Ben & Jerrys renamed their Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough to “I Dough, I Dough” in their Scoop Shops.
Starting with the tragic attack by a white supremacist at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina on June 17, the last two weeks have been an historic and hyper-speed ride through some of our country’s most controversial issues, from race relations to gun control to same-sex marriage to Mexican immigration.
Perhaps the most striking aspect of the confluence of events and discussions surrounding these issues has been the quick and decisive responses from corporate America. In years past, any responses would have been muted and delayed. However, the nearly immediate, high-level calls to take the Confederate battle flag down from the South Carolina capitol grounds following the shootings quickly led to Amazon, eBay, Sears and Walmart pulling all Confederate merchandise from their shelves. A few days later, the Supreme Court’s decision legalizing gay marriage throughout the U.S. was quickly followed by universal acclaim from dozens of corporate brands ranging from Absolut, American Airlines and AT&T to The Weather Channel, Visa and Walgreens.
And the decisions by NBCUniversal and Univision to sever ties with Donald Trump over his derogatory comments about Mexican immigrants were strong statements that likely would not have been made just a few years ago. All together, recent events have sent the undeniable message that social change is happening very quickly these days. In fact, I would suggest that it’s happening faster now than at any time since the 1960s.
But how do these social changes affect you – the lawyer, the accountant or other professional – and what relevance could the rate of social change in this country have to your firm’s branding and marketing?
A few weeks ago, the Pew Research Center released the results of yet another survey evaluating the reputation of lawyers in the world at large. Unfortunately — and perhaps not surprisingly — it’s more bad news for members of the legal profession.
In fact, the survey, which asked how significantly each of ten occupations contributed to the well being of society, found that lawyers came in last place, right after business executives. Just 18% of respondents indicated that attorneys contribute “a lot” to society’s well being.
Interestingly, looking back to 2009, the last time this survey was taken, lawyers had been up a notch, in ninth place, but they flipped places with business executives this year. Perhaps this is an indication that the Great Recession has faded into history and business executives are on the rebound? Whatever the reason, lawyers slipped a spot just in the last four years.
It seems that a week doesn’t go by that I’m not urging an attorney that they should let their hair down a bit in their online and offline communications. Show some personality. Demonstrate that they have a sense of humor and that they’re not too full of themselves. Or as I sometimes put it, allow yourself to be human.
Why do I feel so strongly about this? Because the world is filled with far too many attorneys who are afraid to pull back the professional curtain or take off the all-business mask. And it’s hurting them – even if they don’t know it. It’s hurting them because it violates the time-tested troika of business development success: People do business with those they Know, Like and Trust. And yes, that’s true even when it comes to hiring lawyers. Note that “Like” is the bridge to get prospective clients from “Know” to “Trust.” And if you don’t think this applies to attorneys, consider this age-old axiom: “People hire lawyers, not law firms.” Is that true in every case? No, but it’s certainly an important – and neglected – bit of wisdom.
One very well known individual who has difficulty talking about himself is a non-practicing attorney named Mitt Romney. He just had a bit of a coming-out party down in Tampa. The lead-up to Romney’s acceptance speech – and one of the main goals for the Republican National Convention – was that Romney and various family members and friends were going to showcase his character, his personality and his private side that thus far he had been unwilling to share. Republican pollsters were very concerned because Romney’s likeabiity factor was far below Obama’s. And as any politico can tell you, that matters a lot on Election Day.
Why is this important to you? Because you have your own Election Day every time that you meet with a prospective client. And because the unwillingness or inability to talk about oneself in a personal or humble or compelling way is epidemic among attorneys all across this great land of ours – and it’s hurting their careers, just as the political pollsters have found that it’s hurt Romney thus far in the presidential race.
“Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio?
A nation turns its lonely eyes to you.”
~ Simon & Garfunkel
What would you like people to say about you when you retire? Here’s the test to see if you’re on the right track: Would they say all those nice things about you today? If so, relax: You’re doing well. If not, you need to get busy making whatever behavioral changes are necessary before you plan your retirement party.
Just a few days ago, on June 26, Joe Sakic was selected to the Hockey Hall of Fame. This honor was no surprise to any hockey fan, as the former Colorado Avalanche forward ranks ninth on the list of players who have scored the most regular-season points (goals and assists) in NHL history.
Additionally, Sakic was one of the best clutch players of all time. As proof of that, he holds the NHL record for the most overtime goals in the playoffs, with eight. These goals – and Sakic’s leadership as the team’s captain – helped the Avalanche win two Stanley Cups, in 1996 and 2001. (Having the unflappable Patrick Roy in goal and the dangerous Peter Forsberg on the second line also helped immeasurably, of course, but our focus here is on the team’s captain, who tirelessly worked to bring all the pieces of the Avalanche together into a cohesive, successful whole.)
For those of us who felt we knew Sakic – even if only from news stories – we always knew that there was much more than “just” his 625 career NHL goals that made him so special.
Indeed, there was the man behind the scoring machine. When Joe Sakic said, “I never grew up wanting to be in the spotlight, I just wanted to be a hockey player,” you believed him. Of course, nobody makes it into the Hall of Fame without being competitive, so you also believed ESPN hockey analyst Darren Pang, when he said of Sakic, “He’s one of the most likeable athletes of our generation, but when he gets on the ice, he wants to win.”
The words of no-nonsense Denver Post hockey reporter Adrian Dater are also meaningful. Earlier this week, Dater wrote, “I’ve known Sakic for 17 years now myself, and it’ll always be a great privilege to say I covered his best years as a player. Just to say I know the guy is a great privilege.” I would guess that in two decades of sports reporting, Dater has rarely said that about an athlete.
In this age where even high school star athletes all too often act like they’re entitled, “Super Joe” provides four great lessons for everyone in how a leader can be a true superstar: