, they can see land ahead, but it takes a lot of sailors to hoist the sails and tack that big ship into the wind.

This is where VLOs can define and design themselves to compete. As a VLO you can move fast, but you don’t have scale, nor do you have trust with the best clients. But if you organize and build relationships of trust with other talent you can build scale and trust with clients previously not accessible to you.

There is another benefit to a VLO many are only now experiencing. You don’t have to be limited to any area of law you don’t want to do. You also don’t have to manage yourself as a business, if you don’t know how. You don’t have to do anything you’re not passionate about. This can only happen if and when VLOs build trust and then build scale with each other.

Hundreds of us are already exploring the VLO’s potential in thousands of conversations in social media. Those conversations are defining trust and building the formless platform for VLOs to increase scale.  Right now it has little direction. It’s like ants looking for a drop of honey. We know it’s here somewhere but no one knows exactly where.  So we exchange thousands of bits of info on social media trying to tract it down. In the end, even that is a limited example because there is not one drop of honey but an entire ocean of it!

The door is open. If we organize we can build a vast, high tech space ship instead of dreaming about flying in our grandfather’s Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.

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It seems almost unfair to ask this question. After all who would consciously choose technology over trust. By choice I’m referring to where do you put the focus?  I admit I flirted amorously with the ocean of technology as the goal itself.  The child who wants to play with his toys comes out in me.  Sometimes, I become so carried away with the possibilities of all this technology, I lose sight of why I was originally so excited.

Oooh! Look it can do this and that!! I got a Google voice number last year. I was so excited that I was telling everyone how I could read their voice mail because Google’s technology transcribes it for me and sends to my phone via text. So what?

The real miracle was it allowed me to connect with more people and vice-versa (build trust), in ways I could manage more efficiently – and it was FREE!  Thanks Google.  But none of this technology made me nor my business more income, it merely facilitated it. Technology is a cost center. Plain and simple! It has no magic, no warmth or personality other than what we animate it with.  So why do we get so carried away with it?

Is it easier than actually relating to others? Is it easier than dealing with the highly subjective aspects of our own unpredictable human behavior? After all, technology is an object without choice. It must obey or it’s destroyed. But us, each other, well, that requires, care, attention, emotions, moods, feelings, constant misunderstandings, being open and vulnerable…on and on it goes. Yet, when there is trust, our behavior becomes highly predictable, and then more trust is generated in a self-reinforcing loop.

If I’m authentic, vulnerable and open, I become highly predictable. You may like me or not, but you will trust me, because you will know enough about me to predict how I will behave.

I will explore the theme of trust more in depth this week, including Ken Thompson’s team “Karma” concept from his book, The Networked Enterprise.  I’ll get back to work now and leave you with this excerpt from the book Virtual Teams: People working across boundaries with technology, by Jessica Lipnak and Jeffrey Stamps (2nd Edition, 2000).  The authors founded virtualteams.com and are considered the world’s leading experts on virtual teams and networked organizations.

“People work together because they trust one another. They make deals. Undertake projects, set goals, and lend one another resources.

Virtual teams are quicker, smarter, more flexible work groups in a sea of change. Highly adaptive as organizations these teams can cope with tumultuous complexity. For them trust is a need to have quality.

Trust builds with the recognition of the contribution that everyone makes. If you make a real contribution, people will trust you.”

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Monday, I received a call from a young man that has asked me to mentor him.  We’ll call him Carlos.  I met Carlos when I was helping my friend and mentor, Keith Ferrazzi, with the launch for his latest book, Who’s Got your Back? Keith’s first best seller was Never Eat Alone.  Carlos, about 28 years old, drove about 90 minutes with 10 people to Keith’s book launch.  We were all impressed with Carlos’ leadership and passion.

Carlos was in a hurry when he called me. He wanted to know if he could see me that same evening.  He did not really say why, but as I had accepted the responsibility to mentor him, I agreed to meet him.  I had a subtle sensation I was about to pitched, but I still wanted to give Carlos an opportunity to pitch. Last time we spoke he was working on an IT start-up in the Latin and Hispanic market.

When  Carlos arrived, with his friend Gus, I saw him all pumped up and excited, which is not unusual for Carlos as he has more energy than 99% of us.  His optimism and enthusiasm is truly engaging. It’s also why he has so many followers.  The conversation went nowhere and I sensed, as my wife says, I was being marinated like a juicy roast! J  I stayed relaxed knowing that how I responded to Carlos in front of his friend would define our friendship. I was now certain I was about to be pitched and it was looking like an MLM pitch.

Unable to wait for the pitch I firmly requested the purpose of the meeting – with a smile! J  It was an MLM!!  I knew that to reject Carlos would be more destructive and even more so in front of his friend, Gus.  I let him pitch me.

He was very excited because he had been brought in before the actual launch of the MLM and the directors were all major players in the MLM world.  He wanted to introduce me to one of the Directors.  Still very sensitive to the social situation, I knew I would have to sit through an MLM call.

I did try to stop the call from taking place, but Carlos was determined I meet this Director.  About 20 minutes later, thankfully, the call was over. Gus had observed my discomfort.  I told him I did not want to disappoint them, but that I was not interested in MLM and that they could have saved themselves time if they asked before driving to see me. But they argued, we just introduced you to the Director – a man who made millions…. You’re talking to a boss!

I sighed and said: “Carlos, I am excited about your new opportunity.  I think if you focus it can work beautifully for you and Gus. But I’m not interested in MLM.”

More persistence and this unique pitch from Carlos: “But Jorge you have a vast network of people who are very successful. That’s why we introduced you to the Director of this MLM.”

Jorge: “Thank you!  I am truly honored you think so highly of me.”

I paused and with conviction told them: “I don’t pitch my friends.”

Carlos and Gus were perplexed and totally confused, which they expressed almost in unison: “Then why do you have this network?  Why do you spend so much time building these relationships?”

I told him of an old friend from adolescence who is a successful lawyer and even appears on TV.  One day while I was at NBC, he stopped by and in the conversation he said this: “When you’re in private practice you don’t have friends, you have clients”.

Whilst I could not judge him, I felt the sadness in his voice – a subtle and almost imperceptible tone of regret and loneliness.  He billed everyone he invested anytime in and he was successful. This is not the path I took.

More perplexed looks followed by Carlos asking: “But how does this work for you?”

Because, I began, I am not desperate, nor am I in a short sales cycle.  I am building trust, credibility and friendship. Once you have trust, credibility and friendship, all business evolves naturally and abundantly – even with friends.

Trust is a rare, therefore valuable. It is not the same as reputation, which you can’t always control.  I carefully invest in relationships and now I have a priceless deposit of trust and credibility.

I know that many of us as lawyers and professionals have to close sales and some in a shorter cycle than others. I can only recommend that you seriously consider making friends and not burning through your contacts. That you invest in a relationship with generosity before you ask for anything.

We’re all inundated with fast pitches and spam from people we don’t know.  That’s what Keith Ferrazzi calls highly transactional: when a person makes no attempt to care, listen or engage you, but simply broadcasts or instantly pitches a service or product. I buy mostly from people I like and trust, even when it might be more expensive. Because I like them and I trust them!

They care.

Sometimes, there are those of us that prefer to take without giving in return. Most large networks are defined by a majority of people taking without giving or passively lurking, while teams and communities are defined by mutual generosity and active collaboration. Nonetheless, I reconsider before judging or rejecting the more passive or self-centered, and feeling that I was taken advantage of.  It has happened to me on many occasions, but it is the nature of finding treasure.

I’ll close with an excerpt from Emerson’s Essay on Compensation:

“Men suffer all their life long, under the foolish superstition that they can be cheated. But it is as impossible for a man to be cheated by any one but himself, as for a thing to be and not to be at the same time. There is a third silent party to all our bargains. The nature and soul of things takes on itself the guaranty of the fulfillment of every contract, so that honest service cannot come to loss. If you serve an ungrateful master, serve him the more. Put God in your debt. Every stroke shall be repaid. The longer the payment is withholden, the better for you; for compound interest on compound interest is the rate and usage of this exchequer.”

My version: If you serve an ungrateful master, serve him the more….while you find a graceful exit!

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I was recently reading about Otto Scharmer’s Theory U and The Presencing Institute.   By the way, Otto is a Senior Lecturer at MIT and consults with global companies, international institutions, and governments.  He has co-designed leadership programs for client firms including PricewaterhouseCoopers, Fujitsu, and Google.  He also facilitates cross-sector programs for leaders in business that focus on building people’s collective capacity to achieve profound innovation and change.

In Otto’s Theory U Toolbook from the Presencing Institute he listed some of the following questions, most which I’m editing for you to ask about OBA, and to ask each other as OBA members:

  1. What is your most important objective and how can we help you realize it?
  2. What criteria do you use to assess whether our (OBA) or another member’s contribution to your work has been successful?
  3. If we were to build two things into OBA within the next 6 months, what two things would create the most value and benefit for you?
  4. What are your expectations from a voluntary bar association and its members?
  5. What might your best possible future look like?

I will post these questions on our OBA linkedin and facebook groups for discussion.  There is no right answer as all the questions are highly subjective – it’s about you and what’s important to you.  Thank you in advance for your participation in these discussions.

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The industrial era injunction to work longer hours and literally drive oneself to the edge of physical and emotional exhaustion is almost dead in the opulent West.  Many lament this and it’s often the subject of many articles on our economy and youth.  We admire the Chinese for their work ethic but we can’t seem to find the energy anymore.  We’re lazy – they say.  We’re going to be left behind!

Maybe…. and maybe not.

All these are by necessity linear arguments that exclude the broad scope of evolution as a result of technological development. Maybe we are lazy. But then, why bother with technology?  Isn’t technology meant to free us from routine and repetitively boring tasks?

Let’s assume that technology continues at this pace, a pace not broken despite world wars, depressions, recessions and Communism.  From the limited perspective of what we know today, we can expect that if you’re a lawyer you will have access to a vast, almost infinite, ocean of information.  Maybe even AI: intelligent agents that can tell you the law, fashion arguments, draft briefs, etc. But then so does your “opponent” have this same access.  What then?  A sort of mutually assured stalemate situation – MASS.

What now?  Back to humans negotiating, I guess.

All roads lead to human interaction – even more so than ever before.  That’s what we’re seeing already today with the mass interaction using social media like Facebook and Linkedin.  As technology grows, human interaction increases.  Hence, the importance of building relationships, authenticity, trust, and credibility becomes its own currency.  But unlike capital currency (money), controlled by a few, relationship currency is a universal currency which everyone has access to.

Like it so far?

Ok, that was a really long winded explanation to conclude that we’re all in the “business” of human relationships – plain and simple.  And “relationship currency” is vastly more rewarding to a joyful lifestyle, to your capital currency base and to the time to enjoy them.

I know I skipped some steps, but it’s a blog not a treatise.  Can you already see that we’re “lazy” because we can be?  That our relationships are and will be more important that the technology you use and the hours you work?  That relationships are and will be more important than your access to capital in fiat currency. Relationship currency can’t be inflated by central banks, loaned by banks with interest; it can’t be counterfeited or stolen because it is based upon human experience and interaction.  You can fake it – for a while – but you will be soon exposed. There is no bankruptcy court that can discharge your relationship debts from deceit, manipulation and self serving lies.

After 9/11, I once saw a friend buy rural land and stockpile 2 years worth of food.  He was going to escape to his bunker in case of mass chaos, nuclear attacks and eat dehydrated food until it was all over.   The Lone Wolf syndrome – going it alone.  A practical idea up to the late 1800s in North America.  Today, someone will tweet that you have food and the mob will siege your house first! GET IT??  You’ll have to go underwater in a one man submarine or into space to escape mobs. Most of humanity will simply have to  build relationships so that a mob never materializes because we’re all too busy trading, cooperating, and collaborating to steal each other’s food!!

Today, it’s a reality that with social media and the lack of privacy, you are being valued by the currency of your generosity, accountability and trust.  These rules have not really changed in centuries, only the scale has changed – exponentially!

Now here comes the shameless promotion: that’s why we created OBA.  We’re a global mob trading in the currency of trust.  Investing in the market of each others success.

In the spirit of earning your trust, what is your most important objective and how can we help you realize it?

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