Cash or Credit?

Given the economic realities of this year, many firms have found themselves unable to offer their employees material increases with respect to either salary or benefits. So how do you let colleagues know they are valued when you don’t have cash?  It’s simple — use Credit.

When I say “use credit,” I don’t mean to suggest that you give your colleagues IOUs.  Rather, you should find many and varied means of letting them (and others) know how much you value them.  In fact, studies have shown that cash is sometimes the least effective way of motivating others to perform.  So look at this year as a wonderful opportunity to learn more effective methods to manage your team.  Here are some tips:

  • Be unstinting in your praise for work well done by members of your team.  I know they are getting a paycheck to do a good job, but that paycheck provides few of the psychic rewards most people crave.
  • When you are commended for work done by your team, be sure to let your superiors know who on your team shouldered the laboring oar.  (If you are the insecure type who hogs the credit in an effort to shore up your personal position within the organization, let me tell you a secret about this.  When you highlight the excellence of individuals on your team you actually remind others of your good judgment in hiring and managing great people.  The fact that you look generous as well doesn’t hurt one bit either.)
  • When anyone outside your team does a terrific job, thank them.  Better still send a note to their supervisors letting them know (and copy the employee so they know as well).
  • Be straightforward and sincere.  Most of us sense a con when we hear it.  Credit works in lieu of cash only when the emotion and intent behind the praise is genuine.
  • Saying “thx” rarely is sufficient.  If the work done is deserving of praise, then surely it merits more effort from you than is required to write “thx” in an offhand, reflexive manner.  (The only possible exception to this is when you are facing the 140 character limit in Twitter!)

Above all, I’d recommend that you read Charles Green’s fantastic post, Pin the Credit on Someone Else, and adopt that as your modus operandi going forward.  This will be a challenge for the insecure manager, but it will make a world of difference in the way members of the team view their work and their manager.

In this season of gratitude and generosity, try being grateful and generous at work.  It’s a gift that keeps on giving.

[Photo Credit:  chrisjohnbeckett]


The editors of the ABA Journal have recognized Above and Beyond KM as one of the top 100 law blogs of 2009.  They are requesting your votes to help them determine which of these blogs are the most popular.  To vote for this blog and your other favorites, please click on the picture below.  Thanks a million!


Tales from LegalTech: Emerging from the Wringer

LegalTech 2009 is over and we’re exhausted.  There’s something absolutely draining about all those inputs, all those people talking at you, and all those little plastic toys.  It’s enough to make even extroverts like me run screaming from the conference hotel.

It will, undoubtedly, take us a few days to process what we saw and what we learned.  We have the quick notes we tweeted from the various sessions to remind us, but we don’t yet know if they will prove to be  invaluable or completely ephemeral.  In addition, some hardier souls (like David Hobbie and Kelly Talcott) have already published their blogs on various sessions.  I’m in awe of their ability to synthesize information so quickly and grateful that we have the benefit of their views.

For me there is something about the learning process that requires a period of quiet reflection in order to consolidate the disparate bits of information I’ve picked up.  And when I’ve been drinking from an information firehose as I was at LegalTech, it takes even longer.  Starting tomorrow, I’m going to indulge in a little quiet reflection and when I emerge, I hope I’ll have something sensible to say about what I learned at LegalTech.

Before I hibernate, I would like to thank the good folks on the LegalTech Advisory Board and at Incisive Media for organizing a conference rich in possibilities and opportunities.  I was glad to have a chance to participate both as a speaker and a blogger.   Best of all, LegalTech provided a wonderful lab for demonstrating how we interact with and learn from each other.  The multi-layered interchanges that bounced between the conference rooms, the Twittersphere, the Blogosphere and the hallways  made for a very rich learning environment. Thank you to everyone in New York and online who made this possible.

[Photo Credit:  cobalt123, Creative Commons license]


One Year Later

Just over one year ago, I dipped my toes in the blogging water and was delighted to discover that the temperature was fine.  In fact, swimming in this pool during the last year has been a ton of fun.  And, along the way I’ve learned a great deal — about knowledge management and about life.  Most of all, I’ve been taught time and time again how wonderfully generous bloggers can be.

I’d like to take a moment in my (extended) first anniversary celebration to thank some marvelous folks who have supported my blogging and Twitter efforts by their timely encouragement, stimulating comments, helpful linking and good advice about social media and life:

Over the course of this year, I’ve learned from each of these people and have come to appreciate deeply their expertise and kindness.  They’ve gone above and beyond the call duty in extending a helping hand to me.  To each of them I offer my sincere thanks.

And, I would be remiss if I failed to acknowledge the many wonderful folks who have taken the time to read my posts and leave comments or send me an e-mail.  Every time you do this, you remind me that the real fun in this exercise is the conversation we have and the learning that results.   Your input has been priceless and I truly appreciate it.

Now, on to another year of blogging and conversation.

[Photo credit:  Camera Slayer, Creative Commons license]


Great Canadian Content

Growing up in Canada, we were the “beneficiaries” of Canadian Content, a government policy designed to ensure we had enough exposure to homegrown culture that we didn’t succumb to the allure of those cultural hegemonists south of the 49th parallel. When I first moved south of the 49th, it was hard to find overtly Canadian content (although media watchers will know that there are a surprisingly large number of Canadians active in US media.) Today, however, we have access to lots of great Canadian content — not because of government regulation, but because of the excellence of the content and the open nature of the internet.

To celebrate that excellence, our blogging colleagues in Canada have instituted the Canadian Law Blog Awards, or CLawBies. The creator of the CLawBies, Steve Matthews (the terrific Vancouver Law Librarian and founder of Stem Legal), has implemented an innovative nomination process this year with the goal of fostering “some audience sharing & link-based infrastructure between members of the Canadian law blog community.”

In deciding which blogs I would nominate, I was interested to discover that in every case I read these blogs because they are consistently good rather than because they are Canadian. (The fact that they are Canadian is a bonus as far as I’m concerned.) Here are the Canadian blogs I’ve enjoyed in the past year:

Connie Crosby — I read Connie’s blog regularly and follow her on Twitter. Her background in law libraries and social networking gives her insight into those knowledge management issues that keep me occupied. Above all, how can you not pay attention to a great “Info Diva”?

Law21 — Jordan Furlong’s blog is a must-read for anyone thinking hard about intelligent ways to practice law. And, even if you’re not, he’s such a good writer that I’d recommend you read him anyhow!

Slaw — This is a category-busting blog: a community effort that covers a wide range of legal and cultural topics. There’s always something of interest and, due to the number of contributors, there is always something new.

Finally, I do want to thank Steve Matthews personally. He has been a terrific supporter of legal blogging on either side of the 49th parallel. Steve’s efforts to promote individual bloggers and legal blogging generally are marked with the kind of personal generosity that makes the blawgosphere such a rewarding place for those of us interested in good conversation and community. Thanks, Steve!


An Early Holiday Gift from Dennis Kennedy

Our family has a strict rule (guaranteed to drive children crazy): first send the thank you note and then enjoy the gift. In this case, however, the gift arrived electronically and put an immediate smile on my face. In fact, I’ve been enjoying Dennis Kennedy’s gift for hours and this note of thanks is a little tardy.

And what was the gift? Dennis Kennedy was kind enough to include Above and Beyond KM on his 2008 list of notable blogs, also known as Dennis Kennedy’s 2008 Law-related Blogging Awards (The Blawggies). I was surprised and delighted to find myself in the company of some terrific bloggers. I invite you to spend a little time with the blawgs and blawggers Dennis called out for recognition. The list covers a wide range of law-related subjects and provides lots of thought-provoking reading.

All of this starts with Dennis, one of the pioneers of legal blogging. I was reading his writing before I even realized what a blog was. He has set a high standard not only for great content and longevity in this business but, most of all, for generosity.

So, thank you Dennis Kennedy!

With best wishes for the Holidays,


And, because I couldn’t resist, here’s an excerpt from my post on April 15 in which I quote Dennis Kennedy:

In the inimitable words of Dennis Kennedy: “I have no doubt that Tom Mighell has mentioned many more new legal blogs than the number of blogs that have links back to his blog. He’s a saint I’m not quite that saintly.” Dennis makes this observation in the course of a post entitled “What are the Most Common Mistakes a New Legal Blogger Makes,” in which he reminds bloggers who are lucky enough to be mentioned by a more established blogger that they should not be delinquent in thanking the experienced blogger.


Gratitude on Thanksgiving Day

It’s good to have a day to remember the good in life. And, it’s even better when that day is a public holiday. As usual, we’ll be spending the day at the home of some dear friends who happen to be phenomenal cooks and generous hosts. In addition, they have a talent for gathering a congenial group around their table. As a result, we have a great deal to look forward to and be thankful for today.

Before heading downtown to eat, drink and make merry, I wanted to take a moment to thank all of the wonderful folks who read this blog from time to time. For those of you who have left comments or sent me e-mails about my posts — I give you my heartiest thanks. A big reason for this blog was that I wanted to be part of the larger conversation that’s going on about knowledge management, social media, law firms and life. Your comments help move that conversation forward in very interesting and rewarding directions. For those of you who have told me you read my blog, but haven’t yet left a comment, please accept my thanks and my invitation to you to join the conversation. Jump right in — the water is fine.

Have a great Thanksgiving!


The Power of Saying Thank You

Yesterday a colleague asked me to help him locate a particular sort of precedent that was not all that common. When I asked him about his time frame, his reply was “the usual.” (Based on prior experience, I knew that the best translation for that was “yesterday.”) After quickly reorganizing my schedule, I turned to his request only to discover that what he needed wasn’t easy to find. Consequently, I had to hunt for some reasonably similar agreements that could provide sufficient drafting guidance to help him create the required document efficiently. After some focused effort, I was able to send him a few options in relatively short order.

Today I received the following e-mail from him: “This was really incredibly helpful! Thanks again for the quick turn around.”

With those two brief sentences, he made a huge positive impact on my day.

So much of what we do in law firm knowledge management seems buried in the infrastructure. As long as the knowledge management system works, people often forget to thank us. Add to that the fact that the lawyer population is great at issue-spotting and quite confident in its ability to do your job better than you do, and you have a situation in which it can at times be a little disheartening to be a knowledge manager. Given this context, my colleague’s expression of thanks was doubly appreciated.

This is a small slice of my life, but others have had similar experiences. Seth Godin writes in his blog about the potential power of “honest recognition” for work well done as opposed to “mumbled thanks.” Even mighty Microsoft has a guide to gratitude entitled The Power of Saying Thank You. Add to that the following snippets from a Fortune article, “Why saying `Thank you’ is more than just good manners, reporting on a study of 200,000 managers and employees over a 10-year period that found that:

People will work harder and more enthusiastically for an appreciative boss, and companies that praise topnotch performance are more profitable than those that don’t.


It seems saying “thank you” is even more important in retaining people than paying them more money – and a pat on the back is free.

At the end of the day, remembering to say thank you helps make your organization a much more rewarding place in which to work. And, given the number of hours we spend at the office, who wouldn’t support that?


Gratitude on Tax Day

April 15 is the day we count our blessings and then give a cut to Uncle Sam. While the offering to Uncle Sam may be grudging, it is with absolute sincerity that I’d like to thank the folks who have helped launch my new blog.

First and foremost, Joy London, whose recommendation in excited utterances led to a remarkable spike in my readership. Thank you, Joy, for the graciousness and generosity of your recommendation. And thank you for the private encouragement you’ve given me as I start down this blogging path. You blazed a trail for the rest of us a long time ago and I’m grateful for your expertise and advice.

In the inimitable words of Dennis Kennedy: “I have no doubt that Tom Mighell has mentioned many more new legal blogs than the number of blogs that have links back to his blog. He’s a saint I’m not quite that saintly.” Dennis makes this observation in the course of a post entitled “What are the Most Common Mistakes a New Legal Blogger Makes,” in which he reminds bloggers who are lucky enough to be mentioned by a more established blogger that they should not be delinquent in thanking the experienced blogger. So, without further adieu,

Dear Tom Mighell and Kevin O’Keefe:

Thank you, Tom Mighell, for mentioning my neophyte efforts on your blog, Mighell’s Blawg of the Day. And thank you, Kevin O’Keefe, for picking up that citation and giving it more airtime on Real Lawyers Have Blogs. I very much appreciate the boost and look forward to joining in the growing conversation among blawggers that both of you clearly are trying to foster.