How to Interrupt Staff Interruptions

Jeff has lots of legal work to do and he wants to do it during the workday – not on nights and weekends.

He was using the strategies I teach – like blocking the time for his legal work – but he was constantly interrupted by paralegals and staff. So he never got into the flow. He struggled with how to be efficient and keep an “open door” policy for his staff.

Jeff’s problem is a pretty common obstacle to growing a law firm. It’s also a tension that virtually all leaders face. They want to be available, but they also need focus time.

First, we identified the most common interrupters and interruptions. Once we saw the patterns we created guidelines to reduce the number and frequency of questions. This became part of his office operating system.

Next, we adjusted how he was delegating and managing so the staff could have the confidence to work independently – and he had a way to check up on delegated work without micromanaging.

We also provided a path so those really important interruptions got through to him at the right times.

Putting these changes into Jeff’s office operating processes didn’t just make his life easier and more productive. His staff got more confident and productive as well. With just this simple shift.

Having an outside perspective with experience in creating business processes – and who wasn’t neck-deep in the fray – really helped Jeff set the stage to grow his practice.

If you’re having the same problems with staff, start by identifying the patterns and then what things you can do to make it better. And if you’d like help with that, just get in touch.

Doug BrownHow to Interrupt Staff Interruptions
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How to Keep Your Most Valuable Employee

His long-time assistant emailed him just to give him a “heads up” that she wasn’t happy and was looking for another job.

It was shocking.

She is like his “Oz” behind the curtain. She’s been doing a great job for him for more than 10 years – even following him to his new firm. He felt completely blindsided.

A few days later he got another message that she had interviewed and she expected an offer. She would let him know when she got it.

So begins the scramble to save a really important employee in the year of the “great resignation” – and where your competitors are actively trying to poach your people.

The assistant’s decision to look elsewhere is not made out of disloyalty or a lack of gratitude.

It might be about the money. But valued employees generally don’t leave you because of money – as long as they are being paid fairly.

Most employees who leave are looking for:

  1. Growth Opportunities. Top performers want challenges. They want to grow and evolve. If they don’t see a path to grow they will start looking. Don’t count on them to ask you about development opportunities. That conversation needs to be part of your regular (at least quarterly) performance and development conversations.
  2. Appreciation and Recognition. Top performers need recognition. Gone are the days when you should expect your staff to be grateful to have the job. You don’t need to fawn over your employees and they don’t need a sticker every time they do what they are supposed to do. They do need, and deserve, sincere and honest engagement and feedback. You’d be surprised at how far a simple “thank you” will go. Just don’t make it conditional or a precursor to giving them more work.
  3. Reasonable Workload. Top performers don’t mind work. They enjoy being busy – but it’s a fine line between busy and overwork. Especially when they get more because their colleagues can’t carry their weight.

There are many more reasons people leave – including lack of time flexibility and unhealthy work environments. The answer for your team will come from having open and honest conversations with your top performers. To do that you have to have healthy self-awareness and proven strategies so your conversations don’t backfire.

This is just one of the things I do with my private coaching clients. We spend a lot of time working on how to help their staff be productive and anticipate issues. We talk about the words they can use to build rapport and find out what’s really going on – and be a much more effective leader. And I share strategies I’ve used to build a culture of high engagement, performance, retention, and create a high-performance culture – where people feel I spend a lot of time with my private coaching clients helping them learn how to do this effectively.

The work of retaining your best employees doesn’t start on the day you get the “heads up” email. It starts before you hire them – and it continues every day. Which can sound pretty daunting. Especially if you don’t have a system to do it and a guide to help you put the pieces together.

There is too much at stake to ignore this issue or to leave it to trial and error. If you’d like to know how you can get started – without having to become a full-time HR professional, just reach out and let’s talk:


P.S….. These days everyone with employees should be concerned about getting the “heads up” email – or worse – the surprise 2-week notice. If you don’t think it can happen to you – then you’re probably at a higher risk than you think. You don’t have to stay up at night wondering when the next shoe will drop. Send me an email and let’s talk.

Doug BrownHow to Keep Your Most Valuable Employee
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Happy Clients …

Satisfied clients are the most credible ambassadors for your practice.

Potential clients really want to know what your prior clients have experienced with you. It helps them know you are the real deal.

The only way you’ll discover what your clients would say to someone thinking about working with you is to ask them the question.

Some attorneys are reluctant to ask for testimonials because they are uncertain what the client would say.

They fear negative feedback, don’t want to impose on the client’s time, or find other excuses not to do it.

But when you do ask you can get amazing feedback that makes you feel good – and helps others know what it is like to work with you. It allows you to help more of the people you were meant to serve.

Like what happened when I asked a recent client: “What would you say to someone thinking of working with me?”

Here’s what he said:

“Doug was very insightful in making suggestions to better manage time and helped me focus on developing goal-oriented plans. I feel that I now have a great roadmap to reach my goals in the short, intermediate, and long terms. Doug’s coaching produced tangible results for me in the form of increased profits for my firm and general attitude improvement. … I can truly say that I feel happier, more productive, and am on my way to reaching my ultimate goals.”

I was honored to receive David’s heartfelt words. That’s why I do this work. To make a lasting difference for my clients.

That’s probably why you do your work as well.

Wouldn’t it be nice to know what they say about you when you’re not around?

Go ahead and ask. You’ll be happy you did.


P.S. … Coaches help successful athletes see possibilities they cannot. They stay focused on the goal while the athlete says focused on preparing and executing to meet the goal. Coaches act as the beacon to direct them when they lose focus. Successful business owners, like you, hire coaches for the same reasons. If you’re thinking that you might be ready for coaching – then you are. If you’d like to talk and learn more, and see if we’re a fit just CLICK HERE and we’ll set it up. No expectations or obligations. Just a conversation in service to you as a loyal reader of my messages.


Doug BrownHappy Clients …
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Keep Clients Happy & Protect your Time

So many professionals struggle with time management because they feel like they need to be available to their clients at all hours of the day or night. The truth is you can keep clients happy. And you can protect your time. That’s the topic of today’s video.


Doug BrownKeep Clients Happy & Protect your Time
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One Secret to Improve Staff Productivity

If you want to escape the time-for-money trap you’re going to need to delegate work to other people. That’s a challenge for many lawyers because they never learned the secrets of effective leadership and delegation.

One place lawyers struggle with delegating is that they are not clear how they want to be informed or keep control of the thing they are delegating.

You can solve this problem by setting up three categories of tasks you are delegating. That way you can use shorthand when you assign a task and you’ll all be on the same page.

I recommend these degrees of delegation:

  1. Act as Instructed. This is the most basic level and is one of the reasons you may be having trouble. At this level, you are doing the thinking and they are doing precisely what you tell them to do, and no more. If you want to grow your practice you’re going to need people around you who can act at higher levels.
  2. Report. The staff will gather the data you want and give it to you for discussion and decision. The burden remains on you to decide.
  3. Recommend. You’re looking for well-thought-out solutions to the problem you’ve presented. Your staff should come to you with options ready for approval from their independent work.
  4. Act then Advise. The staff is free to act to accomplish the objective. They will advise you at intervals or milestones you specify or if they are struggling.
  5. Fire and Forget. The staff member will take complete responsibility and complete the task. No further reporting is required, except a general update as part of their weekly check-in. Once assigned, the task is off of your list and you can forget it.

Remember, the most common cause of trouble with delegation is in the handoff to the staff member. That means you have the ability to make it better by improving your delegation skills.

When you do your staff will be more productive, you won’t worry as much and you will be one step closer to escaping the time for money trap.

P.s. … If you liked this tip check out my 5 Lawyer Success Hacks – a step-by-step guide to getting more productive. Click here to get your copy.

Doug BrownOne Secret to Improve Staff Productivity
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Build Mentoring Relationships for Success

Having the right mentor is a key to success in growing your career.  Mentoring is also the way that essential knowledge is passed from one generation to the next.   It is actually harder to maintain a healthy mentoring relationship than it is to get one started.   Consider these three things to keep mentoring relationships going:

Coach DougBuild Mentoring Relationships for Success
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Becoming a Movie Producer – Part 1

Ask anybody.  I have lots of things going on.   One of the new and very fun things is learning about the movie business.   This is the first part of that story.

Russ Martin is a writer, director and movie producer. Russ and I met a couple of years ago in Cheshire working on a play for the Cheshire Youth Theatre.  I told Russ that I do voiceover work – another hobby – and we got together to work on storyboards and a script for a new movie he’s working on.  The idea was to have a voice and a script to find investors.    It was very fun and we did some good work.

Coach DougBecoming a Movie Producer – Part 1
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