back icon
All Episodes

Melissa Shanahan

#198: How to Get Comprehensive with Your Planning

Listen Now:

Last week, you heard Melissa reference a suggestion that she share Mastery Group’s strategic planning retreat framework here on the podcast. It’s a very clear process that was created to help members make strong plans and stay on track. The facilitation piece is what really moves the needle, but today, you get a sneak peek into it to see how you might be able to implement what’s being offered.

Melissa’s training for facilitating business planning meetings was rigorous, and this was the foundation that she built Mastery Group’s framework upon, plus lots of new research, experimentation, and skills developed over time. 

Listen in this week as Melissa walks you through Mastery Group’s strategic planning retreat framework. You’ll hear why this is the perfect starting point for getting comprehensive about your planning, what this looks like in practice inside Mastery Group, and how it helps her members finish out the quarter strong with a solid plan in place.

If you’re a law firm owner, Mastery Group is the way for you to work with Melissa. This program consists of quarterly strategic planning facilitated with guidance and community every step of the way. Enrollment will be opening soon, so join the waitlist right now to grab one of the limited seats!

Show Notes:

What You’ll Discover:

What the various sections of the strategic planning retreat framework entail.

Why the facilitation process always starts with a check-in.

How to define your vision of success. 

Why breaking down your goals by practice areas or matter types is immensely powerful.

Questions to ask yourself about your Rocks.

How reminders, rest, and rewards can be surprisingly valuable tools for keeping you on track.

Full Episode Transcript:

Download Transcript PDF

I’m Melissa Shanahan, and this is The Law Firm Owner Podcast, Episode #198.

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.

Everyone, welcome to this week's episode. I am thrilled you're here. If you heard last week's episode, I referenced that it was suggested to me that I share on the podcast, what we move through in a strategic planning retreat for Mastery Group.

We use a framework and we're very clear about the framework that we use. It looks a little different from private clients’ frameworks. We go into things with private clients that we don't do with Mastery Group, because they're more advanced topics. The facilitation needs to be heavier in one-on-one versus a group.

So, Mastery Group is a really smart, reliable framework that we have created for our members to walk through and make really strong plans, every single time. Private clients just have more of our support and facilitation to dig a little deeper inside of their organization, because that's the benefit of working one-on-one with a client.

The other thing I want to mention before we dig into this actual framework that we use, the structure that we use, is that my training for facilitating business planning meetings was rigorous. It was some of the hardest work I've ever done in my professional career, learning to the depth I needed to learn this material. And so, not only was that training; there was lots of hours and hours and hours and hours of training. And then practicing on our teams internally, training, and then practicing and revising.

Finally, you get to the point where you go through a certification process internally. At the consulting firm I used to work for you go through a certification process, which was also rigorous. And then on top of that, you go out into the field, and you still rotate these meetings using the training and certification that you had out with the clients. And you would have auditors.

So, when you do your first three, someone's watching you taking notes, and giving feedback. If those don't go well, you're taken off. If they do go well, that's great. Then you're allowed to go on your own, but they audit you once a quarter. You would have someone come audit you, that you recognized in the company but you didn't know they were coming.

I would show up at the client’s office. And so, when my auditor… You had to be prepped, you had to know your stuff. You had to be ready to walk in and be on you’re a-game. If you weren't, they would sniff it and you'd be off of doing that work.

The other audit that we had was called a “mystery audit”. And that would be someone who was pretending to be a part of the team that you were facilitating for that day. They had a camera on a button on their shirt. And so, that was the other form of audit. It was to keep quality very high within the company.

After about three years of doing that work, and being in the field with clients, I was doing 12 to 14 offices every single month. You could imagine why I was on the road so much. Because I would travel to one, fly to the next, fly to the next. If it didn't make sense to come home because it was too far, I'd just go to the next. I was in 12 to 14 offices every month leading a business planning retreat, a strategic planning retreat.

Then after about three years of doing that work, they offered me a position to train upcoming facilitators within our company. And so, that became a big part of my job, about 50% of my job. I would say maybe more, but 50% of my time was spent training these future facilitators through the process that I had been through already.

And then leading the certification process for those facilitators to become certified in strategic planning and annual and quarterly strategic planning for the clients that were part of our business. The consulting firms that had over 1,000 clients. I'm not sure the exact number but enough to keep many people very busy with work.

The reason I was offered this position is because this arm of the company was becoming more and more utilized by clients. Because it was very clear to everyone that the clients that chose to use these services were always moving more quickly towards where they wanted to be. And by quickly, I don't mean faster in a scary speed, everything up, the wheels are going to come off kind of way. It was in a streamlined way. They would talk amongst each other, and they would figure this out.

And so, this arm of our company was growing pretty rapidly, and I was tasked with leading the new facilitators through the training, the certification, and the auditing. The drop-in audits, where we would show up and they weren't expecting us, I was tasked with that. And so, that was about 50% of my travel, and 50% of my time was spent on this part of my role. I still had the clients that I was assigned to facilitate for quarterly.

Now, the reason I'm telling you all of this is because this is not something I threw together because I think that these are the things that you should focus on. This was something that was born out of a very intense training process, certification process, and delivery process.

One of the things, and you probably heard me mentioned this before on the podcast, when I left that company, I left not because I didn't like the work. I left because I was really tired from travel. They had full control of my schedule, up to three weeks out.

I was home, sometimes one day a week, often not. So, it really was full-time travel. It was exhilarating, but there's a point where you're just being zigged and zagged around the US and beyond, and it was time to rein it in.

I have always had an entrepreneurial spirit, and so when I was met with a lot of resistance to being a remote employee, this company's policy… I mean, this is pre-COVID. They were absolutely against remote workers unless they were traveling full time because they actually needed people close to major hubs at airports. And if I wasn't going to be traveling anymore, that would have changed the dynamic there.

I think I could have pushed the red tape. I think it could have made a case for the role and the position and the value to bring to the company, but also you have to remember big companies move things slow.

I had already been making requests to change the material, the very material that I'm going to be sharing with you today, some of it. Because I was one of the ones boots on the ground working with the clients, I could see where we needed to make improvements to the framework, where we needed to make improvements to the content.

When you're the one working with the client, and you see that it's not clicking for some reason, or that you're losing certain team members at certain points, or that the order in which you move through the framework could be improved... If you just put this section before this section, they'll have a much easier time seeing what they need to see.

There was real feedback that I had, but because the company was large and workbooks were printed months and months in advance, universal workbooks I mean, to change a piece of the framework, there was a lot of moving parts. And so, it was constantly pushed to the side; never felt really important enough.

And so, I would go on the fly when I was facilitating and just say we're going to move to Section 6 first, and then we're going to come back to Section 3. I knew what I needed to do to get the most out of the group and for them to get the most out of the day.

So, when it came time for me to make a decision, there was a fork in the road: Do I really push to stay in this company, and as their first ever remote worker who wasn't on the road full time? Or do I let my entrepreneurial spirit win here? Do I think I have something that I can push this value out into the world in a way that is meaningful to business owners?

I mean, the thought of that was exhilarating. I knew I could make improvements, and I would see things that I would do differently if I was building a company. I feel like I was just ripe for the opportunity. And so, that's when I decided to leave to do that.

The very first retreat that I put together for a beta client, a beta-test client, with the framework I reworked, I did a ton of research. I made sure the amount of work I had to do, to make sure that I had to put together something that was from my own understanding, my learning. And I had been trained through many different methodologies.

And so, I dug into each of those methodologies and studied hard about why was this given to me to be a part of the curriculum that I was supposed to use with the clients at the firm. Why not these other parts? Why did they leave these things out?

The amount of time that I put into that, we're talking hundreds and hundreds of hours of me just digging in and figuring out, okay, I know what I would have changed with the curriculum I was given. But now, if the world is your oyster, what would I put together, if I were starting this from scratch?

What do I actually think, with all my experience of leading hundreds of clients through this curriculum, what do I think needs to happen? And be the order and be the proper way to facilitate certain topics, so that the business owners get the most out of these days that will propel them the furthest, the fastest? That's the starting place that I went to.

The very first workbook I put together, like I said, it took hundreds of hours, and it was based on all my past experience plus new research I was doing. And since then, it's evolved quite a bit. And then, many of you know, the story eventually just began working only with law firm owners. It felt like an area that translated really well for my experience in the past.

I was able to hone in and be more valuable to a specific market, rather than all small business owners. So, that's what I went for. And again, the reason I'm telling you all this, is because the framework I'm going to walk you through to some of you listening, it may sound too simple. And to some of you listening, it may sound like too many sections. You'll probably have opinions one way or the other.

And all I would encourage you to do, is just trust that this came from a lot of experience, knowledge, and skills developed over time. And research and experimentation, meaning tweaking and tweaking and tweaking, until we got it just as good as we can possibly get it, to where it is now.

I would hope that all of you would reserve judgment, not for me, not for my sake, I don't care if people judge me about this stuff or not. I'm saying reserved judgment for yourself, so that maybe, just maybe, you'll hear this framework, and you'll decide to move to this framework for yourself.

It's a different game being facilitated through it, so that's why I don't hesitate to share some of the pieces of this framework, or all the pieces that we walk through in the framework. Because trust me, from experience, I try to lead my team through this framework for ourselves. And it's impossible to do it at the same level as if it's facilitated for us.

The same is true for any human. The same is true for any business owner. If you have a good facilitator, what they can do for you with a framework, it puts everything on steroids, and it makes it so much cleaner, better. It cuts through the noise; it cuts through the crap.

And so, reserve judgment, because I think a lot of you will do yourself some good with just having this framework and knowing this framework for yourselves. These are the things you need to move through, as a starting place for yourself, to be really comprehensive with your planning. And then if you're ready, come and have facilitation with us, because it'll change everything for you.

All right, so we always open up the retreat with a check-in. We ask everybody to write… They each have either a digital copy of the workbook or physical copy of the workbook. We ask them to write one to three personal successes or personal wins. And one to three professional successes or professional wins. These can be bright spots, just something that stands out that's a positive.

And then once they finish that they have to write their goal for the day for themselves. Because at the end of the day, I know that this facilitation is strong. And it is up to you as the business owner to get what you came for. And so, knowing at the top of the day: What are you doing here today? What is the point? What is the goal for this day? Articulate that.

So, we give them space to do a check-in, we then always have a page of action items right after that, that they can use. Some people prefer to use their own notebooks to keep a list of things they need to do. But you should always have a place for yourself to jot down, over to the side, things that hit your brain.

That it's probably not a part of your plan, so to speak, but there's going to be things that hit your brain as you are thinking through different elements of your business. You're going to think, “Oh, my gosh, I keep forgetting to tell Sandra to do X, Y, and Z.” And so, that's a place for you to get it out of your head and put it onto paper.

Your brain is meant for processing, not for storage. And so, having a place for these things is extremely important. Throughout the day, when conversations arise, especially in private settings, private client settings, I have the ability to do this.

Every time someone says something like, “Is that an action item? Is that an action item?” Someone's got to be on the team. and usually there's someone within the team that is saying, “Oh, that's an action item.” But you have to get this stuff written down because you will forget it after this day. It's not going to stay top of mind.

We are digging deep on things, so as things arise, you need a place to put what arises in your brain to deal with later. Later, meaning in the coming days and weeks, or maybe for later fodder for you when you're setting goals and you're determining your quarterly priorities etc., when you are making your strategic plans. So, having that is crucial. If you don't have that, then your thoughts are kind of all over the place.

The first section that we actually dig into, we talk about and have people revisit: What are you aiming for? And there are a few questions that we use these workbooks for. People define what success is for themselves.

And I've talked about this stuff on the podcast before, but you'll hear some repetitive stuff here. You'll just see that I'm stringing it together here through a cohesive framework. But not only do you need to define success for yourself, you need to put numbers to it.

People have a vision that they've created. That's great. But okay, what is it going to take for that vision to become a reality? Get down to brass tacks or dollars. What is it going to take for you in your life, to be able to afford the vision that you have for you and your family or you in your life? And then, also for the business.

You have to really do some digging. It's messy on paper but do some digging to figure out what that is for yourself. And if you don't have complete clarity and certainty around it, that's all right, just put down what you have. Just get out of your head and onto paper, what you do know and allow yourself to dream and scheme in this part of the day. So, that you are tied to that before you start digging on the nuts and the bolts.

Also, in the section… By the way, this section of the day is called Prep. Which starts with this: What are you aiming for? This is preparation to begin.

Then we have pages dedicated to determining your average revenue per case or per matter. I give equations there. But knowing your average revenue per case or per matter is important to use in equations when you are setting your goals. So, you will see how this ties in, in a little bit.

But this is the truth. Now, again, I've done podcasts on this, if you want to dig in go to listen to the podcast about average revenue per case or per matter. We have to get those numbers so that we can do math in the future. And the other number that we use in preparation is the percentage of revenue for each practice area or matter type that has contributed over the last 12 months.

And so, what that looks like, is you list out your practice areas or your matter types that you care to track and to set goals for and to really keep your finger on the pulse of, and you look at what revenue it has generated for your business in the last 12 months.

And then you look at the revenue that was generated firmwide for the last 12 months. You divide the practice area or matter type revenue; you divide that by the total firm revenue, and it'll tell you the percentage that it contributed to the total firm revenue. Now, this is important when we are looking at goals and setting goals. Knowing these percentages is extremely helpful.

And then we have goals review. So, for those that are in Mastery Group, they set goals last quarter, and they need to reconcile where they are. We give them the opportunity to workbook, it leads them; there's fields to fill out that they're led to do the math in the right ways in the right order, and be able to calculate what we call their “gap”.

For revenue, for example, they have a goal for the year, they write that in, they have a year-to-date revenue number, that's actually happened, they write that in, and then they figure out the difference between the two. That's their “gap”, they need to close that gap before the end of the year.

And so now, because we're planning for Q2, we have to spread that gap out over the next three quarters. And they get to decide how they want to do that. But basically, this portion, when we're just reconciling where we landed for the goals, we're just calculating what the gap is between now and the end of the year. So that we can make really strong plans, for sure, the next few quarters, but especially the next quarter.

They can break down the revenue by practice area, we give them that opportunity. And if you have practice areas, and you're not breaking down goals by practice areas, or matter types that are significant to you, I highly recommend you get on the ball with this. It will change your visibility into the business. It will give you more leverage, as an owner, to make decisions. It's important. It's really important and a lot of people just do firmwide but breaking it down is immensely powerful.

And then there's a place for other goals that they may have set; conversion rate, number of cases open, cases closed, profit margin. Whatever it may be for them, they have the opportunity to do this. It’s all just easy for them to write in the right boxes, and they can calculate their gap.

So, that's the review part for the goals, and then they have to review for Rocks. If you have been listening to our podcast, you know that we set goals, Rocks, in retreats. That's one element of what we do in retreats, and Rocks are key quarterly priorities for the upcoming quarter.

There are podcasts on this. If you want to dig into the subject matter, you absolutely can. But Rocks, they have to write in each Rock that they said they were going to get completed this quarter. And they write the status next to each one, done/not done.

Then there is a field below that, that allows them space to write what contributed to them falling short of completing the Rock, or what contributed to them actually getting it done. Evaluate; this is self-evaluation and company evaluation, and looking at what were the contributing factors for success and or incompletion.

The last thing in the quarterly review section is accomplishments, barriers experienced, lessons learned, and realizations. There's a whole page where this is facilitated by me. But they are given space to think through some of the highlights of the quarter, in terms of accomplishments for the company, and even for themselves as the owner, and the barriers they experienced.

The only reason I put that is because it might be helpful to think through the next two things I ask for. So, they write down some of the main barriers they experienced. And then they write down lessons learned and realizations. How can they extract lessons from the experiences that they've had this quarter and carry them forward into the future?

This exercise allows them to be very intentional and very deliberate with the work that they are putting forth into their future plans, and an execution. I realized, as I'm walking through these pages, I'm just telling you what the sections are. What we do in each section, we give space for them in each section and there is questions and answers.

There is a chat and some camaraderie in the chat, inside of the call, where people are sharing what they're coming up with. It's a really special part of the Mastery Group retreats. They inspire one another. They motivate one another. They encourage one another. They light a fire under one another's ass. It's just good all around. Great.

It sounds pretty quick as I'm moving through this, but you have to remember everything that I'm reading through to you right now, all the way through the end of the framework, we are in that room for a  full eight hours. We do take a couple bathroom breaks, and a quick lunch break. So, seven hours, maybe at minimum, seven hours, we are in that room working through this framework.

Okay, so then we hit goals. We break down the goals for the year, and we're going to break down the quarter that's in front of us. Everyone has one main goal. And for most people, that is a revenue goal. But whatever the main goal is, then the goals that are listed below that are in support of that main goal.

So, for instance, if you choose a revenue goal, you put in what your goal is for the year, and then you also put in the actual to date. And then we figure out what does that mean is leftover to spread across Q2, Q3 and Q4. Once you have that… And for revenue, I give them space to break down by practice areas. What that means for each of the practice areas.

Earlier, we talked about figuring out, with the practice areas or matter types, case types, what percentage they contribute to the overall revenue. Well, this is where that comes into play. If your goal is $600,000, and one of your practice areas is you want it to contribute 30% to the overall revenue, then you take $600,000 X .30, and that tells you the revenue goal for the year for that practice area.

And so then, you can go to the same motions, what the goal is, which  $180K is 30% of $600,000. You know your goal is $180K. Figure out what you've done, actual to date. And then you can figure out how you spread the “gap” between the last three quarters if we're doing a Q2 planning.

So, then you have to write in the revenue. What does that mean for each quarter? Now, once you've done this for each practice area, then you have really clear goals. Yes, for the firm, but then also for each practice area goals for revenue.

The next one down, it's really common, but not everybody does it, is a cases-open goal or cases-closed, depending on your contingency fees. Maybe you do it on that. And basically, for that you're going to use…

Remember earlier, we figured out the average revenue per matter type or case type or practice area. Once you know your average revenue, then you can work backwards to figure out the number of cases you need to do, in order to make that revenue happen, that you just set a goal for.

For instance, for the practice area that you want to do 30% of the overall revenue, and you want to get to $600,000 in the year, that's $180,000 just for that one practice area or matter type. All right? Well, let's say that your average revenue is $2,500 for that particular matter type or practice area.

That means if you take $180,000 divided by 2,500, you need 72 matters through the door, of that particular matter type or practice area, to give you the revenue that you want. Now, this isn't perfect math, these are really useful for projections, the average revenue, and also the target percentage that you're shooting for, with what it contributes to overall revenue.

This allows you to make a very well-thought-out plan. It's never going to be the case where you get to the end of the quarter of the year and you're like, “Oh this lined up perfectly. I had exactly 72 cases each, at a value of $2,500, which gave me $180,000 in this practice area. And then because of that, along with the other practice areas that contributed, I am $600,000 even.”

That is not why we do these plans. It's not so you can hit these things perfectly, it is so that you can be very strategic in how you're going to go about pulling these levers to get to where you want to be. That is what this is all for. It is so that you can figure out what effort needs to be put forth, so that you can be on track as best as possible with the plans that you made.

And then at the turn of the quarter, you reconcile again. You lift your head, you take a breath, you process lessons, you look back, and then you make plans again, based on where you landed. So, you measure where you landed, and you look forward, you carry the lessons forward, and make plans for where you want to be. This is an example of kind of how that will break down.

And then other people that we give space for, other people to document the goal. What it is for the year? What the actual-to-date is, and what they want it to be quarter over quarter in order to meet their annual goal. And so, some people put profit margin here, a goal around that. Some people will put conversion rate, etc. You guys have heard me talk about different types of goals before, so that's we're breaking down the year.

Well, once you have all your Q2 numbers, and we're, as I'm recording this, we're planning for Q2, so that's what's top of mind for me. Then you're able to break down the quarter in front of you. You do not need to break down all the months in front of you, just the next quarter in front of you.

So, for Q2, you will break it down into April, May, and June. And you can just take the quarterly goal that you have set and divided by three. It can be broken up evenly or you can weight it. Weighed one quarter heavier than the others, you get to choose. This is the process that we lead people through.

They do that for every goal that they have set. They have a Q2 goal, and they have a monthly goal within Q2. They track against the goals to see it, to make sure it’s all on-track or off-track. And they don't use that information, when they're tracking, to feel good or feel bad. That's actually the antithesis of what the data is supposed to do.

The data is supposed to be information that allows you to pivot, to take turns, to think of ways to be more effective, to ask high quality questions, in the middle of the quarter so you get back on track. If you're blowing your goal out of the water, then at the turn of the quarter, you're going to have to reset. There are all these things that, planning in this way, really sets you up nicely for. All right, that's the goal breakdown.

And if some of you are lost by what I'm saying here, just you can reread, relisten, to this. You can take notes for yourself, to plan in this way for yourself. But this is all guided and all spelled out in the workbooks so that you can follow along. Not only in your workbook, but with our facilitation. And all the group is doing the exact same thing, exact same time, and working together. There's a lot of power in that momentum.

Then we ask, okay, now that you have these goals set, there's things that need to happen with tracking and metrics. Even if you are doing pretty well with tracking metrics and statistics, etc. What do you need to track now? What's missing when you look at the goals you have set? What do you need to start tracking that you aren't currently tracking?

So, what column do you need to add to your tracker? Do you need to build a tracker? Do you need to change an equation? You have to really make sure that you are giving thought and attention in preparing to track well for these things.

Once we have the goals set, then we turn to the Rocks section. You can listen to the podcasts on goals versus Rocks. I'm sure we'll put all the podcasts I'm referencing in the show notes. But I ask facilitated questions about how to think about and come up with the priorities that are going to lend itself to you being successful with hitting these goals, to the best of your ability.

Every Rock that you have, you want to ask yourself: How does this contribute to the goals? How is this impactful to the organization in a way that will allow us to, with more ease, hit the goals. And so, there are some questions I facilitate through the workbook that can allow you to really look at that journey and consider what needs to be top priority that quarter.

Because there's always things that we're going to want to do at any given point. As an owner, there's always things you're going to want to implement. You have new ideas on how to improve things or things that need to be implemented, revamped, or added etc.

When you have all those ideas, it can feel messy inside. And this is your chance to constrain down, choose the top priority projects, initiatives, efforts, and commit to them. Name them very specifically, so it's very clear when you are done with it.

Like, what do you want to be on the hook for? How does someone hold you accountable? It needs to be named that specifically, and once you do that, then throughout the quarter, we'll be able to have accountability for those in our accountability check-ins for Rocks.

So, you come up with Rocks. You come up with, typically, between three and six, depending on how much support you have and how much bandwidth you have to give to these projects. We have a lot of good conversation about that with people inside Mastery Group. But for new people, I always suggest up to two that feel impactful, most impactful.

It will allow them to get into their groove with progress, and making consistent progress, towards something and not being watered down amongst many things. It’s really a skill and a habit that you develop. And this skill can be built on and utilized in the future in greater and greater ways for your organization. The skill of staying true to something, staying committed seeing this project or this Rock all the way through to the end, to completion. And, that's really powerful.

So, you'll select your Rocks. And then we have a place inside of Mastery Group where you can submit each one of those Rocks into a tracker. That's what we use on accountability calls. Which are a lot of fun with members and a lot of really good conversations. Because this is where the rubber meets the road. Right? We could talk around things all day long, but if we're not actually implementing and getting stuff done, what are we doing?

We also give a place for Rock deconstruction. For every Rock that they've come up with, that they are going to commit to for the quarter, we give a place for them to break down that project. Every Rock is a project. What are all the pieces of the project that need to be accomplished, need to be done, in order for you to consider that Rock complete?

Project deconstruction is immensely important for progress. People think a lot of times that they're just lazy or they give up or they just can't stick with things. Oftentimes, the thing that's in the way is that they don't break it down. Their brain doesn't even know where to start on that project. And so, you just keep putting it off and procrastinating and before you know it, you're moved on to something else mentally; you have a new shiny object that you're looking at.

That is why project deconstruction is so powerful in getting things done. So, we give some space for them to do that with a Rock or two during the retreat. With a full break down of what all the pieces are of that project and identify what they can delegate out and what they actually need to keep. And then we have them put the amount of time next to each step that they think it's going to take, so that they can start to see how long is this Rock supposed to take them. A month? Two months?

They really can start to see how this will stack up with what they have to give to these efforts. So, Rock deconstruction is really important. We'll put a link in the show notes to the podcast I've done on project deconstruction, you can go dig in on that, if that feels appealing.

The last section of the workbook is called Integration. Integration, for me, is really helping this section of the workbook. It’s really meant to help owners figure out how to make sure that their plans actually come to life, because plans are worth nothing if they aren't executed on. And it's important to take those steps.

The reason that people don't, are often barriers that we just didn't anticipate, we didn't think through. And therefore, we have a really hard time actually implementing, because we didn't think through the barriers that we were going to hit as we try to execute on our plans. This is the space to really anticipate the barriers.

This has everything to do with the results cycle, which I've taught on before, here on the podcast. I've taught classes on it. And it's a piece of onboarding. It’s just a basic understanding of the results cycle, so that you can utilize it and make sure that you're thinking through the stuff. So, that you are in a high result cycle more of the time, than you are in a low results cycle.

We will all always be in both. There is no sense of perfection with this. But how do you spend your time more, in getting things done, and where do your actions actually line up with where you say you want to go? Versus, actions that aren't taking closer to where you want to go, and to the results that you want to create.

There's a really great quote by Jerry Colonna. He asked the question, “How are you complicit in creating the conditions that you say you don't want?” The results cycle is a way to identify how you are complicit in creating the conditions that you want more, than you say you don't want.

Either way, we control the results that we get. And we either get results in line with where we say we want to go, or we get results not in line with where we say we want to go. The results cycle is just a way to have a look at that for yourself. It's really an awareness tool more than anything.

We dig into that a bit here, as it pertains to your plans being executed and implemented into the world, so that you create the results you want to. By results, I mean hitting the revenue goals, completing your Rocks, hiring the team members, getting the team on board. All the things that need to happen in order for you to create this firm and envision what you have. That's what I mean by them. So, we dig into the results cycle.

There are some pages there that are facilitating some prompts. And then we get into the three Rs: Reminders, Rest, and Rewards. This is another element that people don't think through enough. And so, when it comes time for execution, they wonder why they stop. They wonder why they burn out. They wonder why they can't hold their focus.

This has a look at some of the things we refer to as “the wee” things. It's like the wee things that matter, the success factors. The thing before the thing. It's the precursor. The trigger to the kinds of behaviors, actions, that you want, and that do produce the good stuff. That do produce the results that you're wanting to create and keep you moving on that track, versus holding you back.

So, reminders, rests, and rewards, there's a podcast on this that I have done, so you if you want to listen to that you can dig in, but reminders are essentially: What do you need to keep top of mind on a daily basis to stay on track? When you are leaning into this next level for yourself and for the firm and for the team etc., as you are leaning into that you are going to have to keep certain things top of mind that aren't default ways of thinking right now, that we're operating right now.

And sometimes it's just as simple as “Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah. That's how we're doing this. Oh, yeah, I don't mess around with X. I do Y.” Just having some of these reminders can be immensely helpful to stay the course. I've actually heard recently from private clients who've been implementing this,  taking this more seriously, in reading at the top of every single day, the reminders that they want to keep top of mind. And how on track it keeps them is really surprising to them. But it's just as simple as a reminder. So, reminders, rest, rewards, there's three Rs; reminders is the first one.

The second one is rest. And rest, I mean, sure, if you're not getting enough sleep, then absolutely that needs to be thought through, because it's undisputed, at this point, how much more cognitively efficient one can be and how much sharper one can be, and how much more motivated and have a positive outlook one can be with proper rest. Not to mention all the other benefits for our health that sleep offers.

So, if you're not getting enough sleep, then of course, you would address that in this section. We're talking about rest, but also, what's your leisure time, what's your downtime look like? You need to carve that out and make sure that it's protected so that you are good to go.

Also, we think through rewards, which rewards are the third R. How can you attach rewards? Rewards is the word because it's the R. Right? There's three Rs. But it could just be acknowledgments. What can you attach to milestones hit? But even more importantly, what kinds of acknowledgments, rewards, celebrations, appreciations, etc. can you attach to the efforts being done?

Because the effort is what gets you to make the numbers and the goals inevitable over time. It is the effort that you put forth. And so, people who steadfastly stay on track with their commitments to the Rocks, rewarding that is powerful. And there's a lot of research done on this. You can listen to more about this in that reminders, rest and rewards podcast series.

But there's so much research done on this, that it's not really something to mess around with. Just choose something. Pick something, attach it, gamify it, and have community and encouragement around it. There is a way to have rewards. Inside of Mastery Group, they think through this for themselves. And we also have a spreadsheet, that people have contributed over time, rewards that work for them.

It's all over the place. Go and test drive new cars is a reward that I've seen on there. Looking at some of their vision, that they created with, maybe buying a home in the mountains or whatever. They look at homes in the mountains on downtime, once they've put in the effort that they said they were going to do for this period of time.

And so, I just think there's so many ways that we are not creative. And lawyers, you are not creative with putting and thinking through, “What would be something that I would really enjoy doing that would feel like a delight to do? And I'm going to attach it to my effort.” It's really wonderful to see the community come together and offer up the ideas that they have.

We end the day with a visualization exercise about all the work that they have done and how it's going to be implemented into the future and visualizing them actually implementing that. I have them visualize the barriers they're going to hit and how to think about those things, what are they going to do when those come up, how to watch themselves move through those barriers, watch themselves not react, but really play all that out. I lead a small visualization at the end and ask them questions and takeaways from their visualization.

At the very end, this is us really wrapping the day and everybody's got a smile on their face. They've had a long day, they're tired, but in the best of ways. Then we have their vision deck, which I have done a podcast on vision decks as well. But they have a vision deck, which is basically a one-sheeter that has the important elements of their plan all in one spot, so they can hang it and look at it every single day.

We give them space to fill out their vision deck. Make sure there's no questions about how to fill it in. It's just all really clear for them. And at the end, we just wrap with making sure we're not forgetting any action items to put on their action lists. That they really feel like they have what it takes to be able to tie up their plans with a bow.

By the end of the day, there's usually some things after this retreat that they'll want to think through further, that they need to really nail down. Maybe there's some data that they want to get that they didn't have for the retreat.

All that's fine, we do this retreat with a few weeks before the quarter starts, just a couple of weeks before the quarter starts. So, they have a little space to do that and to feel like they can really pull it together. The week after the retreat, we always have Office Hours, and it gives people a chance to come to talk with me about their plans.

Sometimes they just want to run by me the Rocks that they've chosen. And everybody that comes on I first ask, “You know I'm going to ask you about your goals. But what would you love most to get out of this conversation?” And sometimes they just want help with their Rock. Sometimes they want to run numbers with me.

But then I go into: What is your annual goal? What does that mean for Q2, 3, and 4? What are you going to do in the quarters? What practice area breakdowns do you have? I help them refine those if we need to. And then: What Rocks have you chosen that really align you with those goals? We talk through that sometimes. I help them get more specific with how they name them.

For clarity purposes, I answer any last-minute questions so that they are done, legitimately done, and they can submit their Rocks. And they can finish out the quarter strong, that they're in, and feel really ready to step into the next quarter with a solid plan, accountability, a community, and let's go! The sky's the limit!

So, that is the gist, that is walking through the framework, and at this point for groups. For private, we go deeper on some topics that I didn't even bring up today. But that's because we have the luxury of doing that. Because we can do one-on-one, and we have more space to do those things.

But for a group this is, and for most people, this is much more of a plan than they would ever do for themselves, and it covers a lot of bases. It allows you to think comprehensively and have a 30,000-foot view and then sort of hone in on the quarter right in front of you. And then again, the months in front of you.

I love leading this framework for people. And every time I lead it, I do always find an improvement, but not really an addition of something or subtraction of something in the framework. It's more about, “Oh, I can ask this question better this way. This will probably produce more thoughts for them, they'll be helpful. I'm going to put this page in front of this page. Because I think in this section, it will help their train of thought be more smooth.” That's the kind of stuff.

Every time I make a tweak, every single retreat, I make a tweak or an improvement upon it. But this is the framework, use it. If you want to use it on your own, go for it. If you want to take that step and have me as a partner in this and have the community as a resource for this, come and join us.

You can learn more at and that gives you all the deets that you need. Enrollment opens in May, so you'll have an opportunity to join the waitlist there on that page. I highly recommend you do so, so that you're the first to know when the doors open and we get you all squared away, settled in, so that you are ready for the next strategic planning retreat that we lead.

Which will be Q3. Planning that is crazy. That is wild. And that'll be happening in June. So, we always open up enrollment the month prior so that we get everybody in, get them comfortable, make sure they're onboarded, and get the materials in their hands so that they're really ready to go by the time that retreat happens.

All right, everyone, thank you for tuning in. I'll 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 into Quarterly Strategic Planning, with accountability and coaching in between. This is the work that creates Velocity.

Latest Episodes