Sometimes leadership is showy and cinematic. More often, it’s the everyday extra effort that makes the most lasting impression.
This month is all about leadership. Leadership within your organization, leadership among your peers, and leadership within the industry.
This last aspect is the focus of this brief reflection.
When the subject of leadership comes up, so many of us (myself included) immediately conjure up George C. Scott’s riveting performance in the opening scene of “Patton.” You know the one:
"Americans love a winner and will not tolerate a loser. Americans play to win all the time. Now, I wouldn't give a hoot in hell for a man who lost and laughed."
It’s true: We admire achievement and success, the visible kind. Championships and Fortune 500 revenue and Nobel prizes. But what about the more invisible kind, when you do the right thing even when no one is watching? What about consistently behaving like a professional, every single day for your whole career?
Those things may not be as cinematic, but they count, too.
I want to talk about what is looks like to be a leader in your industry, in ways that are sometimes sweeping and epic, and sometimes quiet and intangible.
You may well be the best that there is, but if you lack professionalism, few will ever know how skilled you are. Lawyers, businesses, and individual clients will be apprehensive about hiring and trusting someone who lacks that professional vibe. This can come across in may ways: dress, presentation, vehicle, documentation, and communication.
One of the things that our agency does to set ourselves apart involves correspondence. Every email, text, letter, report that leaves our office is checked and rechecked. Checked for wording, spelling, grammar. We make sure that our logo and license number appear correctly and that the document presents an image of professionalism and sharpness.
Below are a couple of examples that I know for certain that some of our competitors do not follow:
When we send a CD or a DVD out to a client, lawyer, court, we print a label that includes our logo and the pertinent and appropriate information on it. Not a “sharpie” in sight. When I say “print” I mean from a printer, not a ballpoint.
When we deliver returns to a lawyer’s office, they are in a printed envelope with our logo, phone number and web address and the lawyer’s name, the case number and any other necessary information.
It is our goal to minimize if not eliminate anything hand-written from representing our company. These simple actions cost nearly nothing and take very little time, but they are invaluable in that they set us apart. We have legal clerks and lawyers who tell us as much. They truly appreciate that little extra touch, especially when that thing that we produced winds up in court. In fact, we have even had the opposing council approach us after the case with work of their own, because they were impressed with our attention to detail.
A few lines back I said, “You may well be the best that there is, but if you lack professionalism, very few will ever know how skilled you are.” I said it, and I stand by it; however, the reverse may also be true. All of the labels and printer ink in the world will not save you if you don’t have the skill to back it up. We need to be both proficient and professional. A good mix of sound, hard work that is professionally presented is a recipe for much greater success.
It is not only important to be a leader of others, but also a leader in the industry. By providing the best possible service with the best possible packaging, you may well find yourself rising up the “ranks” in your professional space.
But more than that, you’ll make a powerful positive impression on the attorneys you work with and your investigator-peers. Every time an investigator exceeds expectations, the bar is raised a little bit. And that benefits us all.
About the author:
Clay A. Kahler, B.A., M.Rs, M.A., Ph.D. brings an extensive background of military police and civilian law enforcement experience. He has earned degrees in Biblical Studies and Theology. He is an author, instructor, professor, lecturer and pastor. Clay also holds OSHA certifications in “Basic Accident Investigation” and “Effective Accident Investigation” as well as numerous certifications from the Federal Emergency Management Administration.