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Melissa Shanahan

#208: The Vital Role of Trust in Your Business with Tara Gronhovd

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Charles Feltman defines trust as choosing to risk making something you value vulnerable to another person’s actions. In short, it is making vulnerable what’s valuable in your business. Trust is foundational for any team to be effective, and if you lack trust, you’ll waste a lot of time and energy with miscommunication, conflict, and tension.

Trust will look different to everybody, but being unable to trust beyond your own capacity is the reason a lot of business owners keep their businesses small. To help you with this, Tara Gronhovd is back this week, and she’s giving you some things to think about when it comes to trust in your business.

Join Melissa and Tara as they dive deeper into the vital role of trust in the workplace. Hear some definitions of trust and some of the different elements of trust, why this work is so important and valuable, and the problem with not having trust in your team.

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:

• The reason Tara started doing trust workshops with teams.

• Some ways to show care and trust in your business.

• The four distinctions of trust and how to cultivate them in your business.

• Why building trust is necessary before working on other issues in your business.

• The difference between trust and distrust and how both may show up in your business.

Featured on the Show:

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Grounding and Growing Leadership Podcast

Tara Gronhovd: Website | LinkedIn | Facebook

The Thin Book of Trust by Charles Feltman

 Brené Brown

 The Speed of Trust: The One Thing That Changes Everything by Stephen M. R.Covey

#188: The True Work of Leadership with Tara Gronhovd

#193: When You’re at a Crossroads with a Team Member with Tara Gronhovd

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Full Episode Transcript:

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I’m Melissa Shanahan, and this is The Law Firm Owner Podcast Episode #208.

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.

Melissa Shanahan: Alright, we are back with Tara Gronhovd again. Hi.

Tara Gronhovd: Thanks for having me back.

Melissa: Oh, my gosh, so glad you're back. We’re never going to have things to stop talking about, I’ve learned.

Tara: No. We will just continue to talk forever about people. Because people are complicated and fun to talk about.

Melissa: They sure are. Well, this time, I wanted to have you back to talk about, our team is engaging with you and your company, for a Trust Workshop. And we did part one, and we have part two coming up. But there were some good things that I felt like could be useful for listeners about part one, and so I thought we could just cover a few high-level things and give some people a few things to think about.

Tara: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, the reason that we started doing Trust Workshops, or Learning Journeys, or Trust Development with teams in general, was because trust is what I call both squishy and triggering. So, it's squishy, in that everyone defines it a little bit differently. No one has the same definition or means the same thing. But we use the word trust as if we do, as if we all know what it means.

And it's triggering because as soon as we say that we have a trust issue, everyone's on the defense. It becomes like a source of identity. Because there isn't anyone who doesn't think they're trustworthy. We all believe we're trustworthy, in our way. But we break trust all of the time, unintentionally, because we don't know how to talk about it.

And so, a lot of the work in the trust development that we do with teams is to give a language so that you can talk about it in a way that's productive.

Melissa: Yeah, I mean, honestly, I never would have signed up for a workshop called Trust, in the workplace, until the Strength Finders Workshop that you lead for us. So, we got to learn a little bit more about each other's strengths, and how each of us works and prefers to work and how we think. And it became very clear in there, like I actually, for the first time had language. And because you provided the language, when you could see that there is a lack of trust between certain team members. And I was like, “Yeah, that's right.”

Tara: Trust is foundational for any team to be effective. If you're lacking trust, you're going to waste a lot of time and energy with miscommunication, with conflict, with tension, with people working around others, or working around problems and not actually dealing with problems. So, you can work on conflict management. And we actually have training on how to deal with conflict, as well. It's a little bit different and goes a little bit deeper.

But foundationally, trust is necessary before you can even do that. Because if I don't trust that you're going to respond in a way that's productive and healthy when I disagree. Or when I bring up a new idea. Or when I have to push back, then I'm going to probably stop doing that over time. And if I can't point out a problem, then we're going to make mistakes as a team, because, “I saw it but I didn't do anything about it.” Because, “I maybe didn't trust my team members.”

Melissa: Yeah, yeah. And to me, truly, I think I was more black and white about trust before I met you and started working on this. Because in my head, so linear sometimes, but thinking about, well, if there's a lack of trust, it means there's a lack of process. And so, we need to institute processes to make sure that everyone knows the steps. And we can all just make sure everybody is accomplishing. And maybe we find holes in the process, but then we can fill those holes and build them out more in a better way.

And then, if people aren't following processes, then in my mind, you're out. So, it's like, “Trust me,” but how can you take cognitive load off of people to fulfill responsibilities. And not entirely, I know that that's not entirely true. But it's like, how can we, as humans, tee up our brains to not have to remember all the little things, to not have to let things fall through the cracks? Make sure that you do have things that you can follow that don't rely on your memory, and if you do that, then I will trust you.

Tara: Well, because for you reliability is really important, a really important aspect of trust. Right? So, you did what you said you would do. You followed the process we've agreed to. You are reliable, therefore you're trustworthy. But there are other elements of trust that we can talk about. And a lot of this does come down to how we're wired.

One of the reasons, I remember, that I first recommended that your team do some work with trust, is every single team member you have has high Relator, which is a strength. And people with high Relator really operate almost entirely on trust. So, people with high Relator kind of have concentric circles of trust. Where do you belong in my circles of trust? The more I trust you the further in the inner circles you can come.

But people with high Relator also really want and need to trust the people that they work with, in order to enjoy their work, in order to do a good job. And so, trust becomes really important when that is the currency that you're really operating with.

Melissa: Yeah, and that's mine too. My team, but also me. I have high Relator.

Tara: Yes. Now, trust is important for everyone for different reasons. But based on how we're wired, how we define, and how we look at trust is going to look a little bit different. So, Strengths gives us some language to help you understand where other people are coming from, so that you can trust their intentions. Their intentions are good, but maybe because of how they're wired, they're going to drop some detail balls. Like, you don't want to put me in charge of high-detail work.

We just sent out an email today and I was in charge of proofing, that shouldn't have ever happened. You cannot trust me with that kind of detail work. I need someone else to help me with that. But I know that about myself. And so, when it happens, I kick myself for not shoring up that weakness for myself.

But if you put the wrong person in charge of something, because of how they're wired, if you've set them up for failure, is it that they're not trustworthy? Or is it that they are really struggling to perform because you're asking them to do things outside of their capabilities, or their capacity?

Melissa: I actually said it on a podcast recently, but I think we should talk about it here. The definition of trust that you gave, that came from The Thin Book of Trust by Charles Feltman, that definition rocked me when I heard it.

And to be fair, I really want to spend some time sitting in each of my team members shoes, to the best of my ability, with that definition. But at the moment, I've only sat in my shoes with that definition. And it felt like I was seen as a business owner, the definition. Do you want to share the definition?

Tara: Yeah, absolutely. So, he has a definition of trust and distrust. And Brené Brown uses this definition, which is how I found Charles Feltman's work in the first place. He defines trust as choosing to risk making something you value vulnerable to another person's actions. My colleague, Pamela, she shortens that to say, “What I value is safe with you.” I can make vulnerable what's valuable.

Distrust is, that what is important to me is not safe with this person in this situation, or potentially any situation. So, what's important to me isn't safe with you, is distrust.

Melissa: Yeah, I mean, when I first heard that… Because choosing to risk making something you value vulnerable to another person's actions… And from a business owners perspective, something you value; yeah, this baby that you birthed, and this company that you lifted off the ground, and gave your sweat and tears to, and lack of sleep, right?

That you gave so much of yourself to this, and you're so proud, and you want it to do well and to succeed and to fulfill all the things it's supposed to fulfill. And learning how to trust other people with that is really intense.

And that feels different to me than just delegation. I know that people talk about they don't want to delegate anything, because they don't trust. I actually never had an issue with that. But then when you start delegating, and things don't always go right, you learn from that, and you can pick up and you can recover. I never had a hesitancy with delegating. I never had a hesitancy with inviting people in to work with me.

But now, I'm kind of at a point, and so that's why I think it struck me so hard, that there's a lot of visibility that I don't have into the company anymore, and into their roles and responsibilities. And so, the level of trust has to be higher. Or has to be there in a way that I could keep it all really close to me, even though I was delegating before. I could keep my finger on the pulse of what was going on.

And we're at a growing point where that's impossible. I can still have metrics to look at and have some indicators that tell me if things are on track. But that is very different.

Tara: And honestly, this is why a lot of businesses stay small. Because business owners can't figure out how to… In some cases, it's they just can't figure out the structure needed to scale beyond their own capacity. But beyond that, the mental block sometimes is ‘I can't trust beyond my own capacity.’

Melissa: Yeah. And that's one of the reasons I'm digging in so hard on this work. It’s because I'm not okay with that. I am not okay with getting to the end of my life, and there's not a chance that that part of me is going to be like, “Yeah, you really shouldn't have taken that risk. You should’ve just stayed small.”

We're here to expand and grow. And this is really uncomfortable. And this is one of the things that feels important to figure out next level.

Tara: Yeah. And that's not to say that some people don't choose to say small for other reasons. Choose to have a small team for other reasons. It's challenging to have more people. But I do think it's worth, if you are a firm owner, I do think it's worth really asking yourself: Am I choosing to say a small or resisting that because I don't trust? Or are there other factors involved?

Because we tend to become really enmeshed with the identity of our business, when it's ours, when we've created it from scratch, when we own it, when we have to pay the bills, when we are the ones responsible at the end of the day. This is what's valuable to us. It is personal. And anyone who says that business isn't personal hasn't owned a business. It is personal. I'm not saying that there aren't good, healthy boundaries to be drawn, so that you've got an integrated life. But it is personal.

And so, figuring out what is important about your business, like what do you value most? And how your business is run; and what people understand about your business; And how your clients are taken care of. What do you value most that helps you clarify expectations? Which we've talked about, multiple times.

But doing that work to identify that for yourself, then you can ask yourself: Okay, do I trust making this vulnerable with this person? Does this person deserve to be made responsible for these things that are valuable? And it's hard to talk about it with trust. So, we'll break that down into the four distinctions.

Melissa: Okay, yeah. And maybe this will help answer those questions. I'm sure people listening, do you deserve… But if you're making a new hire, in my head, and tell me where I'm wrong here. When you're making a new hire for a specific set of responsibilities, you have to suss that out to the best of your ability through the interview process. And then, continue to make sure that you're right in earning trust that way. Because you don't know, you don't really know people, even though you try to get to know them. But is that what you would say? Like, that's the best you could do, is when you're hiring in.

Tara: Yeah. And I think helping people understand what's valuable, helping people understand what your expectations are, and then being willing to coach them. So, here's what I see happen with a lot of business owners. Because we're moving really fast, they screwed it up. I can't trust them. I'm going to take that away and put it on someone else's plate.

And pretty soon that person isn't responsible for much, and is a source of major frustration, because we haven't really coached them to success. And we haven't really given it time.

Now, some businesses, you need to be able to hire someone who already has a skill set coming in. But I'll tell you, in this workforce, you have to be ready to coach and help them understand what it means to be a good employee, to be a productive member of the team. A lot of people aren't coming in with that kind of understanding and experience. It doesn't mean they're not trustworthy, it means that they're going to need a little more time and intention to get them there.

Melissa: Okay, so you gave the definition of trust. Can you tell everybody, from that Thin Book of Trust, what are the four distinctions of trust?

Tara: Yeah, the four distinctions of trust. So, what I really like about this book; there are a ton of books about trust. And there's The Speed of Trust. Brené Brown has a BRAVING acronym. They're all really good. I like this for the workplace, because it's easy to remember, and it's easier to talk about.

So, he breaks it down to these four distinctions. And it's easier to talk about each of these distinctions than it is to say, “I don't trust you.” The four distinctions are: “Reliability”, which we talked about; did you follow through with what you said you would do? Are you a person of your word? If you say you'll do it, will you do it? “Sincerity”, do you mean what you say and say what you mean?

“Competence”, which is interesting, is “I know what I'm good at and what I'm not good at.” For example, earlier when I was talking about detail work, I know I'm not great with details all the time. But part of trusting someone in competence is that they know themselves well enough to know what they can and can't execute well. So, if they say, “I've got it,” you can trust that they do, because they know that person knows themselves well enough to know that they do.

And then the fourth is the foundational one, which is “Care”. And this is the one that I think in business we struggle with, because it feels like a soft word. But you want them to care about you and your purpose. You want them to care about your business, right? So, you want them to care about the work that they do. You want them to care about the business, at the end of the day. You want them to consider what's the best, for the business and your clients and you.

But in return, they need to know that you care about them, and that you are going to consider their needs, and what's best for them at the end of the day, and not just make bottom line decisions that doesn't take into account what your people need.

So, care is foundational. If you don't have care, if people don't believe that you really care about them as a person, every other decision, every other act of trust, is going to be transactional. Meaning, “Well, I trust them to proofread this, but I don't trust him with my life. I trust this person to tell me the truth, it'll be brutally honest, but I don't think they care about me.”

That care piece is the foundational piece. And it's the piece that we don't probably spend enough time on, as business owners. I have some business owners who probably spend more than they need to on it. But for the most part, it's the piece that we say we don't have time for; it’s to make sure people know that we care.

Melissa: I mean, one thing you mentioned in the workshop, and I'm going to give the bullet and then you can expand because I don't know exactly how you framed it. Oftentimes, we think it will take a lot of time to be caring in a way that provides trust, but it doesn't.

Because we were split down the middle, the people in that workshop, two people were like, “I just want to hit the ground running on a call. I don't care about your dog.” There's stuff going on in everybody's world that I really don't want to hear about it. I just want to get into the call. But it doesn't mean I don't care about you. And so, we've tried to build some things into where we have space for care. But it's not a lot.

I do think I should focus on that in a way that feels right inside of the company. But it got brought up that two people would like to connect on that kind of level, and two people are like, “Don't need it. Just, let's go.” You were saying, it actually doesn't take much time at all. It's not about having this big space for this, like kumbaya.

Tara: No, I mean, I've worked in companies where it's as simple as the owner making eye contact and smiling when they walk in in the morning. Or taking the minute to ask how they're doing. So, it doesn't have to be that you sit and have this kumbaya session where you braid each other's hair, and everyone feels good at the end of the day.

Melissa: My head goes to something ridiculous, which is so funny that it does that. But ridiculous, that's what you mean, and so I'm painfully trudging through this thing we're supposed to do. And it doesn't need to be like that, at all.

Tara: It should feel authentic to you. It also needs to be authentic to who you are. What are the ways you show care? And do people understand how you show care? And so sometimes, when I'm working with a team over a longer period of time, we'll do language of appreciation to help people understand how they receive appreciation and care.

But for your team, one of the things we said is getting right to it and being really efficient is a way to show caring, because of how you're wired. So, making progress, getting things done together, not slowing down the process too much, is a way to show care for someone who's wired like you, Melissa.

And so, there is a balance, but a lot of times it's just, could I call this person if I was in trouble? And would they pick up? Would they care that I was not doing okay? Not saying that they have to or they will. But do I trust that my boss, do I trust that the owner of this company, cares about me as a human or, do I just think they're going to be frustrated the work didn't get done? Right? And that's really the difference.

There was someone on your team who just shared that they had a personal thing, and they knew that they could say, “Family emergency, gotta go,” and everyone would have their back. That's trust. That's care. They care about you enough to have your back, without making you feel guilty about the fact that you left them with some work.

Melissa: Yeah, no, that makes a lot of sense. It's so funny though, when we got to that one, that distinction, I was like, “Uh-oh.”

Tara: You’re like, “Is that important?”

Melissa: Oh yeah. Like, if I need to do better than this, what does that look like?” But really, talking through it, someone mentioned the “boxes” where in between, the team has come together really well. And I do message them. I'm like, “Today was awesome,” like that. They said that that felt like care to them. I'm like, “Oh, okay.”

So, care does not have to be... You don't have to bare your soul to show care. That was somehow in my head that that’s what it was going to mean. Anyway, I don't know if anybody listening can relate to that, but like, “Alright, Melissa.”

Tara: Like I said, it's a word that business owners get hung up on. Like, “Ugh, what does that mean? And how much do I have to do there?” And it really doesn't have to be a lot.

So, languages of appreciation feels a little fluffy, but can be really helpful just to understand this person on my team likes words of affirmation, and this person wants quality time, so I can't cancel my one-on-one with them. Right?

Melissa: Is that what the five love languages is?

Tara: It is. I've got an assessment that is adjusted for workplace. So, we take out physical touch, because it makes people uncomfortable.

Melissa: Is that a workshop you lead?

Tara: Yes, I do Language of Appreciation and have an assessment that we do with teams, as well. Yep. Yeah, that just helps people understand each other a little bit better and what they need.

Going back to the other distinctions of trust, I kind of glossed over them, but I want to go back and spend a little bit more time in them. Because I think they are easily misunderstood, or they seem obvious. So, Reliability is a big one for you, and for your team. Like, “You said you would do the thing, and you did the thing. And so, I can trust you.”

Clarifying expectations is paramount, if reliability is really important for your team. Because people who really connect with reliability for trust, tend to assume that it's obvious what should be done. And so, when people don't deliver, then it becomes an issue of trust, rather than an issue of clarity. And we jump in our mind and make an assumption that there was a willful desire to not perform, or not follow through or break their word.

When in reality, we had a meeting and we talked about 10 different things, and three of those were decisions, three of those were delegations, and three of those were just brainstorms. And the Executors might have gotten confused about what was actually supposed to happen.

Clear to you, because you know what was happening in your head, but you might not have helped them understand what's actually expected at the end of that meeting. And then, you're waiting for them to deliver. And when they don't, “See? Can't trust them.”

Melissa: Right. I can think of plenty of times that's been what's the underlying thing, for sure.

Tara: Sincerity is, “I mean what I say, I say what I mean.” And I think everyone believes themselves to be sincere, but a lot of people who avoid conflict tend to struggle with this one. Because people pleasing will cause us to be insincere, and say the thing that will make everyone comfortable. Or more than likely, myself comfortable. Rather than saying the hard thing. But if there's not trust on the team, you can't expect people to be sincere, if it doesn't feel safe to be honest.

Melissa: Molly McGrath, who you know, and you are starting to do some work with her and for her company, which is awesome. I think she does a really good job of hitting on this one. I've seen her talk through with administrative team members, because they're intimidated by the attorney that they work for. And so, she works hard with people on ‘say what you mean and mean what you say’. Don't just say what you think they want to hear, because it's not going to help the relationship.

So, it makes me think of her, this one, because it feels like she probably doesn't have the same language as you do. She's coming at it from a different angle, but it is that. She empowers people to be able to say what they mean and mean what they say, and learn how to do that for themselves, because they haven't been doing it.

Tara: Yeah, unfortunately, sincerity can really get people caught up. Because they want to say yes, when they should probably say no, or push back or ask more questions. Which then impacts their reliability, in some cases, so they get connected for sure. “You know, I was people pleasing, and now I have too much on my plate. And I don't know how to handle that.”

But yeah, speaking truth to power is scary. And so, based on someone's personality, if you have someone who is really great with people, who loves to work with people, not always, but a lot of times those are the same people who really struggle to have hard conversations. Because they don't want to hurt anyone's feelings and they don't want to make people uncomfortable. So, helping them learn skills to manage that for themselves can really help them show up differently, regarding sincerity.

Melissa: What's the third one?

Tara: Competence. This is where you've been in the group project, or on a team, where someone says, “I can do that.” And you're thinking, “Yeah, but can you? Can you really? Because I didn't really appreciate how you delivered that last time,” right? Or, you know, they've never done that thing before. And so, you're wondering, can they do it? And in some cases, you'll see if they can. But it builds more trust, if individuals are more self-aware and they can say, “You know, I've never done that before, but I'm very willing to try.”

Melissa: So, it's almost like competence is the ‘can they?’ Reliability is ‘will they?’ Sincerity… Maybe this doesn't work where I was headed. I was just thinking, because the question that enters your mind isn't as eloquent as fitting into one of these four boxes. So, I was just trying to place, when I do have the question like, can they do this? That's competence. Will they do this? Even though they said… That's reliance. And I'm not sure what the question is that would lead me to sincerity is the thing. But do they really mean it? I guess.

Tara: Are they being honest, with themselves even sometimes? I have an issue with sincerity. Not because I sincerely have an issue with sincerity. But I have high communication. And sometimes I'm thinking out loud and what I think changes sometimes, especially if it's new and I haven't thought about it before, but what I think changes from when I begin the conversation to when I end.

That can be confusing for people who take you very literally. And you can cause, unintentionally cause, some trust issues if, “Well, yesterday you said this.” Well, I've had three more conversations and my mind has continued to evolve my thought about that. But you left people at a certain point. If you don't go back and help clarify or clean up, when you've continued to change or evolve a thought process, that can cause sincerity trust issues.

I see that a lot with visionaries and owners. They have conversations and they change their mind, and they forget to go back and help people understand where they left off.

Melissa: I can totally relate to that. Even more so if it's the first time. I find often, the first time I've talked out loud about something… Maybe I've thought a lot about it, but it's just me in my own head. And the first time you start to articulate your thoughts, by the end of your point, it's shifted a little bit and that's confusing for people; it can be. I recognize it, so I think that helps. So, I can try to bridge the gap. But I know exactly what you mean. And I always thought that maybe that means I'm a verbal processor. I'm not sure.

Tara: I am a verbal processor, so I know that about myself. But I think that in the life of an owner or a practice manager, you're dealing with a lot of different issues and a lot of different venues. And so, the conversation I have with you, and then a conversation I have later, I might learn new information, and it changes my decision or changes what I think. And it can be difficult to remember I need to go back and clean that up with someone. Or I need to go back and let them know that I've changed my mind.

Melissa: Absolutely. One thing we've mentioned that I was going to share, that I had a realization during the workshop, as it pertains to trust. Actually, I should share that the prep work that you had us do. You had us articulate our description of trust, our definition. But you didn't ask for the definition, you just asked: How would you describe trust? Or how would you define trust?

Anyway, everybody's definitions were different. And it was really cool to hear people's definitions. And what was even cooler, was you had them choose an image that represented the way that they think about trust. And the images that people brought, I was shocked. They were so creative, so beautiful.

Tara: Had so much depth.

Melissa: Depth, that's exactly right. The depth is what was beautiful to me. That is correct. All of the team that was there had depth in their choices with the pictures. That was really, really cool. Do you do that for every workshop, select and image?

Tara: I use images and pictures a lot because it helps people think. Connecting with a picture helps them think. And often, if I'm in person, I'll have a whole deck of pictures that people can choose from, and that helps them connect and think about what they really do think about something.

So, there's something, I don't even know what it is, but there's something neurological when we have to find a representation or a picture for something. But it's always really rich. I just got done doing a number of employee focus groups, and they came into the room and they had to pick a picture around what represents the culture here. And so, that exercise alone gives you a treasure trove of information about how people think and feel about whatever it is, whatever topic that you're talking about.

Melissa: Right. Yeah, it was really cool. It's really inspiring to see what they brought. I thought about it for a long time after the workshop was over. And I told my husband about it. I just thought it was really such a beautiful experience to see them share their thoughts and their feelings about trust. That was really cool.

One thing that you asked… Actually, I don't remember what you asked that made me think of this, but I had a realization that I have never relied on other people for a result that I wanted, or an outcome that I wanted to create. Maybe I could have. Maybe it would have made things easier along the way, but I just haven't. I've just taken the reins and done it. And so, this is the first time really, that I've had to rely on a group of people.

Tara: I think we were talking about maybe even the definition of trust, and talking about what's valuable to you. And you're at a point of trying to scale. We were talking about scaling beyond your own capacity will require you to trust on a different level, if people are going to start to do some of the things that you typically do or deliver on. And I think that's when you had this realization, like I've never done that before.

Melissa: Yeah, I was on a team; I was a cheerleader in high school. We were really competitive, actually, so we were a strong team. But I had a role to play, and I did not rely on anyone else to fulfill my role. And had I, I would have been the problem. And so even then, with the group, I guess there's an outcome that the group is working for.

But that's just a shift. It's a shift, because that was not the case when I started this company. There was no group that was trying to create an outcome. It was me.

Tara: It was you trying to create an outcome.

Melissa: Yes. And now, we're morphing into a group does need to create an outcome. And that shift is a big deal. Because I think it's important. A big deal makes it sound dramatic, but I think it's important for me to pay attention to that. And just be aware that that's what I'm having to move into. For some reason that language really struck me that day.

Talk about creating capacity inside of the organization. In terms of, we're hitting some upper limits with what I can do, and all the places I can be at once. The internal work that's not client facing, that kind of stuff that gets handed off has never really stopped me. That's the thing I have had fear on.

But yeah, when client facing, performance level, kind of stuff, now I have to open myself up to your definition of trust. I have to risk making something I value vulnerable to another person's actions, at an entirely different level than just behind the scenes work. So, that was fascinating.

Tara: I think part of the transition happening for your team, as well, Melissa, is they're really shifting from being individual contractors, contributors, to starting to operate more as a team, and more collaboration. But part of that process of transition is that they are starting to take more complete ownership of their area and their roles, because the roles have evolved beyond tasks into true areas of responsibility.

And so, as a team evolves in that way, at some point, your role will then have the opportunity to shift and change as an owner. You'll be able to move some things off your plate. And it's very possible that in order to grow your capacity, you need to think about who else can do some similar work. I think about for law firms, bringing on other lawyers. Maybe you start by bringing on a couple of other specialties. But maybe you get to a point where you decide, I want someone with the same specialty because we could double our billable in this area.

Melissa: Yeah, that's a real thing. I know I'm not special, so I'm not trying to be like, “But I'm a snowflake.”

Tara: I think you are a special snowflake.

Melissa: One thing that I am finding, I need to reframe, I need to get underneath this, is that lawyers… I mean there's good lawyers out there and there's not so great lawyers out there. So, there's that. And a lawyer is not a lawyer is not a lawyer. However, there is specialized training to be able to fulfill a role. And I am needing a specialized sort of situation that is not a school that you go to.

It's totally possible. Listen to me. Now, that I'm thinking this… This is what happens. You verbally process and I end up in a different place when I'm talking about it. But they are out there and you have to hunt for them, and you may have to pay a premium for them, but they are out there. These people exist that will blow my mind, because of their abilities and skill sets.

It's easy to just say, “Well, yeah, but there's not just a bunch of them out there with a few initials after their name that you know that they could do it.” Or that there's a high likelihood that they could do what they need to do.

Tara: Or “That they care about the same things I care about.”

Melissa: Right. That’s entirely true.

Tara: So, yes, they might have the skill set and the experience and it might be amazing. But do they care about the same things that we care about? Is there alignment in those values, in that vision and mission? And you're right, I mean, some of this growing beyond our own capacity is putting our own ego in check to say, “What could someone else do even better? And what are the things I truly need to do? Versus things that yes, I can do well, but I shouldn't have to do.”

Melissa: Right. Right. And how can I make sure that I do my job to make them better than me? What would that look like?

Tara: To develop them.

Melissa: It's not a competition, but just train them that well, develop them that well. That'd be fun. It would be a lot of work, but it'd be fulfilling work. And it is true. All these law firm owners listening to this are like, “Oh, stop your whining.” You know what I'm saying about the lawyer? That is true. Just because you've been through law school and you pass the bar, does not mean that you're the right kind of person the firm is looking for. I don't mean to make it sound easy. It is not easy. Hiring is not easy.

Tara: Hiring, acclimating. It’s not storming and forming a new team every time you add someone. Having a foundation and language for trust for a team is so important, especially if you're growing. Because every time you add someone to the team, you're multiplying the complexity by the number of people on the team. Because that many individual relationships that are happening.

And so, having language for trust helps you move through those initial phases of building trust a little bit faster if we can talk about what's important to us regarding reliability? What does reliability for this team mean? What is sincerity for this team mean? What does it mean for us to understand our own competencies? And what do we expect in terms of honesty about that? And then, how do we show care for each other? And what do we need from each other to feel seen, heard, valued, cared about?

So, having that language in the beginning, then when you add someone, you are starting from a really strong, established team that already trusts each other. It can be disruptive to add someone, but it doesn't have to take everyone off center. Because they already have a language and an understanding of what it looks like for us to trust each other at this level.

Melissa: This work is so important and valuable. I'm just listening to you say this… If I was listening to this podcast, and I wasn't in my seat, and I didn't have the experience with you that I have, I'd be listening to this and thinking, “Well, yeah, it is important to have the language around…” But that is not something that I think anyone listening to this should expect of themselves to be good at forming that framework.

Tara: Nor will it happen naturally.

Melissa: Right. These calls are not meant to be sales pitches for you. But they turn into that because…I would not be able to do that for my team. Even if I had all the bandwidth to do it, I wouldn't be able to do as well as you. But I don't have the bandwidth to do it. And to give the cognitive load that's required to care for this enough, so that it actually can become integrated and the team gets to… Well, that's brings up another point.

But the team gets to really sink their teeth into this stuff. And it becomes, culturally, how we roll. And even if I did, I know well enough to know that facilitation is incredibly powerful for getting things integrated into a team, instead of just the boss leading it, that’s the nature of it.

Tara: And the challenge is, if you're the boss, especially when it comes to something like trust, if you're the boss, and you're trying to talk about these things, and you're trying to have open, honest conversations about these things, and there is any tension or hesitation. Maybe you, as the boss, aren't the one who's always reliable. Maybe you don't always deliver on a deadline. Can they actually tell you that?

If not, then you facilitating something like this is going to fall flat, because then it feels hypocritical. But it could just be a level of awareness for you, as the boss, it's not intentional, right? But it allows people to show up differently when they don't also have to impress you as the boss. When you're having these harder conversations, or more challenging, deeper conversations.

Melissa: Also, one more thing, hearing you talk about this, the earlier you can do it, the more advantages you give yourself. And I don't know if there's a ‘too early’ kind of phase that you can help people identify. There's all level of business listening to this, but I'm so glad that I found you this year.

And I almost wish, I want to say I wish I would have found you a year earlier. But I wouldn't have seen the value in it the way that… When I met you, I could see it, because it was such a need. So, I wonder if there is a too early kind of business to focus on this sort of thing?

Tara: Well, I would say that I work with some solopreneurs. And we're working on how to lead their business, even though they are doing it alone. And then, once you start adding people, there's team dynamics that come into come into play. So, I think it's more of a matter of, are you someone who is ready to grow as a leader? Because this work does require a level of vulnerability as a leader.

And Melissa, you've entered into that in a way that's willing and enthusiastic about it. But some leaders really shy away from this level of deeper work, because it feels too vulnerable.

Melissa: It’s not for the faint of heart.

Tara: No, it's not. I always laugh that it's called “soft skills”. There's nothing effing soft about this work.

Melissa: Razor skills. Just kidding.

Tara: They have the highest ROI. But the reason that we struggle so much with it in the workplace is because it takes time and intention. And it takes a level of vulnerability to work through it. So, I would say that, in terms of readiness, there isn't a too early, it's more about the readiness of the leader to engage in it. And if the leader feels ready, then it is very worthwhile.

I joke sometimes, leaders want me to come in and fix their team. But if they don't want to participate in that, and they're an owner/operator, I will only get you so far. In fact, I can be dangerous, because I will shine a light on the lack of growth for a leader, unintentionally. And so, I tell leaders, “Don't do this work unless you're ready to engage in it, as well.”

Melissa: Yeah, absolutely. Thank you for coming back.

Tara: Yeah, absolutely.

Melissa: And after trust part two, we'll get to dig into that a little bit as well. So, for anybody interested in learning more about you, tell them where to go, and what you have coming up.

Tara: So, we have a podcast. My partner, Pamela, and I have a podcast called The Grounding and Growing Leadership podcast. You can find us there. You can find us on Instagram, Facebook, and LinkedIn. LinkedIn is probably where I'm more active. And then, our website is

Melissa: Do they find you or your business name in the social media?

Tara: They can find me, but also Align. But Align is kind of a really typical word, so it's hard to find. Align, Transform, or Align Strategies’ the name the business.

Melissa: Okay, cool. And we'll have everything in the show notes, as well. And then do you have any workshops coming up? Anything that you want to tell people about?

Tara: We have a workshop in May called Braving Boundaries, for people who struggle to set and hold boundaries, and for cultures who maybe are struggling with boundaries. So, if you have team members or a whole team who struggles with burnout, boundaries are an important step. Learning how to have healthy boundaries, rather than creating walls and ghosting people. So, that's a workshop we have coming up.

Melissa: Okay, good deal. So, go to the website to learn more. And yeah, just get involved. Get around Tara; get in her community, listen to her podcast, get on her newsletter. And when you're ready or it feels right, reach out for more, because it'll change everything. So, thank you.

Tara: Thank you, Melissa. Really excited to be doing this work with you.

Melissa: Me too. All right, I'll see you next time.

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, 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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