Your Communication Can Help You Transform Your Work Environment

My final year of teaching high school shifted from being the worst-ever to the ultimate. Although I simply thought it was because the students grew up – I learned it was really about how I humbled myself into communicating well.

Or another way of putting it, I improved my leadership-by-speech.

That final year – 2000 – I knew it was going to be rough when those I didn’t plan on seeing again in my classroom were back. I had experienced raw emotion on a regular basis in my classroom in 1998, so when I saw the core students involved in that experience sitting across the room from me two years later, I wanted to quit. Instead, I experienced a breakthrough.

Of course I had given them all the “credit” for the problems, thinking I had little to do with it. Yet it was my past unfiltered communication and manner in handling discomfort that contributed to these students’ retaliation. So when I chose humility during my final year – in the form of giving credit and praise to those other than myself – I not only began the rebuilding process, I gained something more.

I created an environment of trust.

I knew my communication set the tone for the classroom environment shift that year. While I was committed to creating an outstanding year, I was open to their perspective and willing to admit fault. All this started when I considered what kind of environment I wanted and then considered how my communication could create that. Thus, I was able to transform my classroom simply through my communication. In essence, my leadership-by-speech was strategic yet real.

Today’s corporate environments have the bad rap of generating similar results as I had created: forcing its employees to pat themselves on the back so they climb the ladder to success despite hurting others in the process. In many law firms the same perception exists – if you don’t credit yourself, nobody else will. And unless people know of your accomplishments, you won’t see the work/level you want.

Is this an excuse for bad behavior? Some claim it. But others have learned another perspective.

When we pat others on the back we get relationships of support, recognition and success.

It’s responsible of us to not only accept praise but to refer to our own involvements of taking steps toward success. Additionally, it’s just as responsible when we share aloud our observation of others’ behavior that we admire.

Did you originate the client into the firm? Say so. And when others are claiming responsibility, use their drive as an example for you without missing a beat to stay in healthy momentum with them. And don’t forget to initiate your awe of someone else’s ability.

In other words, there are ways to see that we personally get credit while also building relationship. After all, it’s the ability to master human relationships that lead us to the most success in our profession.

Here are a few tips to keep in mind:

1. Pat others on the back. Your humility while allow you to see the good in others.

2. As much as you can praise others, refer to your own ideas and actions. This healthy balance keeps you purposeful and aware of your own value.

3. Maintain neutrality as a means of getting a rounded picture of circumstances. With increased information comes improved decision-making and objective working relationships.

With a focus on mastering human relationships comes appreciative change in your attitude and behaviors in the office. More so comes the “pebble in the pond” impact of creating waves of similar changes in the hearts and minds of others.  Eventually you see your focused self-management creating changes in multiples of individuals, affecting the entire environment, while leading with humanity. Can a business survive when we shift focus from $ to humanity? Most definitely!

If you are an attorney, a partner, a practice group leader, the managing partner or anyone else in the firm with interest in communication for leadership, contact me at

Reflect on what you wish your working environment to be like. Then stand up and speak up in ways that communicate the transformation.

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