Next year, my first born enters kindergarten. After a pretty cushy five years of being cared for by family, playing in nursery school, and preparing in pre-K, he's ready for it. As the fact that time is racing by slowly seeps in, I find myself reminiscing about my own kindergarten experience and excitedly preparing to help him learn all the important life lessons that one does in their first official year of school.
Early this morning, while filling out even more paperwork for kindergarten registration, my mind was racing through the work day ahead and all I needed to accomplish. Meetings, professional development coaching, technology projects, and marketing plans were running their course through my brain. And then something funny struck me. The concepts I expect my children to learn in school are largely similar to things my colleagues and I tell our staff, peers, and attorneys day in and day out about marketing and client development. The more I thought about it, the more I realized the notions expressed in the poem, “All I Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten,” ring true in my career:
1) Be open and share everything. Don't assume your colleague down the hall knows what you are working on. Collaborate. Be transparent. Internal networking is just as important as fostering your relationships outside your firm. The more you are open to partnership, the more people will want to partner with you. More importantly, because of your collaborative approach, they are more likely to want to support you and your ideas.
2) Don't forget to play fair. Build and sustain a reputation for being above the line in everything you do. Your reputation will follow you (or even precede you) wherever you go. Always act with integrity.
3) Learn from your peers (see above re: sharing.), but don't take things that aren't yours. Tailor your approach to highlight your strengths and don't try to imitate what others may be doing. Those of us active in the Legal Marketing Association can attest to the power of collaboration.
4) Cookies and milk are good for you. Who doesn't appreciate getting out of the office for a drink or a meal and meeting in a relaxed environment? When you share a meal with someone, you get to know them personally. You find out how to approach them and what’s really on their mind. When you ask questions - listen. Don't focus on the next thing you want to say or what you can get out of the person across the table. Engage and be present.
5) “Some people know everything, but that is all they know.” I heard this quoted by my father many times when I was growing up. The meaning is simple: the key to life is knowing when to be quiet and learn some and think some. Reflect on what people say. Know when to admit you don't know something, and ask for information.
6) Hold hands and stick together. We are in the business of building relationships. A strong professional relationship is built just like any other: by being consistent and reliable. Share an interesting article you thought would be of value to your contact; reach out in recognition of an achievement; touch base regularly to keep the conversation going.
7) Last but certainly not least, be aware of wonder. Be innovative. Innovation is done best when groups work together to identify a problem and new and different ways to approach a solution. Take a holistic approach and gather insights from those who came before you.
It's funny to think how the simplest life lessons carry through from childhood. But, like your teachers always said...you'll use this someday!