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Melissa Shanahan

#212: The Engagement Scale: Identifying the Next Right Step

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How do you rate yourself when it comes to the results you’re trying to create? You might rate how well you did something or the level of success you managed to achieve. There’s absolutely a time and place for that, however, there’s also a more fruitful way to get better results.

This week, Melissa is introducing you to a concept she uses often in her world called the Engagement Scale. If you’re a long-time listener of the show, you’ll know Melissa is all about progress, not perfection. And this tool is what will help you tap into what progress actually looks like and figure out the next thing you need to adopt to rate yourself a notch or two higher in getting the results you want.

Tune in today to discover what the engagement scale exercise looks like in action, and why it allows you to take sustainable action and make progress. You’ll hear why shooting for a 10 on the engagement scale isn’t an effective strategy, and powerful questions to ask yourself that will force your brain to serve up the next right steps.

If you're a law firm owner who's thirsty for figuring out exactly what you're aiming for and making a really well thought out, deliberate strategic plan to get there, and then having accountability and coaching along the way so that you can really honor your plans, then join us in Mastery Group.

Show Notes:

What You’ll Discover:

• Why the engagement scale is a more fruitful way to rate your success.

• Questions to ask yourself to practice the engagement scale.

• How moving up the scale slowly helps you take sustainable action.

• Why shooting for a 10 on the engagement scale isn’t an effective strategy.

• How you can implement the engagement scale in all areas of your life.

• Why brutal honesty is required when you adopt the engagement scale.

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Full Episode Transcript:

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I’m Melissa Shanahan, and this is The Law Firm Owner Podcast Episode #212.

Welcome to The Law Firm Owner Podcast powered by Velocity Work for owners who want to grow a firm that gives them the life they want. Get crystal clear on where you're going. Take planning seriously and honor your plan like a pro. This is the work that creates Velocity.

Hello, welcome to this week's episode. I cannot believe that when this is airing, we will be through Q2 and at the very beginning of Q3. Fresh start. This is the back half of the year, back half of 2023, and such a great time to get intentional, be intentional, start out on the right foot.

I hope that you've done that for yourself, and you've given yourself the opportunity to do so. People who are in my world, my clients and members, they are set to go, and it feels really good.

All right, today, I'm going to talk to you about something that I use a lot in my world, called an “engagement scale”. Now, oftentimes, when we are rating ourselves on something, we will rate ourselves on how well we did, and what the success of it was. There's a time and a place for that, I think that's great.

But what I find much more fruitful is to rate myself in terms of engagement. I have people do this, and it's very telling and more insightful into what their next steps should be. So, for example, take anything that you wish you were getting a different result in than what you currently are.

I teach something called the “results cycle”, and that's a deep dive. A very forensic look at what is going on, how are you contributing to the results that you are getting, or are not getting. and you can use it as a tool to get certain future results.

Now, it's a wonderful tool. However, what I'm going to share with you today, is a little bit of a shortcut into how you can get a better result for yourself. Now, I want everybody who's listening to this to come up with something in their mind that they wish they had a different result than what they currently have. This could be work related, it could be in your personal life, health, a relationship, anything.

Once you have it in your mind, that result that you wish you had, I want you to ask yourself: How engaged am I am getting this result? Do it on a scale of 1-10. Ten is, being you are so engaged there is no room for improvement. And zero is, you're clueless.

I want you to rate yourself, on a scale of 1-10, on how engaged are you in going after that thing and getting that result for yourself. Now, wherever you landed on the scale, let's just say you gave it a 6. Here's the thing, we automatically think we should be a 10. What can I do to get myself to a 10? A 10 is actually not what we should be shooting for.

If we're trying to play the long game, anytime someone goes from an unideal state in terms of engagement, all the way to a 10, and that's what they shoot for, this is when you get the flame up-flame out. You get the intensity of all this effort and focus, but you can't hold it. It's not sustainable. It's not the way you roll.

And quite frankly, you don't need to be a 10 to get amazing results with whatever it is you're focused on. So, the question becomes: What would make it so that I could actually write myself a 7 or an 8, instead of a 6? What would have to be true in order to rate myself a 7? The whole idea here is asking questions that will force your brain to serve up the next right action for yourself.

What happens is, because it's something smaller, it's lighter weight, but it's not lighter impact, than thinking that we need to do what it takes to get ourselves to a 10. So, it’s about moving up the scale. And through moving up the scale, not only are you taking action in a more sustainable way, but you're also making progress. Which you haven't been doing for a while, or at least haven't been doing to the level you want to.

Most of the time, when I talk to people and from my own experience, it's human nature. We tend to really go at something, and then for whatever reason we back off. And then we really go at something, and then we back off. The lack of consistency is the problem.

People don't want to think small enough, in terms of the steps they need to take, so that they can stay very consistent. The engagement scale, I have found, is a very useful tool to figure out what is the next thing that you need to adopt. That needs to be true in order for you to rate yourself just a notch or two higher on the scale; not a 10.

We don't want to flame up-flame out. We could do that enough on our own. We just want to know what it takes to go up the scale. And then, you can reevaluate and ask yourself the question the next month, or the next quarter. Determine your new rating… And maybe you still consider it a 6, but the truth is you've made more progress. So, there's that.

But again, always asking: What would it take for me to be able to rate myself just a notch higher on this engagement scale? How can I be the next level more engaged? And if you keep moving in that direction, you will experience what it feels like to have a compounding effect on your actions, the way that you operate, all of that. Which means your results will be there, and you will compound your results as well, over time.

So, this scale is something that I use a lot in my head. I think about a lot, in my head. And at least once a year, but oftentimes more than that. I will rate myself in terms of satisfaction in my personal life and in work life. In personal life, I'll rate myself in terms of satisfaction. Which are categories like; my attitude or perspective, my relationships, my health and wellness, how much I'm enjoying life, my physical space and environment, my professional life just as a whole, and wealth creation, basically.

I will rate myself in terms of satisfaction. And wherever I am rating myself lower than the rest is usually where I go. that's usually where my brain wants to make improvement, wants to bring it up. then I will ask, “Okay, in those categories that I'm not so pumped about, I don't feel as satisfied, how would I rate my engagement in those areas?”

And so, let's say it's with health and wellness, or relationships. I will ask, “How would I rate myself in terms of engagement?” Let's say I landed a 6, or 5. I'll say, “Okay, what is just one thing that I could do, that would have me consider myself at actually a 7?”

Whatever comes to mind, those are the things I need to do, I have to focus on, and I cut everything else out. You have to constrain down to what answers your brain came up with when you asked high-quality questions, when you run it through a high-quality exercise. And so then, everything else off the table.

Because oftentimes, what I will notice, is that it feels too insignificant. What my brain comes up with feels too small. Look at my bank account balances every day. For example, if I was trying to improve results with wealth creation. That feels too small. But if I did look at my bank account balances every day, I would be able to rate myself higher in terms of engagement.

Those small actions are the very thing that will lead to more of what you want. So, most of the time, when we think of solutions for trying to get the results we want, we take these big swings, and that's the problem. You've heard me say, time and time again, on this podcast, “Turtle steps for the win.” God, that's true. It's so true. Consistency matters more than anything else.

So, whatever answers your brain comes up with it for, what would it take for you to rate yourself just a notch higher on the engagement scale? Focus on that. Don't focus on anything else. Don't think it's not enough. Don't have opinions about it. Just do it.

Robotically do it, without thinking that you're missing out on bigger action, or you should be taking bigger swings, or it's not going to happen fast enough. Just quiet all of the noise in your brain and do the thing that you said would take you up a notch on the engagement scale.

I do the same thing for my personal life. The categories that I choose to rate myself in terms of satisfaction are the following. There's a caveat here though, but I'll read you the ones that I typically do.

On the business vs. in the business time. Inputs vs. outputs; basically, how much I'm consuming versus how much I'm creating and pushing out into the world. Time management, planning ahead, following through on plans, leadership, and firm finances. Those are the things that I typically will rate myself on when I'm doing this exercise.

I start with rating myself in terms of satisfaction with each of those areas. And the caveat here is, if I'm dealing with something that's a category that I don't have listed, I will add one. I will add something that maybe rounds out in a way that these don't. But these are the basic stuff that I always rate on. So then, when I look at these, my ratings here, whatever I've scored myself the lowest in terms of satisfaction, those are the areas that I follow up with, “Okay, what would I rate myself in terms of engagement in this area?”

It's really important to be brutally honest. I should have said that earlier in the podcast. You have to be so honest about this, when you're thinking about engagement. Because it's easy for us to have excuses or justify and sort of think that we're ahead of the game. “We are doing better, but we're just not seeing the results.” You’ve got to be so honest. And sometimes that's easier than other times, I will say that.

But wherever you fall, wherever you rate yourself on those areas that you've chosen to rate engagement, then wherever you landed on those, the next question for each category that you decided to rate yourself in terms of engagement, you want to ask: Okay, if I'd like to get better results, I want to write down just 2 or 3 things that would take me up a notch. Maybe 2 notches, but just a notch on the engagement scale.

I think of these as strategies. I say 2 to 3; at minimum, it's one thing. So, 1 to 3 strategies that will take me up the engagement scale, where I would be able to rate myself higher. And those strategies are the only thing, when it comes to self-development and improving habits and going after things. Those are the things that matter. I've just written them down.

I have said, “If I did these things, I would be able to rate myself, in terms of engagement, higher.” And the truth is, if you rate yourself in terms of engagement higher, you're going to be getting more of the results that you want to get. This is about progress, not perfection. And this helps us tap into what does progress look like.

Because we typically go big at things, like I've said earlier on the podcast, and we don't experience sustainable progress. We may experience an uptick for a bit, but then it slides right back into place. Right back into our default position. And this exercise is something that can really help with that.

Now, I will say… Well, actually, let me just run an exercise with you. I'll ask you the question, see what you think, and then I'll tell you what I typically observe. If you were to ask some of the most successful people around you; they're consistently growing. They're consistently getting better. They're consistently achieving more and more results. They're on a track, right?

If you were to guess, when they rate themselves in terms of engagement in an area, where do you think they rate themselves? What is a typical number or an average number that a highly successful person…

Success meaning, they set out to do something and they make it happen. They don't waffle. They don't get sidetracked. They don't have excuses. They don't let things get in the way that most people would let get in the way. They don't give up. They're relentless. They constrain down. They focus.

These kinds of people, who are out there and you probably know one, what do you think their average score for themselves in terms of engagement is? I guess, another way to ask this: Do you think it's higher, or do you think it's lower on the engagement scale? The answer is, it's lower. It's always lower.

They always see all of this room that they have, before they hit any sort of peak engagement. Where, when you ask people who tend to spin or have a low self-awareness, or they just can't see the forest through the trees, they will rate themselves like an 8 or 9 in an area. It's like, what are you talking about? It just doesn't make sense. They automatically rate themselves higher.

Where high achievers automatically rate themselves… They tend to be lower on the scale. And you know what? It doesn't bother them. I think the people that rate themselves really high, it would bother them to rate themselves low. But people who rate themselves low they're successful, and they rate themselves low. It doesn't bother them. It's just data.

It's just helpful information to be able to plug in and figure out what it would take to get themselves up a notch or 2 on the scale. And then, they go. They may not think of it through the eyes of this exercise, but the people I've worked with who do use this exercise, they always rate themselves lower.

And it's not a problem. Their head isn't hung low. It's just an informative exercise that helps them understand where to plug in. Where they have the most impact next. Where someone who rates themselves really high, it's really low self-awareness. Like, they really think that they've got another notch and then they've just achieved full engagement as engaged as you could possibly be. Come on, right?

So, when you are doing this for yourself, just observe where your brain wants to land you. If you want better results in an area, and then you rate yourself in terms of engagement and an 8 or a 9, c’mon. It's probably time for what I call a “cut the shit conversation”. It's a conversation with yourself that just gets to the truth. Just cut through the noise. Like, “What is that? Why are you writing yourself so high when you actually want a different result?”

Most of you listening to this, you probably won't do that. I just say that for any tendencies that might be out there. And this comes back to the brutal honesty that I was mentioning earlier. You have to be very honest about it. And sometimes, when you're really honest about it, and you realize how low the number is…

I mean, shoot, I've had times where I've rated myself like a 2, and it feels pathetic. But I still am honest. I still want to answer correctly. And many of you out there have that bone in your body, too. I'm just mentioning this to foster self-awareness as you're going through the exercise. You just want to pay close attention.

It doesn't matter. Wherever you rate yourself, is wherever you rate yourself; it doesn't matter. What matters is the strategies you come up with, that would take yourself up a notch or 2 on the scale. But if you were saying you're an 8 or a 9, you need to check yourself. If you're an 8 or a 9, you probably wouldn't be displeased with the results that you're getting in that area.

Alright, guys, I hope this is helpful. This is a really fun tool. We do this internally with our Core Values. So, during reviews, we will ask people, for each core value, to rate themselves in terms of engagement, on each core value. I also rate the team member.

We could talk about how both of us answered, and why both was answered in the ways that we did. Oftentimes, it's the same number that we both came up with. And sometimes, it is different. But it's just all information to be able to foster a great conversation.

I've never felt once like, “Well, they suck at this core value. Here we go.” It's more just about where do you rate yourself? Where would I rate you just from an outside perspective? And let's talk about that, if there's a discrepancy.

“These are the things that I notice. That it's the reason why I couldn't rate you higher. However, I think there's a couple of things you could put into place that would probably get me to rate you exactly what you rated yourself.” We can have that conversation.

I have not once had a conversation with a team member in this way, of using the engagement scale around core values, that has created tension or frustration. I think it really does matter, approaching it from a really supportive place as a leader in the organization, not as a way to make the team member to shame them or make them feel bad about something. It's always all in support of what's best for the person in front of you, and also the organization, the company.

So, that's another way that we use the engagement scale. But man, using this for myself has changed. Every time, I have insights that don't come to me day to day. I don't think of the turtle steps. And it's because no one is prompting me.

I don't have these prompts that help my brain serve up fruitful answers. That are really what the thing is and what I should be focusing on and what I should constrain down to, in terms of focus and dialing it in. Have fun with this tool. You can use this in so many different ways.

Actually, recording this episode makes me want to think of new, creative ways we can use it internally. Okay, everyone incorporate this to get more results, more quickly. Because you're focusing on smaller things, more consistently over time.

Alright, everybody, have a wonderful week. I will see you here next Tuesday.

Hey, you may not know this, but there's a free guide for a process 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, that week over week, more work that moves the needle is getting done in less time. Go to to get your free copy.

Thank you for listening to The Law Firm Owner Podcast. If you're ready to get clearer on your vision, data, and mindset, then head over to where you can plug in to Quarterly Strategic Planning, with accountability and coaching in between. This is the work that creates velocity.

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