The Maraia Minutes


A Tale of Two Sisters

Volume 11, Issue 9

As I've said before, your attitude is everything. It can either be your best friend or your worst enemy. I recently met a lawyer from Canada who attended a seminar in Monterey, California where I was co presenting. She shared a story that poignantly illustrated my message about attitude.

This woman, let's call her Lisa, was a marketing dynamo and the epitome of someone whose attitude was a great asset to her practice. Lisa was very outgoing and the consummate networker. It was easy to see how much she genuinely enjoyed meeting new people and building relationships. She was the kind of person who became totally invigorated and enthused when interacting with people.

Lisa indicated she had a twin sister, let's call her Madelaine, who was also a lawyer. Her twin sister also practiced at Lisa's law firm. She described Madelaine as a very successful lawyer who had grown her practice through great talent and hard work. Her sister also possessed good people skills, but was not very outgoing. In fact, Madelaine was her polar opposite in terms of developing relationships and attitude. Her sister found the task of marketing or networking to be daunting and overwhelming. Fortunately, Madelaine was such an effective tax lawyer that she didn't need to do much in the marketing/networking arena. As a result, she didn't do much of it.

Madelaine was also a devoted mother who attended most of her 7 year old son's sports activities including hockey, baseball, swimming lessons, and soccer. When she attended these events, she often worked or talked on the phone to people at work when there was a pause in the action. Due to her shyness, she went out of her way to avoid speaking to the other parents who sat along the sidelines or in the stands.

Here is where our story takes an unusual turn. Here is how Lisa relates the rest of the story:

"One day at work, my sister was particularly stressed at the fact that she had a closing approaching in a day or two and she was having trouble getting responses and documents from the lawyer on the other side. She had a group of associates working with her on the file, and they, too, couldn't get much of a response or work product from the other lawyer. She was annoyed that afternoon by the fact that she had not heard from the senior lawyer on the other side for several days, and had made some very demanding requests of him to be satisfied by the end of that business day. It was 4 pm, and she still had not heard from him. His name is Harvey Bingham. [Not his real name.] She had to leave to take her son to his swimming lesson. She asked me, her sister, to check her faxes for her, in the event he sent one, and then asked me to touch base with the associate she left in charge.

"She arrived at the pool and called me several times to see if a fax had been received from Mr. Bingham, and to go see the associate to find out if he had been reached or had called with the information she had requested. Nothing had been received. After a few calls, I became irritated and told her to just forget about it for a few hours, and instead take some time to visit with the other parents at the lesson. She had explained that there were only 3 boys in this swimming class, and that this was the 5th or 6th lesson. She told me that she didn't know either of the other two parents even after all this time! I was aghast. I suggested she strike up a conversation with the other parents in order to help the time pass more quickly and to take her mind off her problem. She agreed.

"Ten minutes later she excitedly phoned me from the pool. She had struck up a conversation with one of the fathers at the lesson. He was complaining that their nanny had quit that week so he and his wife were busy shuttling their kids between school and lessons. He expressed irritation at how far the pool was from his downtown office. When my sister asked him where his office was, he named a specific building. She then asked where he worked, and he named a large downtown law firm. She, being a lawyer herself, asked him what his name was. It was Harvey Bingham!! Once he discovered that she was the lawyer who had been trying to track him down all week, and specifically all day, they were able to discuss the deal and settled the outstanding issues right there at the swimming pool."

It's obvious from this story that if Madelaine had been networking with a purpose, she would have never had the problem she was facing. If she had a different attitude, Madelaine could have easily solved her problem several days earlier and spared herself needless worry and anguish. The person she was trying to reach had been sitting just a few yards away for several days in a row! One moral to this story is that sometimes networking WITH a purpose can alleviate work related headaches and not just marketing ones. So let me ask you my friends: Whom do you most identify with in this tale of two sisters?

Copyright 2008 Mark M. Maraia Associates