Author: Adam Severson, Chief Marketing & Business Development Officer, Baker Donelson | LSSO Editorial Board Member
The notion of being "crazy busy" is an awkward, unnecessary badge of honor in the legal industry. But it's unavoidable. There are so many competing demands, between RFPs and pitch prep, client events, credentialing submissions, press releases, client teams, client feedback interviews, firm strategy, practice group strategy… and the list goes on. Each of these growth drivers has a meeting, the meeting before the meeting, or series of monthly or quarterly meetings tied to it. And each has a variety of pieces and parts given the high volume associated with virtually any large law firm – 80+ RFP submissions, 100+ client events, 75+ press releases, 65+ credentialing submissions, 30+ client teams, 40+ client feedback interviews in the queue, etc.
Individually, each of these tasks is doable. Collectively, they are also doable, but daunting. Executing well on all the things, all the time requires a high functioning and motivated team. I'm so incredibly fortunate to have such a team at my firm, Baker Donelson. However, even the best teams need to refuel from time to time. Each year, I host a Marketing & Business Development Team Retreat. I use the word "retreat" loosely as it's a jammed packed agenda of ways we can move the firm forward, but it also includes ample time to enjoy one another's company and have some fun! I create a hashtag to serve as the theme for the program every year, with prior themes including #teamworkmakesthedreamwork, #workhardplayhard, and #sharingiscaring. I knew this year's theme had to address the elephant in the room: burnout.
I knew people were exhausted. While the saying goes, "it's a marathon, not a sprint," lately it has been feeling more like a sprinting marathon. It's important to listen to your colleagues as burnout can present itself in several ways.
I knew we needed to discuss these concerns openly and provide realistic ways to help people calibrate and feel more like they were in control. A good friend in a similar marketing leadership role connected me with Annick D'Pierre, senior director of account management at The Energy Project, which works with organizations to improve employee well-being, fuel engagement, and drive productivity.
I talked to Annick about what I was hearing, how I wanted to support my team, and whether her group could help. My concerns weren't new to Annick or The Energy Project, and I quickly gained a comfort level with her approach to problem solving and the way we could engage the team in a meaningful way.
The Energy Project looks at four dimensions of energy: physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual. During our retreat each person did an Energy Audit that asked a series of questions in each of these areas. This exercise shined a light on the issue (which I already knew was there), which then allowed us to work on a path forward. Our facilitator, Dr. Thurman Webb, masterfully discussed the behaviors that undermine our productivity and satisfaction as well as why we let them persist.
"This discussion frequently lets people know that they are in the driver's seat and empowers them to influence how they show up in all aspects of their lives," Annick said. A key element of the path forward is thinking about renewal (an intentional practice to refuel your energy), how you prioritize it, and the different types and timeframes of renewal from which you can benefit. We often spend our days expending energy on our continuous list of demands, without considering that the more intense the performance demand, the greater the need to regularly renew. The most sustainable formula consists of balancing energy out with energy in. My colleagues and I left that afternoon feeling more self-aware, empowered, and energized.
The theme was ultimately #bestversionofme. The workshop described above was the focal point of our time together. We also had each team member describe their own "Best Thing" from the prior year (personal or professional). One unintended benefit of these shared stories was that the process allowed folks to shine a light on a colleague or brag on something the team had accomplished. In nearly every circumstance, the thing wasn't easy; it was multi-faceted and challenging, which speaks to the drive of the group.
Following the retreat, I've noticed many team members being more intentional about their renewal time. In fact, I calendared renewal time for everyone to make sure we were "forced" to deliberately address renewal. With the team retreat in the rearview mirror, we're running fast again and juggling a long list of demands, but there's a greater sense of calm. I'm thankful to have listened and to have engaged The Energy Project, https://theenergyproject.com/, and am continually looking for opportunities to find renewal. You should make a concerted effort to do so too.