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Melissa Shanahan

#147: How to Be the Best Steward of Your Business

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Being in the thick of strategic planning retreats at the turn of the quarter always brings up ideas and realizations that are going to be so valuable for all of you. Today, Melissa shares a lesson that came out of her review of Q1 2022, and it’s all about delegation.

I have a client who is struggling with the idea of delegating in her practice. She was thinking, “I’m not succeeding if I ask for help.” Now, if you’ve had this thought yourself, you’re definitely not alone, and you’re also not correct. This comes up with clients all the time, and there are so much more helpful ways to look at it.

Tune in this week to discover some of the most unhelpful thoughts we have about our role as a steward of our firm. Melissa shares how we make decisions about our firm through a lens of being the life support our firm needs to survive, and instead how you can flip the script and see how looking towards delegation is not a symbol of failure, but a foundation for future success.

Show Notes:

What You’ll Discover:

Why Melissa don’t think of delegation as asking for help, and neither should you.

How to view your firm as its own living, breathing entity.

Why, even as the owner, you’re not here to give 100% of your time and resources to your firm.

What it really means to be a good steward of your business.

How to embrace delegation and spread responsibility for the success of your firm.

Featured on the Show:

Create space, mindset, and concrete plans for growth. Start here: Velocity Work Monday Map.

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Full Episode Transcript:

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I’m Melissa Shanahan, and this is the Velocity Work podcastepisode number 147.

This podcast is for attorneys who are running their own firms. Weexplore tactics, tools, and stories related to pushing tasks and simplylawyering well and into building a successful firm. Working in your firm andworking on your business are two very different things. This podcast focuses onthe latter.

Hi guys. Welcome back to this week's episode. I am thrilled to behere with you. I have been in the thick of it with strategic planning retreats.So I do it for mastery group. I do it for private clients. I do it for Circle,which is a beta program that I'm running. It's been remarkable. This is just myfavorite thing. It's when I really get to partner with law firm owners.

What I mean by partner is that I have the opportunity to reallydig in with them on their businesses. So like, for instance, with the group, Iam not digging in just with one client, right. But what I am doing is theybring their questions. Like I am facilitating them through workbook, promptsand questions, prep, and then really getting into it and doing some math tofigure out projections and helping them align their priorities and etc., etc.

So as we're doing this, they have questions. Then I have questionsbecause I want to make sure I help them the best way. So then I'll dig infurther with my questions. Then we finally get to it, and it's like, oh. Theyrealize their answer. That is the best. So I get to do that with anyone whospeaks up and want some help.

In master group, they have the chance to come to office hoursafter that strategic planning session so that we can really make sure that theyfeel firm on their plans and tie it up with a bow. With private clients, I justget to dig straight in with them. We get everything knocked out in a day or twodepending on their retreat type. Then they could go do it, start executing. Soit's much more clearly individual.

But being in the thick of things with retreats at the turn of thequarter, I always get ideas that I want to share with you guys. I always haverealizations that I want to share with you guys. So that's exactly what todayis going to be. Today I'm going to share with you a realization or lessonlearned that came out of Q1.

So as we review quarter one, and we're planning for quarter two,we extract lessons. We talk about realizations that have been had,accomplishments, etc. One of the things that came out of that section of theworkbook with this private client, it was their operations lead had said, “Youknow, I just am having a really hard time with delegation.” Says everybody everalways, right. But she said, “I'm having a really hard time with delegation.”

Her sentence was, “I am not succeeding if I have to ask for help.Or I'm not succeeding if I ask for help.” What we dug into and realized wasthere's so many things wrong with the way that she had currently been or up tothat point viewing delegation. Delegation isn't asking for help. Delegation istransferring responsibility.

The sooner that you can get that, I'm talking to all of youlisteners. The sooner that you can start to think of that as the definition ofdelegation, you set yourself up for success. Because it's not you getting helpwith things, it's you transferring responsibility. The more you can do that,the better off you are, the faster you can run, right, towards building thefirm of your dreams.

Now, here's the thing. I talk a lot about this with my clients,and I have talked about it certainly here on the podcast. It is most helpful ifyou view your firm as its own entity. Like living, breathing entity that youmust take care of. But the way to not do that is to hook up an IV from your armto the entity. So that it's like the entity can survive as long as it's hookedup to your arm. That's not the way to think about this. Yet most of the time,that is how people are doing it, even unconsciously, but that's what'shappening. The firm does not exist without being hooked up to them as the owner.

As you grow, there are certain team members that will take this onas well. So team leaders or people who have a lot of responsibility within thefirm, they will start to think of it like that. The more that you, not just youas the owner but you as a firm, can have respect for the entity, this livingbreathing entity, and make it so that it can thrive as much as possible on itsown.

Now another way to talk about this but using different languagethat I also say a lot to clients is that it's important to be a good steward ofyour firm. It's important to be a good steward of the business. The more thatyou step into that and the more than you align yourself to be a good steward ofthe business, the healthier the business will be.

Now, let's think for a moment about the woman that I was sharingwith you in the private client retreat who had said I am not succeeding if Iask for help. That is one way to look at it. That is not, even though shewasn't meaning to by any stretch. She's so loyal to the business, but that'snot really being a good steward of the business.

What would be a good steward of the business is transferringresponsibility so that she can take on more, and that she could do more, bemore for the firm. So that she could be an even better steward of the firm,right? Take care of the firm in the ways it should be taken care of, notholding on to things because she knows she'll do it right.

So when she flipped her script to, which this is so great, and ifany of you need to hear this and you need to remind yourself of thisconsistently, borrow what she came up with. What she came up with that she hasto remind herself of daily is, “I am succeeding if I transfer responsibility.” That'sbeautiful, and that's true. You could also say, “I am being a good steward ofthe business when I transfer responsibility.”

Transfer doesn't mean just hand it over, right? Like there is away to delegate. We all know that you have to delegate responsibly. You can'tjust throw things at someone and expect it to be great. But if you do delegate well,that means you are transferring ownership over those responsibilities. You aresucceeding if you can do that. That is being a good steward of the business.That is everything.

But so often, we tend to have these views of delegation and whatit means to delegate, and oh, I'm not ready to delegate that yet. Or, you know,I don't have time to delegate that. Or if I ask for help, that means I'm afailure. If I have to ask for help, that means I'm not succeeding. They're notgoing to do it as well as I'm going to do it.

Those kinds of things. It's like all these different thoughts thatwe have around delegation, all these different angles that we come from when itcomes to delegation, and why we don't do it or why we delay it. We need tothrow it out the window. It doesn't serve anything. If you want to be a goodsteward of your business, you need to delegate. If you want to be a goodsteward of the business, you need to transfer ownership over certainresponsibilities. You need to keep doing that and you need to keep doing that andyou need to keep doing that.

Because the more that you transfer ownership to the care of someoneelse, the better and healthier the business will be. It will be spread, thatresponsibility will be spread among people, instead of it all falling on you.

You know, every single person I work with, we have the ability tolaugh together and to laugh at, you know, ourselves. That's true with privateclients. That's true with all of the members that I work with. So in themastery group strategic planning retreat, there is a guy who I adore. He has acriminal law practice. His wife has recently started working with him, and theyhaven't made their first hire. So there is two of them in the business, right.

His business grew quite a bit last year. So he is behind. Heneeded this person like six months ago, and this is where we start to laugh atourselves. So many of you will relate to this. But he hasn't done it because hekeeps thinking that he's going to get really organized with certain things thatthat person will be handling before that person is hired. He wants them to walkinto a very clean situation. So he's put it off and put it off and put it offbecause he hasn't had the time or the bandwidth to really get things organizedin a way that he feels okay about before he hires this person.

I've been telling him all along the way, but now other membershave piped up and said, “Oh, I've had this experience. Here's the way to go.” Ihave been saying to him you do not need to create this perfect scenario forthis new hire to walk into. Use them to help you get really organized anddocument your systems and processes when they come in.

Leverage them to be helpful there, to create Loom videos. Maybeyou create a Loom video for certain things to show her. That goes in an SOP, right?Like there's a way to partner up with her to create the systems and processesand to map those out. Get the help. Just get the freaking help.

So I have been harping on him for this, and we laugh togetherabout it because he stubborn with it, but now he is at his wit's end. He'slike, “Oh my gosh, I need someone so bad. I just am done. I have to hire thisperson.” So he's actively hiring this person.

In this strategic planning retreat, he's had one of his rocks,like quarterly priorities, was to come up with five things he can delegate tothis new person. What was fascinating about that is that I realized in thatmoment, he doesn't have experience delegating very much, right.

Maybe some to his wife, who has stepped in to take over somethings, and that's been super helpful for him, but that's different becauseit's his wife. So it's kind of like here, here. Here's how you do this. Can yougo at it? Right? I think that she's really stepped in and made a big differencein his world, but it's different to him than actually delegating to anemployee.

So I realized at that moment, oh my gosh, he thinks it's gonnatake him all quarter to come up with five things that he could delegate. I saidoh my gosh, and we laugh together about it. I said you could think of that in thenext six minutes. Like let's do it. I'm gonna go on to this next person. Havefive things down on your paper you could delegate.

He struggled with that a bit. We all supported him. The memberswere like, “Okay, wait a minute. What about X? What about Y? What about Z? Whatabout taking some things off of your wife's plate so that that frees her up todo better things, which means it'll free you up to do bigger things.” So justthat conversation was super helpful for him.

I was just watching everybody come together around this andhelping someone start to shift their brain into delegation mode. Me, sittingfrom the vantage point that I am looking at this group, and watching them worktogether and come together to brainstorm for a few minutes that was so helpfulfor him.

I just realized, wow. You know, we are all on our own journeyswith the topic of delegation, but I really do think it's important for all ofus to almost get rid of the word delegation. It's so hyped up overplayed. Youcan find so many articles. Some helpful, some not about delegation, but if yourmindset is to use the terminology transferring responsibility instead ofdelegation, you will be more effective with it. You will move faster with it,and you will do a better job with it.

So my whole point here in today's podcast is when you think ofdelegation, it's not help. It is transferring ownership of responsibilities. Itis transferring responsibility to another person, and that is a beautifulthing. That is what provides yes freedom, but the reason it provides freedom isbecause it creates a healthier business.

Get the IV out of your arm from your business, and start to lookat your business as this living, breathing entity that needs to grow and needsto be given the right things in order to grow. That is important. All right everybody.I hope this was helpful in thinking about delegation, reframing how you thinkabout delegation. Remember, you are succeeding if you transfer responsibility.That is success, my friends. So go do that. I'll see you next Tuesday.

Hey, you may not know this, but there's a free guide for a processthat I teach called Monday Map, Friday Wrap. If you go to,it's all yours. It's about how to plan your time and honor your plans, so thatweek over week, more work that moves the needle is getting done in less time.Go to to get your free copy.

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