I have an opinion on absolutely everything, and I’m typically not shy about sharing it. Sometimes I assume that my opinion is so obviously the “right” opinion that I’m shocked when others disagree. I guess some people call that close-minded, but in my opinion it definitely is not.
A friend of mine asked me to be on a panel discussion this morning, speaking with a group of vendors about how best to build relationships with their clients. There were two others on the panel; one a non-profit COO type, and the other a legal administrator, like me. Except, he wasn’t really at all like me. He’s been a legal administrator for 25+ years, but does not network at all with other administrators. In my mind that means he prefers to invent the wheel over and over again instead of calling a colleague or posting on the list serve, asking “how in the hell do you handle this?”, which I do on average 4.2 times a week, and not always on my own behalf. It is a universal that partners in law firms want to know what everyone else is doing, but certainly not because they care or follow the flock.
More importantly, I don’t think anyone actually gets what I do for a living (although won’t be doing for much longer!) other than a fellow administrator. We speak in shorthand and swap war stories and I guess do what everyone who is bonded by a specific industry does. Ultimately we’re no different than a group of used car or time share sales people, but we’re better dressed and for the most part classier. In my opinion, and no offense to anyone out there who makes a living doing either or both of those things. And at events with open bars, all bets are off on the classier thing.
OK, so maybe he’s just not the networking type. There’s more. First, when discussing what not to do, he mentioned that he is “old school” and expects someone to call him Mr. Smith until he invites them to call him Joe. Ack. Other than job candidates, I am annoyed when people don’t call me by my first name right out of the gate. First of all, there is far less chance that someone will call me Mrs. and incur my wrath for being referred to as someone’s property by virtue of that damn “r” in the middle. If they get it right and call me Ms., I feel like I might be getting scolded by one of those sarcastic school teachers; “Well, well Ms. Foer” As a side note, if anyone ever let me be a teacher, I would be the queen of comments dripping with sarcasm. You probably already guessed that about me.
Mr. Smith was a proponent of doing things himself rather than relying on an expert. As the great Tom Peters preached, “stick to the knitting.” In today’s business jargon we call that a wheelhouse, but it will be something different within a month or two. I know a lot of stuff about a lot of stuff, but I also know what I don’t know. Mr. Smith seemed to feel that he had some very clever tactical moves by doing things himself. To use one example, when negotiating a new lease for my firm, I let our broker take the lead. That’s what she does for a living, and she kicks butt. While I agree that negotiating can be a lot of fun and in my opinion I can be incredibly impressive, that’s not my “knitting.”
As if all that wasn’t enough, we got to the call v. email question. Obviously, email is the best approach. Calls are annoying; I’m usually in the middle of something and I can’t focus. 99% of the time I let it roll into voice mail and then get annoyed sitting through a long message with no information whatsoever. I don’t have to listen to someone garble their own name and number to the point that I just give up and delete. On the off chance someone calls who catches my interest, why am I sitting here taking notes instead of you writing it all up and sending it to me, so I can forward to others and if absolutely necessary claim the work as my own and look smart? So you can already guess that Mr. Smith enjoys the personal touch of a phone call rather than an impersonal email. It’s almost like he didn’t understand that impersonal is really the way to go.
Anyway, I’m cool as a cucumber and never let my reactions show on my face or express exactly what I’m thinking through exaggerated body language. Nope, I’m pretty hard to read. So I didn’t raise my eyebrows, or silently mouth “wow” or say “huh, that’s different.” Well, not that much. As best as I can recall I never even said “okey dokey then!” in a way that indicates I think the other person is crazy. I did have my fair share of “isn’t that interesting—I feel completely differently.”
As always, I open up comments to anyone who agrees with my correct opinion. If you have a wrong opinion, shoot me an email. I’m more than happy to explain why I’m right. And if you don’t have an opinion on something, I’m delighted to let you know what you should believe.