Episode Notes

Think trust is something that magically appears? Not according to today’s guest!  

Stephanie talks with leadership expert Randy Conley about what leaders can do to build and grow trust with their team and clients.  

Check out CosmoLex  

Simple Truths of Leadership: 52 Ways to Be a Servant Leader and Build Trust  

Simple Truths of Leadership Playbook: A 52-Week Game Plan for Becoming a Trusted Servant Leader  

Check Out the Leading With Trust Website 

If today's podcast resonates with you and you haven't read The Small Firm Roadmap Revisited yet, get the first chapter right now for free! Looking for help beyond the book? Check out our coaching community to see if it's right for you.

  • 03:22. Trust as a skill
  • 18:27. Building trust in the face of past failures
  • 23:27. Enrolling people in the vision



Welcome to The Lawyerist Podcast, a series of discussions with entrepreneurs and innovators about building a successful law practice in today’s challenging and constantly changing legal market. Lawyerist supports attorneys, building client-centered, and future-oriented small law firms through community, content, and coaching both online and through the Lawyerist Lab. And now from the team that brought you The Small Firm Roadmap and your podcast hosts 

Zack Glaser (00:35): 

Hi, I’m Zack. 


Sara Muender (00:36): 

And I’m Sara Muender. And this is episode 487 of the Lawyerist Podcast, part of the Legal Talk Network. Today, Stephanie talks with Randy Conley about trust and leadership. 


Zack Glaser (00:48): 

Today’s podcast is brought to you by CosmoLex, and you’ll hear my conversation with them before the episode. So Sara, you and I were talking before this about overwhelm and taking managing tasks that seem like they’re too much managing big projects, and you and I do them differently, but both of us through our lives have had to come up with tricks on how to get started on some of those things. What do you do when you have big projects to take care of around the house or at work or whatever? 


Sara Muender (01:18): 

Well, I’m so glad you asked because I have no big projects going on right now at the moment, so it’s a great time to think about it. 


Zack Glaser (01:25): 

Yeah, see, my question was totally random. Yeah. 


Sara Muender (01:29): 

No, I was just telling Zack before we hit record that I just moved into this house that was already fully furnished when we moved in, and so it’s just three different people, family’s worth of stuff in here, and it’s difficult for me to get in and tackle it and really truly move in. So there’s that and planning a wedding, and also my daughter’s birthday’s coming up and just lots of things going on. So I’m sure that a lot of people can relate at the earlier parts of the year. It’s kind of like we hope to go into the new year with the reset, but things travel with us into the new year and Zack and I were talking about how I’ve been especially struggling with it lately because I have ADHD, and it’s just been so bad lately. I need to go back to the doctor and figure out a solution. 



But for now, a couple of things. So Zack, you had a really, really good suggestion about just having super hyper-focused time, and that has always been the key to my success is planning ahead and time blocking, and then being really specific with what I’m going to do in those time blocks. So not just having blocked focus time on the calendar, and I do this at work too, but having those times defined as I’m going to do this specific thing. That way when I go into that time block, I don’t have to sit there and think about what am I going to do? Then you get decision fatigue and all that. So the super hyper-focused time blocks was really helpful. And you mentioned you do that too. Is that something that you do in your personal life and in your work? 


Zack Glaser (03:08): 

But I actually have to do it a little bit differently. If I block out my day, hour by hour, minute by minute, it gets overwhelming for me. So I have to kind of just choose a project or a thing and say, okay, Zack, you have permission to just dig into this, to just go and I’ll set a time limit, but you have permission to just dig into this thing, stay on this task, but you don’t have to worry about anything else. And I don’t have children, and so I don’t have a lot of things that are just popping into my office, but I give myself the ability to say, okay, I’m not doing anything else. I’m not answering the phone, I’m not answering email. I’m not going to get up and cook. I’m not going to do anything else. Just going to dig into this thing. And so I do that in at work. I do that on the weekend when I’m building something in the garage and I just stay on that thing. It’s one of the superpowers I think, of how my brain works, but it can also be a detriment because I will also not get anything I’ll forget to eat in that time period. 


Sara Muender (04:14): 

And then you find yourself low blood sugar and then the whole day’s a mess. I get that. 


Zack Glaser (04:18): 

Absolutely, absolutely. It’s a real problem. But if you can wield that superpower appropriately, then I have found that I can get some things done that way. 


Sara Muender (04:26): 

And you might have to go into that time blog with a little checklist, okay, what are the things I need to do beforehand to make sure I can really honor this thing that I’m about to throw myself into? And then the other cool thing that I mentioned that helps me is it’s kind of silly and I feel silly even talking about this on the Lawyerist podcast. 


Zack Glaser (04:45): 

I love this though. I love it. 


Sara Muender (04:47): 

Well, it was something that my mom taught me when I was little because my ADHD has always been a problem. I always struggled with keeping my room clean, and there’s just, piles would accumulate everywhere just like they do now. And she told me feel what we call the planet trick, and she still reminds me of that today. She’s like, remember the planet trick? Which is pretend like you are in outer space and you are on one planet and all the other planets don’t exist until you are done with that planet. So that’s what I do around the house is I’ll just focus on one small area at a time and just put my blinders on and block everything else out because there’s so much satisfaction that comes with seeing that space done, and that kind of motivates me to move on to the next planet. 


Zack Glaser (05:31): 

Yes, I love that because it does give you a moment of something actually you’ve got something accomplished. And frankly, that fits into just iterate, iterate on things. And so if you’re at your office and you’re thinking, I’ve got to get my entire operations manual done. No, you don’t. Don’t have to get the entire operations. You get one planet done, just one planet in that entire operations manual, solar system done, and you’ve done great. 


Sara Muender (05:58): 

The table of contents something, one small section, something small, and it’s a huge accomplishment. Absolutely. Great. Well, on that note here is Stephanie’s conversation with Randy. 


Zack Glaser (06:14): 

Hey y’all, it’s Zack, the legal tech advisor here at Lawyerist. Today I’d like to talk to you about CosmoLex. I’ve got Joyce Braford with me once again, and we are talking credit card payments and credit card solutions. Joyce, thanks for being with me. 


Joyce Bradford (06:27): 

Oh, Zack, always my pleasure. Thank you for letting me join you again. 


Zack Glaser (06:30): 

Absolutely. Alright, so we are talking about the ever sexy credit card payments, and I say that in obvious gist, but I was setting up credit card payments seven, eight years ago in my practice, and it was quite frankly, a pain in the ass. It was so difficult to go research these things. I’m not a banker. I had to go into my banking institution and figure out how to set up a merchant account, what’s going on with credit card payments and merchant accounts and all that stuff that we have to do as lawyers in order to make this happen in order to accept credit card payments. 


Joyce Bradford (07:05): 

So great question, Zach, and here’s the rub for all of this. We’ve been told take digital payments, take credit cards in your law firms forever. But you’re absolutely right, it’s a disaster trying to figure this out on your own. So here’s a 30,000 foot overview of what this actually looks like and what you are committing to when you take credit cards. Number one, you have a merchant service provider that is connected to your merchant bank. Your merchant bank is then connected to your payment gateway. That payment gateway is going to be things like PayPal, stripe, ally pay, those types of things. Then there might be a connected acquiring processor or that might go directly back to your merchant account and then connect to the bank from there, then you’re going to connect to your credit card network like Visa, MasterCard, discover, Amex, all of those. 



And then from there you have another service provider that’s called your issuing processor. Your issuing processor then tracks down the customer account and that then is connected to the issuing bank. And that is what is the property or the responsibility of the cardholder. So you’ve got your MSP, your payment gateway, your acquiring processor, your merchant account, the credit card networks, the issuing processor, your customer account, their issuing bank, and finally your card holder. And all of these things have to connect back and forth to one another. And you can imagine how many services are involved in that because it’s not one in most cases. And every single person, every single institution that’s involved takes a cut off the top and that is where your processing fees come from. 


Zack Glaser (08:43): 

That’s what I was going to say. How do I know what that’s going to be? Because I look at those things and I look at these relationships and I mean, when I was doing this for myself, I thought, I’m a lawyer, I can read contracts, I can figure this out, but it’s all percentages. And if it’s over this amount and it’s really difficult from experience to figure out what you’re going to be charged for each one of these transactions, and more importantly to me in that scenario, it’s difficult to figure out what I can pass on to my client if I can pass on something to my client. So how do we do that? 


Joyce Bradford (09:16): 

Yeah, so great question. So generally speaking, when you come into a credit card relationship, there are generally two buckets of types of fees. There’s either your interchange exchange rate, or there is a flat rate. Most people, most people have a combination of the two where you’ve got a flat rate plus your interchange. So what most credit card processors are going to say is our payment processors that we connect with is like, here’s your introductory flat rate. And oh, by the way, if it’s a specialty card or a bonus card or an Amex or something, you’re going to have additional fees on top of that and those are going to be buried way down in your invoice that you receive once a month. And then it becomes really hard to know what to pass on to the clients. So what most bar associations have allowed for now, and not all of them, so you should check with your bar association, check with your bar association to see if you are allowed to truly pass on fees to the client. 



And if you are, then you can do something called surcharging. Now, there are some creative accounting solutions that lawyers will sometimes use to avoid passing along. Do things like what Ticketmaster does and call things service fees or things like that because that’s surcharging by another name. And don’t get caught by the bar, don’t get caught by the bar, don’t use surcharging, use an actual surcharging, use that in the language. Be very clear about it. The laws regarding surcharging, no matter what profession you’re in, are very specific about what needs to be on that invoice. So don’t get caught, right? Yes, you better yet do the right thing. Let me say that better yet, do the right thing. 


Zack Glaser (10:54): 

Doing it correctly is what we’re saying. 


Joyce Bradford (10:56): 

Get caught doing it right, guys. So if you are allowed to pass on a surcharge to your client, you typically do that by a flat rate. And in fact, there was legislation this year. You know what? I don’t even know if it’s legislation or if it was just a credit card companies altogether, but either way, there are new regulations that are enforced by the credit card companies that allow you to pass on a 3% surcharge to your clients. You’re not going to be able to go beyond that. Even if what you are being charged is more than 3%, you are going to have to consider anything over 3% the cost of business, the cost of doing business. So what you should do is look at your actual credit card invoice. Now here’s the rub on all of this, Zach, this is the worst part. Most credit card processor invoices say, okay, here’s the total amount for this and here’s the fee, and then this is what this equals. 



But then as you go down into additional sections where the credit card pass through fees or bonus cards or interchange rates, as they vary, they’ll stop putting actual percentages on those. I looked at multiple invoices over the past week, and then you have to do the math on that. You’ve got to bust out your calculator and say, what was my actual rate on this? And it gets complicated. Let me just put this out there to every credit card processor. That’s not the one that I work with. You’re dumb. Stop being a jackass to be better, be better, be better. But that just leads me to what I kind of came here to talk to you about today, Zach. And that is if you’re going to use a credit card process, use someone please who is straightforward about what they’re going to charge. Everyone’s going to charge something. There’s no such thing as a free lunch. 


Zack Glaser (12:39): 

You have to make money. 


Joyce Bradford (12:40): 

You’ve got to make money, but you need an invoice that’s clear, and you need a processor that is designed for lawyers and ideally that’s fully integrated in the system that you have. So CosmoLex pay CosmoLex pay for the win. 


Zack Glaser (12:55): 

Yes. Well, that’s the thing. Again, CosmoLex fundamentally is integrated with all the things that they have. If it’s in CosmoLex, it is integrated into the system and usually integrated in a very robust way. And I think this is an important thing for attorneys to keep in mind as we’re starting to say, Hey, we are going to use credit cards. We are going to accept credit cards. Well, we need to be knowledgeable about what we’re doing. We need to be knowledgeable about what we can pass on to our clients, how we can pass it on to our clients and just know what’s going on with it. Or if we can’t pass it on to our clients, I at least want to know the expense. So I think that’s great to be straightforward, easy to use, well integrated into the system in the CosmoLex. Joyce, thanks for the information. It’s always great to have you here talking about all things law practice management. I appreciate it. 


Joyce Bradford (13:46): 

Yeah, my pleasure. Thank you. Zack. 


Zack Glaser (13:48): 

Before we go, if anybody wants to learn more about CosmoLex, they can obviously go to CosmoLex.com. They can also read more about CosmoLex on the Lawyerist dot com website. 


Randy Conley (14:01): 

Hey, Stephanie, it’s great to be with you today. I’m Randy Conley, vice President and trust practice leader at Blanchard. Blanchard is a global leadership development and consulting firm, and I head up our work on trust of our building trust training program, and I’ve written a couple of books on servant leadership and trust with Ken Blanchard are the founder of our organization. And I really do kind of get the dream job of just helping organizations around the globe build trust in the workplace. So I get to do training with leaders. I get to do keynotes, talks, virtual training in person. So it’s really just a fun gig that I have. 


Stephanie Everett (14:47): 

Yes. Well, welcome to the show. We met because actually did a training together, and that was super fun. And I was intrigued immediately when you told me what you did, because this idea of trust and leadership, I was like, oh boy, this is a big one. This is a good one. We need to cover this. And something you said, and I would love for you to share is really kick this off, is this idea of trust. It really means different things to different people, and yet it’s a word everyone seems to really throw around a lot. 


Randy Conley (15:18): 

Yeah, that’s so true. We do use the word so much, and yet a fundamental truth about trust is that it’s based on perceptions and those perceptions are formed by the behaviors we use. And so there are several interesting implications from that. One is that we all have slightly different ideas of what trust is based on our own experiences, upbringing, early life experiences, values, so on and so on. And a fun activity that I like to do with groups is I’ll ask people to think of the word trust, and I’ll ask them to draw a picture, draw a symbol that represents trust to you. It’s amazing the variety of symbols that people come up with. And you can imagine what some of the common ones might be like maybe a wedding ring or a parent holding a child’s hand or a handshake that’s very common, different things like that. 



But it illustrates the idea that we all have these slightly different ideas of trust. And so when we start to talk about trust in an organizational setting, if we’re not all working off the same definition of what trust is, then we’re actually speaking slightly different languages. And so since trust is based on perceptions and those perceptions are formed by our behaviors, that actually makes trust a skill that you can learn. Most people, when I talk to ’em about trust, they just think trust kind of organically happens over time in a relationship, but that’s not quite the reality. The reality is is that it’s built upon the behaviors we use. And if you learn the behaviors that are shown to build trust, you’ll build trust. If you use the behaviors that are shown to erode trust, you’ll break trust down. So trust is such a deep and wide subject that you can just sort of swim around in that swimming pool all day long and really touch on a lot of important leadership principles as well as just good life relationship principles. 


Stephanie Everett (17:34): 

Yeah. And so is there a definition that you like to use when you’re teaching trust? 


Randy Conley (17:40): 

There is. Before I share it with you, when I first got into the field of trust and I was doing my research, I was a little surprised to learn that in the academic literature, there are over 100 commonly accepted definitions of trust because it’s such a broad topic. I mean, think about it, trust can be a noun, a thing, it can be a verb, it can be an adjective. So there’s just so many nuances. But the definition that I like is trust is the willingness to be vulnerable to the actions of another person, the willingness to be vulnerable to the actions of another person. How does that resonate with you? When I say that definition, sort of what comes to your mind? 


Stephanie Everett (18:31): 

Yeah. I feel like I’m processing here. 


Randy Conley (18:34): 

You thought this was supposed to be an interview of me, and I just flipped the script and now I’m interviewing you. 


Stephanie Everett (18:39): 

I love it. I appreciate that word, vulnerable. I’m getting stuck on that word. I think there’s a certain humility that comes up, and I know you talk about servant leadership and a willingness not to sit on high, but to be with, that’s not how I think of leadership, right? That idea that no, I’m at the back of the line, or I’m the different memes that come up in my mind. I’m there pulling the weight too. I’m not just telling everyone what to do. So right, 


Randy Conley (19:10): 

You’re hitting on a key word. When I share that definition, I ask people to react to what are some of the key words in that definition that you see and hear. And vulnerable is a key one because a fundamental principle about trust is that trust requires risk. If there’s no risk involved in a relationship or in a situation, if you’re not risking your time, your money, your energy, your effort, your love, then there’s really no need to trust. But if there’s any risk involved, if you’re making yourself vulnerable to the actions of another, you’re extending trust. And this is so true in a legal representation scenario, right? As a client, I’m extending trust to you as an expert in your field to advocate for me to represent my best interests, and that makes me completely vulnerable to your actions. 


Stephanie Everett (20:11): 

Yeah. When we talked about this on our team last week, we were talking about trust on our team, and what came up was, for some people, trust is I’ll do what I say I’m going to do. And for other people, it’s more of this competency. Do I trust that you have the skills to do what you say you’re going to to be the leader to run this organization, or like you said, to represent me in this case. So it’s interesting, as we were even exploring it, I was like, oh, those are different pieces, but they all sort of fit together. 


Randy Conley (20:42): 

They do fit together. And a model that I share with people and teach others is called the elements of trust. And there’s a easy to remember acronym that we created for this model of trust. It’s A, B, C, D. So I like to think of it as a language of trust. When you learn a new language in school, one of the first things you do is learn the alphabet of that new language. And the ABCDs in this model are like the alphabet of trust. And so here’s what the A, B, C, D stand for. A stands for able. Are you an able person that’s about your competence, right? Do you have the knowledge, the skills, the training, the expertise to be good at what you do, right? Lawyers go to law school to be able to be competent in their field. The B stands for believable. 



Do you act with integrity? Are you a believable person? Are you honest? Do you have good values? Most importantly, do you live according to your values, right? Do you walk the talk and do you act ethically and responsibly? So that’s the believable component. The C stands for connected. Do you care about others? This is the relationship component in trust, and that comprises components such as benevolence. Benevolence is a very key word in the field of trust because it means goodwill. Do I have your best interest at heart? Do I really care more about you than about me? Do I have a servant’s attitude towards you in the language of servant leadership, or am I self-serving? Right? So being connected through open communication, building rapport, that’s the C connected. And then finally, D is dependable. You mentioned it earlier, right? Talking with your team, do what you say you’re going to do. Are you reliable? Are you accountable? So when you learn these four elements of trust, able, believable, connected, and dependable, you can start to intuitively associate the types of behaviors that you use that illustrate those four elements. And that’s what I help people learn is these types of behaviors that illustrate your ableness, believability, connectedness, and dependability. You act in this way, you will build trust with others. If you do things counter to those four elements, you’ll erode trust with others. 


Stephanie Everett (23:19): 

Yeah. I’m super intrigued by this idea of trust is a skill, and if you just do these things, you exercise that muscle and you build trust. 


Randy Conley (23:29): 

Yeah, very much. And I think it’s important to say it’s a skill in the sense it’s something you can learn, develop, you’re constantly growing in, but it’s not a skill or a technique to be used to manipulate people, right? Sure. We all act in trustworthy manners. That’s what con artists do. They act in trustworthy ways that appear to be trustworthy, but then somewhere along the course of the relationship you discover that they’re not so trustworthy. So having that true genuine intention of being trustworthy is really important. 


Stephanie Everett (24:09): 

Our listeners are often business owners. They are lawyers, so they might also, I’m thinking they need to build trust on their team within the organization, within their business, also, maybe with the clients. That makes a lot of sense. And I’m curious if there’s specific steps that people should take when they have that hat on and why this becomes so important that they build trust among their teams. It sounds obvious, but I feel like sometimes it’s good to remind people this is real. 


Randy Conley (24:40): 

Yes, absolutely. I mean, the subtitle of one of my books that I wrote with Ken Blanchard, the Simple Truths of Leadership, 52 Ways to Be a Servant Leader and Build Trust. The subtitle on the cover is making common sense, common practice, because that’s what we’ve learned over the years. Even though things are common sense, when we get in organizational relationships, they’re not always common practice. So one of the cool features of having a model for building trust is that trust is trust. In that sense, those four elements of trust play out in whatever context you’re thinking about, whether it’s client relationships, whether it’s leader to team members, business owner to vendor, or if you’re in a sales role selling to customers, the four elements of trust are the same. What’s unique is the application in those different contexts. So for example, if you’re a small business owner and you’re leading a team, one of the things I would encourage people to do is share this model, this definition of trust with the entire team and say, Hey, team, we all agree, trust is critically important to us, but trust means different things to different people. 



So when we talk about trust in this team, we’re talking about these things, able, believable, connected, dependable, and once you have a model of a particular construct, it allows you to more objectively look at that construct and sort of take off some of the emotional subjective components of it. So what I’m getting at there is if we’re working on the same team, we’re in the same small business, I joined your firm, Stephanie, and we’re working together. If I feel like you’re doing something that’s eroding trust with me, you’re sort of violating those ABCDs. A non-threatening way to talk to you about that is to say, Hey, Stephanie, dependability is one of our key hallmarks of trust. I’m struggling a little bit with your dependability on this particular project or this issue, versus saying, Hey, Steph, I don’t know if I can trust you to follow through on what you say you’re going to do. So when you have a model, you can use the language of the model to talk about trust without even really having to say the T word. Because once you throw out the T word trust, particularly in conversations about how needs are not being met, then people get defensive walls come up, it gets a little touchy. So that would be just one practical thing. I would suggest small business owners, leaders of teams do share the model, get everybody using the same language so that you can all talk about trust in the same way. 


Stephanie Everett (27:39): 

Yeah, I mean, that makes a lot of sense to me. I agree. As soon as nobody wants to think of themselves as not trustworthy, and there’s a lot of emotion. We talk about it in our team around this yellow suitcase. Everybody brings a bunch of stuff in their suitcase with them to work in day, and it’s all different, but I think that’s what comes up sometimes is all that other stuff. And so I like the idea of, no, we can really just focus, and if we’re talking about an A, B, C, or D, one of these points of the model that helps us really clarify and cut to the chase and not make it so personal, it’s like all this other stuff. It’s just like, yay, this is what I’m seeing. 


Randy Conley (28:19): 

Yeah, that’s so true. And you said something really important. Nobody thinks of themself as being untrustworthy. And I will purposely ask crowds of people when I’m speaking with a group or working with a group. I’ll say, okay, well, we’re all here for a class on building trust, right? So let me ask you, raise your hand if you think you’re untrustworthy. No one ever raises their hand, right? Then I’ll ask a second question. I’ll say, okay, raise your hand. If you presently or in the past have had any low trust relationships, nearly everyone raises their hand, right? Yeah, I’ve experienced low trust before. And I’d say, well, doesn’t that seem a little odd that none of us considers ourselves untrustworthy, yet virtually all of us have or have had trust issues in relationships. So is it always the other person’s fault that is causing these trust issues that no life happens? We usually unintentionally erode trust. We have all these little micro erosions that just happen until one time the proverbial straw that breaks the camel’s back. But it points out that building trust is a lifelong journey. We all think we’re trustworthy. We all strive to behave in trustworthy ways, and life happens, and we always have to be looking at how are we building trust. It’s not something we can ever just check the box and say, okay, done with that. I can move on to something else. 


Stephanie Everett (29:58): 

Yeah. I’m curious. I don’t know. Let’s go a little bit deeper here. I’m working with a team right now, and they’re struggling with this. I think it’s coming up for the D dependable, and as you were talking, I was thinking about it and I was like, over time, the organization has had, they have great optimism. They have good intention, and they say to their team, this is where we’re headed. People. We’re going to do this, or we’re going to change this. We’re going to go in this direction. And then for lots of really good valid reasons, they haven’t gotten there, and they’re over here, and I’m working with them right now because they’re like, they feel like that trust has been eroded maybe with the team and the leadership. And it’s like, how do we go in and say, ah, at this time it’s different. No, we’re serious. We really are making these changes, and we promise you want to say, just trust us. We’ve got this, but we know that’s not the right way to go. Right? That’s kind of why we’re here. 


Randy Conley (30:59): 

Right? Right. Exactly. Yeah. Leadership is hard. Leadership is hard. If it was easy, then everybody would be doing it, but it’s hard. And I call those kinds of situations trust dilemmas, because a reality for a lot of leaders and many organizations, you’re faced with these complex challenges, and if you choose option A, you build trust and increase trust with stakeholder group A, but you may erode trust with stakeholder group B, right? If you choose the other option because they didn’t like it or it affects them negatively or whatever. So sometimes you’re in these trust dilemma situations where you have to manage things as best as you can. But within that, I try to encourage leaders to be mindful of a few things. One is make the implicit explicit. I’ve learned over the course of my career and working with clients, so many times we leave things unspoken in relationships. 



We just assume the other person or the team knows what our intentions are, what our motivations are, and that’s not true. So making the implicit things that we are thinking and believing, make ’em explicit, get ’em out there so that you can clarify expectations. That’s the second thing. I encourage clarify expectations, because at the root of nearly every trust issue is this idea of unmet expectations. I expected you to do one thing, another thing happened, and even if it wasn’t totally your fault, I’m still kind of blaming you because you set the expectation that X was going to happen and Y really happened. So make the implicit explicit, clarify expectations from the get-go, and throughout the process, throughout the change process, the implementation process, keep those lines of communication open as much as possible, be as transparent as possible. Share the why behind decisions. Share your thinking. 



One of the traps that we fall into as leaders is we are often several steps ahead in processing a change than what our team is because we’ve been noodling on it for a while. We’ve thought through all the circumstances, the different contingencies, what might this look like? What does that look like? And so we’ve sort of internally processed the change and we’re ready to hit the ground running. And so we announced the change, start to implement it, and then we’re kind of surprised why people aren’t jumping on board and rallying to the cause. Well, they’re three months behind us thinking about all the other concerns that we’ve already processed. So keeping those lines of communication open in as much as possible, involving other people in the change process. One of the simple truths in our book is the adage, those who plan the battle rarely battle the plan. 



And usually the opposite happens in most organizations. You get a small group of leaders, put them in a conference room somewhere, they plan out the change, whatever the new thing is, then they come out and announce it to everyone. Whereas if we pursue more of a high involvement strategy, get as many people involved as appropriate and feasible, especially the ones who are going to be most impacted by the change, who know the most about what’s happening on the ground, get them involved. When people feel a sense of ownership and involvement in the plan, they’re much more likely to get on board and endorse the plan and support it. 


Stephanie Everett (35:00): 

Yeah, it makes sense. And I think it’s what a lot of small firm leaders that I work with struggle with sometimes because they’ve worked with me and they now have this vision. They’ve created the firm values. I mean, those are simple examples, and they’re like, now how do I get everybody else on board? And then we have to do that work of enrolling people and helping them see the path. 


Randy Conley (35:21): 

Yeah, absolutely. Leadership is a team sport. It’s we, not me. And that’s a hard adjustment for many leaders to make because why they’ve risen to that level, because they make things happen. They solve problems, they make decisions, they get things done, they’re used to doing. And when you get to a certain point in your leadership journey and career where now you’re having to get things done through others, and the higher up you go in an organization, multiple layers of people below you, it becomes much more about you setting the broad vision, direction and goals, and then flipping the proverbial pyramid upside down to where now you as the leader are serving everyone else to help them accomplish their goals and achieve that mission and vision that you’ve set. That’s the constant problem that all leaders have to address at some point in their career. 


Stephanie Everett (36:28): 

Yeah. You said it so succinctly in one of your writings where you’re like, the leader sets the vision and then serves the people. Did I get that right? 


Randy Conley (36:36): 

Boy, did I say that? That sounds good. I don’t know if I did. That sounds pretty good. I 


Stephanie Everett (36:41): 

Wrote it down. I read it somewhere. 


Randy Conley (36:44): 

Yeah. Yeah. No, in all seriousness, that’s what I believe is that leaders set the vision and direction, and then they clarify the goal, keep folks on the same page, and then they figure out, how can I help everybody accomplish this goal? Ken Blanchard has said many times over the years, he says, if you think you’re leading, but you look behind you and no one’s following, then you’re just out for a walk. And I think that’s what leaders have to remember is like, okay, I’m setting the vision direction tempo. I’m going now, let me make sure people are behind me and following, because I’m helping them accomplish the goals. 


Stephanie Everett (37:29): 

I think it’s a good reminder just that this is hard stuff, and no matter what size your team is and how big your organization is, the struggle is real. And it’s nice sometimes just to be reminded. It’s easy. I know the people I work with, they’re just like, oh my gosh, does it ever end? And I’m like, eh. I mean, it kind of just shifts. You figure something out and then something else happens. And like you said, even this idea of trust, it’s a lifelong journey. 


Randy Conley (37:58): 

Yeah. One of my leadership mentors, her name is Barbara Hart, she was my leader at one point in my career. She said, Randy, people are messy. People are messy. And boy has that proven true during my leadership career, right? I mean, you just think of, I love the fun analogy. You use a yellow suitcase that you bring in to work. It’s like, yeah, there’s a whole lot of stuff in that suitcase that make people very messy, and it is a myth that you can tell people, leave all that stuff at the door, right? Leave your personal life at the door. No, we’d like to think that that’s true. It’s not. We bring our whole selves to work, and that makes leadership a complex, challenging endeavor. And even though our book is titled Simple Truths of Leadership, simple does not always mean easy, right? Simple does not mean easy. It does not mean simplistic. It means if we can remember some fundamental simple truths about good leadership principles and focus on those, we can get so much more bang for our buck than trying to adopt the latest, greatest leadership fad and approach that comes down the road because it comes back to we’re leading people. Leadership is a people business. People are complex, messy, and we can focus on fundamentals that help us deliver a big impact. 


Stephanie Everett (39:35): 

Awesome. We’re going to put the link to your new book, two books, really, right? Because there’s a main book and then there’s the, almost like a workbook. 


Randy Conley (39:44): 

Yeah, exactly. A workbook. Yeah. There’s In February of 22, Ken and I published Simple Truths of Leadership, and then December of 23, the year we just concluded, we published a companion follow-up piece called The Simple Truths of Leadership Playbook, and it literally is a workbook journal that accompanies each of the 52 truths with different self-reflective exercise, journaling prompts, quizzes, surveys, worksheets, all in an effort to help people apply these truths to their leadership journey. 


Stephanie Everett (40:23): 

Nice. Because we all know that’s where the magic really happens. It’s one thing to read it. It’s a whole nother to go make it a reality. So we’ll put the links to that for sure. In the show notes. Any other place we can go to find you and read more about your work? 


Randy Conley (40:37): 

Well, I have a blog called Leading with trust.com. I’ve had that going for, oh, I think 14 years now. Got over 400 plus articles there. That’s a great resource. Of course, our company website, blanchard.com, look me up on LinkedIn. I’m being sincere. I would love to connect with anyone. My email address, I’m being sincere. Shoot me an email if I can help you. randy.Conley@blanchard.com. Yeah, you should be able to find me if you look. 


Stephanie Everett (41:11): 

Yeah, that makes it pretty easy. I love it. Alright, well, thank you so much for being with me today. I’ve learned a lot. I got some things I’m taking back that we’re going to put in action and I’m going to work on my ABCDs. 


Randy Conley (41:24): 

Oh, that’s awesome. That’s awesome. Steph, it’s been a real pleasure hanging out with you. Thanks for inviting me to your show. 



The Lawyerist Podcast is edited by Britany Felix. Are you ready to implement the ideas we discuss here into your practice? Wondering what to do next? Here are your first two steps. First. If you haven’t read The Small Firm Roadmap yet, grab the first chapter for free at Lawyerist.com/book. Looking for help beyond the book? Let’s chat about whether our coaching communities, are right for you. Head to Lawyerist.com/community/lab to schedule a 10-minute call with our team to learn more. The views expressed by the participants are their own and are not endorsed by Legal Talk Network. Nothing said in this podcast is legal advice for you. 

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Stephanie Everett

Stephanie Everett is the President of Lawyerist, where she leads the Lawyerist Lab program. She is the co-author of the bestselling book The Small Firm Roadmap and is a regular guest and co-host of the weekly Lawyerist Podcast.

Featured Guests

Randy Conley Headshot

Randy Conley

Randy Conley is Vice President and Trust Practice Leader for Blanchard®. He is a co-author of Blanchard’s Building Trust training program and works with leaders and organizations around the globe helping them build and restore trust in the workplace. Since joining Blanchard in 1996, Randy has partnered with some of its largest clients in delivering transformative leadership and organizational development solutions. His experience in working with companies such as Amgen, American Express, Burlington, Wells Fargo, American Honda, Pfizer, and the San Diego Padres demonstrates his ability to build high levels of trust in client relationships. As a popular keynote speaker, presenter, and trainer, Randy brings a sincere, authentic, witty, and genuine approach to the audiences he engages. Randy is a recognized authority in the fields of trust and leadership. Trust Across America gave him their Lifetime Achievement Award for being a top thought leader in trust; Inc.com named him a Top 100 Leadership Speaker & Thinker; and American Management Association included him in their list of Leaders to Watch in 2015.

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Last updated January 25th, 2024