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Neels & Company - Strategic Business Communication
Trusted Advisor
Gretchen Neels
Gretchen Neels, President, Neels & Company

Dear Trusted Advisor

I'm getting a number of invitations on social networking sites from people I either don't know well, don't know at all, or have no desire to "network" with. Should I ignore the requests, turn them down, or just go ahead and accept?
M.K., Philadelphia, PA

Dear M.K.:
You won't be surprised to learn that I think all this social networking "activity" is just a distraction from building real professional relationships, which requires far more effort than simply sending "invitations to join my network." It's time for you to establish your personal policy, such as only accepting invites from people you know personally, or have actually met, or whose work you can vouch for, etc., and then stick to your rules.



In addition to our programs on Business and Dining Etiquette, Emotional Intelligence, and Communicating with Power & Influence, your Summer Associates will benefit from learning how to improve their listening skills with our Active Listening program. Give us a call for more details at 800-975-7031 ext. 701.

When asked last month about appropriate dress for associates, Gretchen was quoted in the Wall Street Journal as saying, "If they want you to dress up like Big Bird every day, for $160,000 a year, just do it!" Does your firm need some no nonsense advice about dress codes, hiring strategies, and compensation plans? Here's that number again:
800-975-7031 ext. 701.

Core Competencies for Non-lawyers is a new professional training offering through our partner, WestLegalEdcenter, designed for legal secretaries, paralegals, and administrative staff. This four-part series will cover appropriate dress, connecting with internal clients, effective meetings and improving communication. Look for it in late April 2009.


If you don't love it, lose it

After the bloodletting of the last six months in finance, banking and law, industry leaders are asking what steps they should take to ensure their firms emerge from the wreckage cleaner, leaner and with the renewed energy necessary to face the next few years. It's going to be a bumpy ride, without question. Below are a few suggestions I've made to clients who realize that now's the time for brains and courage:

  1. Don't look to return to "business as usual." The biggest mistake a firm can make now is to assume that they can return to doing business the same old way. The New Economy is going to require all hands on deck – meaning everyone will need to cultivate business relationships, bring in new clients and potentially stand on their heads and spit out nickels to keep them happy. Superior customer service will separate the winners from the losers during this transition. Ask yourself if your people have the relationship building skills needed for success.

  2. See the opportunities for change. Think about all the policies and projects you had underway that just aren't working. Maybe it's the Women's Initiative that never quite got off the ground, or perhaps that compensation plan from the 1980s needs revamping. What better time to consider new and innovative processes and systems to make your organization the industry leader it was supposed to be? Brainstorm with your team in a "no criticism" zone for ideas on what could be. Have everyone come up with three new ideas and discuss them respectfully with a spirit of collaboration.

  3. Review and renew policies. Once you've identified those systems that need to be updated, abandoned, or started from scratch, screw up your courage and make it happen. Last month I wrote about cleaning out one's closet. This is the same thing, just a bigger project with the potential for extraordinary results. If you find yourself saying, "This is the way we've always done things," call me.

  4. Treat your employees like gold. Those left as the dust settles are feeling the pain of seeing co-workers leave and wondering when they might be next. Communication is critical at this time, so share information with your staff as often as possible, being as transparent as you can. If you've lost lots of people, your present employees will be asked to do more with less, so balance that with some TLC, such as more feedback, more training, and more opportunities for those who excel.

  5. Hire new talent now. Strong performers are out there, ready to contribute immediately. Since few people have the foresight to add to their ranks now, you'll have your pick of the some of the best and brightest. If your firm is solid, you'll be an employer of choice.

Given the drama that has unfolded since October, it's no time to think back to the good old days. Instead, visualize what you want your organization to look like in 2010 and beyond, and take the next 12 months to put policies in place that will make your firm a greater service provider and an outstanding place to work.

© 2009 Neels & Company, Inc. - All Rights Reserved

We are the leading provider of soft skills training to professional services firms, covering all areas of business communication.

Neels & Company, Inc. – Strategic Business Communication
P. O. Box 623, Boston, MA 02117
800-975-7031 ext. 701
general inquiries:


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