You Should Never Delegate This

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I plead guilty to being a delegation fanatic.

Some say I’m lazy. I claim that I’m leveraging myself into greater efficiency. I hand things off to employees, delegate to anyone I can find, and outsource work to countries most of us can’t find on a map.

Left to my own devices, I’d whittle my activities down until I had nothing to do. Birthday dinner for my spouse? Outsource it. I don’t mean outsource the meal preparation, obviously–that’s why we have restaurants.

I mean that I’d outsource going to dinner. Harsh? Yeah, I hope she doesn’t read this.

She’d get home afterward and I’d ask if she had a good time. Actually, maybe I could pay someone in Bangladesh to call and ask her if she had a good time.

While she’s having her romantic birthday dinner, I’ll be getting other things done (or watching reruns of The West Wing or something).

I’ll outsource nearly anything. For example: I have a virtual assistant who orders my handwritten thank-you notes from a company in New Jersey. The company writes the notes and signs my name. Even assigning the order to the virtual assistant is something I don’t have to touch, because I’m also fanatical about automation.

There’s one thing I’d never outsource

As much as I love letting go of tasks, projects, and responsibilities so that I can skinny-dip in a lake in Guatemala (true story), there is one thing I’d never let go.

I think that for a long time, I didn’t understand it. It only became clear to me in the past few years. But, boy is it clear to me now.

There is one thing that forms the core of my success over these past thirty years, and it’s even more critical to my success today.

It’s the thing that drives the revenues; it creates the profits; it’s what paid for the resort where the skinny dipping incident took place (damn, I hope there wasn’t a surveillance camera).

I’ll hang on to this no matter what

I’d love to let it ALL go. I’d be thrilled to swing back and forth in a hammock watching the payments process into my account. I love the little alerts I get in Slack each time a deposit ka-chings.

But all of my delegating and outsourcing would come to an end if I let go of this one thing, because it’s the key driver of all our success.

What is that one thing?

It’s my voice. It’s the words you’re reading on this page, mixed with the tone, the perspective, and the point of view.

It’s this snarky, sarcastic, sometimes mean-spirited voice you’re reading right now. My voice is the thing that sets me apart. It’s the thing that builds a connection to you. It’s the thing that lets me tell you the stories of my wins, and more importantly, of my losses. It’s the thing I use to build trust.

My voice, my tone, my stories, my being–these are the tools I’d never want to stop using. I’m not sure that I could, but more importantly, it would be counterproductive. I’m going to have to keep doing what I do right here in front of this keyboard, because I’ve got a pretty strong feeling that outsourcing my voice would lead me down a short path to failure.

Your voice comes through powerfully

A business that is known, liked and trusted always has a voice. The voice is less of an audible thing and more of a personality thing. It’s the being, the presence, the essence of the business. It’s the point of view, the perspective, the approach to the universe taken by the leader, and it’s felt by the people who are most important to the business–the customers.

There are, sadly, businesses that don’t have a powerful voice. Those businesses blend into the crowd. They get overlooked. They’re not understood, or remembered, or trusted. They used to be the imitators without a brand name. They were the generic soup can next to the Campbells, at half the price. We just weren’t sure whether we could trust them or not.

Today, though, it’s not always the big brand name that has the clearest voice. Sure, sometimes it’s still Coke or Pepsi that we know and trust. But just as often nowadays, we’re drawn to a quirky, interesting, personality-driven brand of soda in an awkward glass bottle which costs three times as much as the big-name brands. It has personality. It speaks to some of us.

You, like that soda, speak to some people when you let your voice ring out. I deliberately say “some people” and not all people, because your voice will only resonate with some. Not everyone is going to appreciate your voice. Certainly, not everyone appreciates mine.

Knowing that our voices will appeal to some, but not to others, keeps many of us quiet. Stepping up, speaking out, taking a position involves risk. We worry about losing the listeners who don’t appreciate what we have to say. We worry that in trying to appeal to one group, we’ll alienate the others. We probably will.

But the choice is yours–either have a voice that resonates with some, or have no voice and resonate with none.

Most law firms are voiceless

Law firms speak in platitudes. “Excellent, experienced, affordable” their websites boast, as if that were a siren call. “Years of combined experience,” they all say, in exactly the same way. In other words, they say nothing at all. They have no voice, no presence, no personality.

You’ve seen the online advertisements. “Chicago Divorce Lawyer” or “Toledo Employment Lawyer” or “San Francisco Immigration Lawyer.” They say nothing special or unique or different, because they have nothing to say.

They have no point of view, they have no mission, they have nothing in particular to say to the world except “I’m here.” Guess what? Nobody cares.

Your voice is your chance to tell the world what you believe, how you think it should be done, why it needs to be changed. Your voice is an opportunity to reveal your personality, open up to others with some vulnerability, and tell your stories–you know they need to be told. Your voice is the reason people talk about you, share your name with those in need, and talk about the difference you make in the world.

It’s all you’ve got

Your voice is it. There’s nothing else. Everything else is window dressing. When you outsource your voice, you’re going to lose.

So why do lawyers outsource opportunities to speak to their people directly? Why do they give away the chance to connect on their blog? Why do they let others control their social media? Why do they hand off their website messaging to copywriters they’ve met for only an hour?

Because it’s the path of least resistance. It’s easier to delegate. It’s easier to outsource. It’s easier to pass along the responsibility. I get it. I feel the temptation. I’m feeling it right now as I continue working on this article, late into the evening.

But when we hand off our voice to others, we cease to exist in the minds of the prospective clients, the referral sources, and others in our community. We disappear. There’s nothing left of us.

Delegation is essential. You can’t do it all. You do need to leverage yourself.

But you’ve got to hang onto your core. You’ve got to retain what matters. You’ve got to keep breathing meaning into your message. You’ve got to make your voice–yes, your unique voice–loud enough for the world to hear.

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