LegalJob has repeatedly emphasized the importance of having an other-person centric mentality to help one achieve success. For example, superstar associates focus on addressing the client’s and partner’s needs, wants, quirks, and preferences. They are able to put themselves in the mind of the clients and the partners because they are constantly asking them what they want or learning what they are thinking about.
Consider how one can maximize being of service in the simple example of serving iced teas.
People have many different preferences when it comes to iced teas such that it behooves the waiter or waitress to ask about and understand these preferences rather than making dangerous assumptions. There are many opportunities to be of service here and just as many chances to foot fault. Consider the following example:
Rookie: Can I get you something to drink?
LegalJob: Yes, I would like an iced tea with plenty of ice please. And I will be looking for refills often just to give you the heads up.
Rookie: Sweet or unsweet?
LegalJob: Unsweet please.
Rookie comes back with two iced teas with modest amounts of ice in each glass. Also, in each glass were the dreaded spoon and a lemon. To add insult to injury, rookie also brings an extra cup with just ice.
Rookie: I brought you an extra iced tea.
LegalJob: Oh ok, thanks.
LegalJob’s expectations were not met and this interaction soured LegalJob’s experience notwithstanding good service for the remainder of the meal. So what went wrong here? Well, picky LegalJob certainly could have been clearer and provided more direction up front. But chances are the partner and the client will also leave out crucial details.
The rookie made too many assumptions and did not ask enough questions. She asked the perfunctory question of sweet or unsweet but then stopped. She may not have been familiar with the concept that understanding expectations is a big part of meeting them. She wrongly presumed LegalJob wanted a lemon and worse a lemon in the iced tea not even on the side of the glass. Next, she mistakenly presumed LegalJob would want to endure the hassle and mess of pouring the warm iced tea into the ice glass. Lastly, she incorrectly presumed LegalJob would want the extra iced tea sitting on the table while its precious few ice cubes melted away. Was that last miscalculation to save her a trip or to accommodate LegalJob?
The superstar server would likely have handled this project differently. She would have asked upfront enough questions to ensure that LegalJob’s quirks were met. Do you prefer a lemon? Are you interested in separate cup of ice? Would it be desirable to have a second glass of melting iced tea on the table while you drink the first one? A few more questions and another minute of time could have made all the difference. How many servers would ask all of those questions? Probably not many but you remember the ones that do. And they would likely receive significant praises and larger gratuities for a job well done.
Similarly, you want partners and clients to think of you as someone who is mindful of preferences while getting the job done. Take the completion of projects as one example. The first step toward this goal as demonstrated above is to understand what is expected. That understanding should cover the substance of the project and your specific mission as well as how the partner or client prefers you to communicate the results of your work. Does he or she want a detailed memorandum, and if so, can you review one previously prepared for that person so you can get a sense of his or her various stylistic preferences? Also, before you finalize the project, does he or she prefer you touch base with your preliminary conclusions or earlier to confirm you are on the right track? Mindfulness of these preferences will serve as a strong compliment to your intellect and technical competency and help ensure that you are at least one of the go to associates.
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