Stand out from the crowd, make an impact
When it comes to making an impact, being self-confident is important, but instilling confidence requires understanding the perspective of others. In the freelance legal consultant world this means standing in the shoes of the client and demonstrating that you can deliver what they need.
As part of the Move the Needle series for our Obelisk Support consultant community, we interviewed David Roylance, award-winning coach and author of “Be Seen, Be heard and Get Paid for What you’re Worth”, and Shalini Sequeira, executive coach, commercial lawyer and Obelisk consultant, to find out more.
First impressions are made within seconds, whether online or face to face. David says there are ‘three pillars of impact’: our posture, voice, and energy. When it comes to making an impression, “It is hardly ever the words we use”, he says, “it’s the vocal tonality and the nonverbal behaviour, and whether they are congruent with the words actually used”. From the perspective of the listener, the greater the alignment between the way we present ourselves and what we actually say, the more authentic and therefore confident we appear, and so we inspire confidence in others.
There are four key stages in the lifecycle of a freelance role where making a great impact and inspiring confidence is particularly key:
#1 Inspiring confidence in your interview
It’s natural to feel a bit anxious at interviews, particularly in online interviews or if, as a returner to the profession, you haven’t had an interview for a while. David agrees that any nervousness can be quelled by re-focusing your perspective on the client in the interview. What help are they looking for? Is the post to fill a gap, are they short staffed, is it day to day business support or a new project? An interesting tip he has for online interviews is to show your hands, to create rapport quickly. If you’re feeling nervous about how you look on-screen, download our Zoom backgrounds here.
Taking an enthusiastic approach will convey a commitment to your role, enhance authenticity and increase the interviewer’s confidence in you.
Shalini advises that interviews can be very different from each other. “Non-lawyer interviewers often want to see a good fit for their business and team” she says, “which means you can project your personality; friendly capable enthusiastic.” Whereas lawyer interviewers tend to ask about specific legal skills and experience and you need to be honest about your skill set. “It’s important that the role is the right fit for both of you.”
#2 Integrating confidently with your new team
The quicker you feel part of the organisation, the easier it will be to feel confident about your work and hit the ground running. Ideally, you’ll meet the team to absorb the working culture and understand their communication style. In a big legal team, there’s likely to be an established induction. If not, or if it’s a remote-working role the onus is more on you to think about what would help you.
David suggests looking at the organisational culture, what are their values, how does this manifest itself in communicating internally and externally. This will help you align yourself into the team culture. “Ask, how do you want me to reflect your organisation’s values in this work?”, he suggests.
Shalini describes her recent experience, “I hadn’t met anybody face to face and they asked me what I would like for my induction – it definitely made a big difference.” So be ready to think about what you need to get started.
It is important to get clarity about;
- Who is giving you instructions and to whom you report
- What core information you will need and where to find it- e.g. lists of useful contacts, templates for documents
- Which communication channels are used in the organisation and expectations of how and when to use them.
“Be ready to think widely about what would help you settle in quickly, such as meeting certain key people. There might be lots of other things you can think of that would help you.”
#3 Inspiring confidence with your clients
Remember that the client wants you to succeed, so it’s important that in early stages of your relationship you ask questions, particularly if you are working remotely without the ease of asking ad hoc questions offered by the office environment. You can help your client help you by:
- Seeking clarity on vague instructions
- Capturing business critical timeframes and deadlines
- Identifying who can quickly give you answers to key questions
- Asking about potential sticking points and how they managed these in the past.
If you come across a potential or actual problem, raise it early as it may have a non-legal cause and you may need some business insight into its resolution. David observes that its natural to be worried about revealing mistakes, but that shouldn’t get in the way of being honest.
“When the client knows that they can trust you to come and ask when you need help, that does inspire confidence and builds the relationship.”
#4 Building impactful working relationships
Inspiring confidence comes from your legal skills and conveying your wider competence by building trust in the way you communicate and deliver your work. “It’s important to show up and be yourself and want to be part of the team and behave as if you are a part of the team”, advises Shalini.
Developing self-awareness in how you interact with others and being flexible and adaptable to others communication style are both important. Think about your client and teams’ different styles of working and actively work on enhancing those relationships by having a proactive approach.
You may be able to bring a fresh perspective and suggest ideas that might be useful to the organisation. Shalini describes how when working at a start-up, she suggested making a repository for all the legal documents so it was much easier for everyone to search and file the documents, and that added a lot of value to the organisation.
Every interaction can build your reputation and demonstrate your potential. Confidence is a muscle that can be developed to bring you success as a freelance legal professional, so be proactive and put yourself forward at every opportunity.
“Every time you walk into a room whether those people know you or not, there’s an opportunity to create a brand new first impression.”