What are the best ways for women lawyers to build strategic relationships for career enhancement? In a new webinar, Sheila Murphy, a career coach to women lawyers, in collaboration with She Breaks the Law (SBTL) and Thomson Reuters Transforming Women’s Leadership in the Law offered her best advice to women lawyers on this crucial subject. Highlights of her discussion include:
- Align your network with your career goals — You must assess your external professional and personal network regularly to ensure that it supports your current goals and aspirations. If your network and career goals are in line, focus on maintaining and strengthening those relationships. If they are out of line, focus on broadening your network.
- Forge connections when researching potential career paths — In researching a career move, the best source of information is your direct network. When lacking connections in a potential career path, seek introduction to mutual contacts who are working in the role you desire. Attend events focused on that area or industry and ask people how they got started in that area.
- Be proactive in learning about critical stakeholders — When in a new role, new organization, or leading a change, you need to understand and develop relationships with your new key stakeholders to be effective and impactful. You must take the time to cultivate a relationship with the stakeholders and learn what is important to them and how they operate. It’s important to listen and be open-minded to successfully cultivating these connections.
In addition to these highlights, Murphy also reviews common scenarios curated from the SBTL community that demonstrate how to put her tips into practice.
You can register here for the upcoming webinar The Art of Asking Questions to Influence, featuring Sheila Murphy & SBTL, to be held on April 2.
Scenario 1: An experienced leader moves into a new role or organization with a hard transition. It’s difficult to make change because there is not enough buy-in. How should this leader influence these senior stakeholders so they will understand and support the change?
1. The first step in knowing what to do is to ask yourself, “Do I know my stakeholders? How do I relate to them?” If your answers are “no” and “I don’t know,” it’s time to engage these stakeholders through a listening tour, which is a series of one-on-meetings where you are asking them questions to collect information as well as their perspective on the planned change.
2. Next, prepare for the listening tour by researching your stakeholders. Find out everything you can by about them online and on social media, like LinkedIn. If you have common contacts on LinkedIn, seek your mutual contacts’ knowledge of the stakeholder.
3. During the listening tour, ask stakeholders open-ended questions that will allow you to customize your communication with them in the future, such as:
- What are their needs?
- What are they hoping for?
- What data do they prefer?
- What has been their past experience in this area?
- What could we do better?
- What should stay the same?
- What should we stop doing?
4. Find out who influences your stakeholders and pursue relationships with these influencers. When stakeholders see you interacting with someone that influences them, that is likely to increase their buy-in.
5. Be prepared to re-engage multiple times. Relationship-buildings occurs over multiple conversations. The first meeting is the beginning, and the relationship is not built overnight. When something goes wrong or happens in a way you did not like, approach the stakeholders honestly and with the data they prefer.
Scenario 2: A busy female leader leads a team and has strong internal network. She also has a robust network of friends from the university and some of the other moms from her children’s schools. Should she expand her network? What is the benefit?
1. First and foremost, every person should be investing in their external network consistently. For example, Murphy recalled recent conversations with her women clients who had found themselves with a long road ahead during their career transitions because they did not keep up with their external network.
2. Also, you want to make sure that your network is aligned with your career goals and where you are today. If you have moved up the ladder or have switched career paths, assess your network to make sure it is still in line with your new goals and can be an asset in your continued career growth.
3. Analyze the breadth of your network and expand it to increase the number of connections. Most of your career opportunities come from shallow connections, not necessarily those with which you have a deep relationship. A large breadth of professional relationships is particularly important during a career transition.
4. In addition, develop a plan for strengthening or maintaining these relationships. Using LinkedIn for posting, liking, and commenting on your connections’ posts is a great way to maintain connections and keep your name in front of them.
Scenario 3: You are a leader who is seeing many roles develop in the field of legal operations and are wondering how others got into this. How can you explore this path as a potential career area?
1. First, reach out to those connections in your network who are in a legal operations role and try to schedule an informal virtual coffee to learn about what a day looks like for them, and how they made the transition from practicing law to a role in legal operations.
2. If you do not know anyone personally, then look at your connections on LinkedIn to see which of them may know others in legal operations. Ask your contact for an introduction to their connections in legal operations. After the introduction, schedule a virtual coffee with your new connection in legal operations.
3. During the meeting with the new connection, ask them a lot of questions about their journey, why they did it, and what it was like. People like talking about themselves, and it will likely give you some good information.
4. Engage in social media, especially on Twitter, where there are people in legal ops. Follow them and start to respond to their posts. Murphy says she has gotten some of her biggest advocates from her Twitter relationships.
You can view the full webinar below: