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EPISODE 7 — Cy Wakeman — Ditching the Drama & Creating a Culture of Excellence in Your Law Firm

If you’ve got drama in your workplace, you either hired it, you allow it, or you are it. How do you know which of these is the culprit?

Cy Wakeman is a highly acclaimed workplace drama expert, leadership & team culture consultant, a New York Times best-selling author, and a sought-after speaker with 25 years of expertise. She spends her time training world-class leaders how to craft the ideal, profitable, and ego-free organization by hacking the hiring process, deriving true employee engagement, and putting energy, time, and money in all the right places.

And on this episode of The Game Changing Attorney Podcast, Cy sits down to dive deep into:

  • Eliminating emotional waste from your organization
  • The truth about employee engagement (hint: you can’t buy it)
  • The best way to hire the right people for the right roles every time
  • Creating a culture of high accountability — and big results —in your law firm
  • and much more…
EPISODE 7 — Cy Wakeman — Ditching the Drama & Creating a Culture of Excellence in Your Law Firm
Show Notes:

2:00 – Not a contrarian, but a researcher. “I’ve been known as a contrarian, but I would rather see myself more as a researcher. There’s so much pop psychology that hit the vendor halls at HR conferences and people speaking without really evidence behind what they were claiming. I started out life as a therapist, so when I got into leadership in HR and I started hearing some of the things people were recommending, it did not sync at all with what we knew from the research — what we know about human behavior. And so rather than being a contrarian (although I’ve really mythbusted a ton of things we often say), I would propose trying to bring back evidence and human behavior psychology into what we’re telling leaders to do.”

4:22 – Defining drama. “Drama basically is the funky name for what we call emotional waste. So emotional waste is any energy that’s taken away from results or happiness, i.e. engagement at work. So when you think about it, it’s disruptive behavior, which is usually stemming from unproductive thinking.”

7:45 – A high accountable workplace. “A lot of people say, ‘Oh Cy, it’s so hard to find good talent.’ When I hear that, I don’t experience that as an employer, but then I see the flaw in their logic — they think they have to win the talent war in their city for people in that profession. And I’m like, ‘No, you just have to be the best place for high accountables to work.’ It’s not a very hard competition. If you and I are being chased by a tiger, I don’t have to beat the tiger; I just have to beat you. So I just have to have a clean workplace where high accountables love working.”

10:31 – Probation period. “We have 90 days of probation, and if you can’t live up to your interview, we’ll either extend it, or probably at my company will just say, ‘You know, we’re going to be testing you and you’re going to be testing us in 90 days.’ And that’s tricky. A lot of people say, ‘Well, nobody’s going to risk coming to you if they know they could lose their job in 90 days.’ Oh yeah? High accountables will because high accountables have nothing to fear.”

11:40 – Deadlines are non-negotiable. “I don’t promise people that, you know, you won’t be here till midnight — it’s flexible. Like, if you’re here till midnight you might not be in the next morning. You can work from home. What’s not flexible though, is you can never miss a deadline.”

12:07 – You can’t buy engagement. “You don’t have the right people on your team if work is not fun. For me, work and pleasure aren’t separate. I want people that really are passionate about it, but I will tell you, I’m working with a lot of those companies now and what they’ve realized and what we’ve been shown in the research is that if you over rotate on engagement — buying people’s love — engagement without accountability creates entitlement.”

14:22 – You can’t please everyone. “But what I found out in the whole engagement piece — in that focus on keeping people happy — is it didn’t play out in what we know from psychology because the same behavior cannot please a high accountable and a low accountable at the same time. You will always be ticking somebody off. What do I mean by that? We are going to implement change so that we stay at the forefront of delivering progressive things for our clients. Well, someone who is in a state of low accountability is anxious when change is happening. Somebody who’s in a state of high accountability is anxious when change is not happening. We say change is hard. But it’s only hard for the unready.”

15:48 – Accountability drives results. “The second thing everybody talks about is that engagement drives results. We know that that’s simply not true — it’s a shadow factor. Accountability drives engagement. People high in accountability choose engagement more often than people low in accountability in the same circumstances, and accountability drives results.”

18:37 – Willingness is key. “The key ingredient is absolutely willingness. I believe from a skillset standpoint, people are pretty unlimited in potential. It’s the willingness. So one, when you’re working with somebody before you figure out, and think, ‘Oh my gosh, what can I do to get them more successful?’ Go to them and ask, ‘What’s your level of willingness to really evolve in this situation?’”

24:01 – The true cost of an employee. “A big number most people don’t think about is: what’s their true cost? What’s the cost of them in addition to their salary and benefits? What’s their freakout factor? What’s their, you know, maintenance fee? What is their hassle factor — their drama quotient? For a lot of people, the ego forgets that stuff and accepts it as a cost of doing business, and IT overvalues the other stuff.”

26:19 – Fix it, own it, accept it. “The Dalai Lama I think said that best. He said, ‘If you’re suffering, there’s really only two ways forward because all suffering is needless.’ Right? If it is fixable, fix it. If it’s not, own it, accept it, and just know it’s part of your reality. But most of us want the third option. We don’t want to fix it. We don’t want to own it. We want to vent about it. And that is the lowest level of accountability a leader in an organization can be in.”

29:34 – Stop playing the victim. “So, for me, it’s like you can keep those people — just quit playing the victim. If you walk into someplace and say, ‘You know, I have a firm. I have mediocre results. I spend a lot of my time on people that I don’t enjoy being around, and that’s my strategic plan for next year as well.’ Stop lying about it because what people do is they complain as if their standards are high, and they lead as if their standards are low — and you can’t have both.”

30:30 – Classify by accountability. “My take on Millennials is kind of controversial because anytime you divide up by a group and then generalize and stereotype, you’re growing an excuse, right? So, if all of a sudden instead of me adapting my leadership style and modernizing my leadership skills over 20 years, I use the same skills and they don’t work with a modern population — the modern world — and then they blame the people that they don’t work on. My whole team is Millennials. Most of them are 35 with two kids and a mortgage — like, how long are you going to go on blaming people, you know, entering their 40s? So for me, I just really say stay away from stereotyping, and if you want to classify people, classify them by accountability levels because no matter what your age, your human condition is you have this ego and you have issues with accountability. And I really think that it was a popular excuse for folks.”

34:16 – What makes someone a game changer? “To be a game changer, you need to foster curiosity — you have got to stay super curious all the time. You’ve got to focus on your own evolution. It’s not you that is going to think of what’s next in the game changing. It is you that needs to facilitate different conversations. A lot of people think game changers are the ones coming up with innovative ideas. That’s not true. I’m willing to stay curious and bring people together and say, ‘Let’s keep thinking about this. Let’s look at this differently,’ and I think that’s probably the biggest thing. The more you’re complaining, that’s the sign for the more evolving you have yet to do, you know? I think it really is being a citizen of the world and being willing to get out there in the mess.”

Gallup Poll – “Why Employees Leave”
Reality-Based Leadership: Ditch the Drama, Restore Sanity to the Workplace, and Turn Excuses Into Results by Cy Wakeman
The Reality-Based Rules of the Workplace: Know What Boosts Your Value, Kills Your Chances, and Will Make You Happier by Cy Wakeman
No Ego: How Leaders Can Cut the Cost of Workplace Drama, End Entitlement, and Drive Big Results by Cy Wakeman

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