Attorney Janet Ward Black is the principal owner of Ward Black Law located in Greensboro, NC - one of the largest woman-owned law firms in the state . During our time together, Janet Ward shared her career journey - including stories of her time as Miss North Carolina and the moment she chose to jump off her comfort cliff and in to entrepreneurship.
Janet Ward is the queen of grit and grace and is not afraid to tell it like it is. Join me for a dynamic conversation on how to fully appreciate your career potential in ways that are unconventional, true-to-self and reliant on more than just talent alone.
Welcome to the Reinvention Road Trip, a coffeeshop style podcast that is helping thousands of women dream bigger and level up in business and life. I'm Jes Averhart. Join me as we learn from the baddest women in the game who share their powerful reinvention stories, each one dropping unique gems and takeaways just for you.
Listen, it's time to get inspired, dream louder, and own the keys that will unlock the next best version of you.
Welcome back family. We are in our series on burnout, but we've also been in a series around incredible women who have amazing lived experiences and who are great storytellers who are helping. Sort of see through their eyes and through their moments in time, their crucible moments, how and what to do and when to navigate and that it's okay to fail and all of that good stuff.
And so today I'm going to jump right in with our guests, who I have had the pleasure of just getting to know in the last cache, I don't even know, just maybe six or seven. And over time, every interaction that I've had with her has been really special. She's super witty. She has got this great sense of humor and she's a straight shooter and I'm like naturally attracted to that because I feel like either I'd like to be that, or sometimes I feel like I am, which is awesome.
So I have the pleasure today of introducing you to attorney Janet Ward black. Janet Ward is the principal owner of ward black law. Located in Greensboro, North Carolina, her career takes her all over the place from, well, she'll tell you, actually, I don't want to spoil this. Janet Ward is going to give us her perspective on her journey, but also what she's seeing now with the folks that she's working with, her colleagues, her peers, young attorneys that are coming up in the field around burnout.
And how do you balance that? Right? This idea, this myth of work-life balance, which I don't believe in. I think it's work-life integration. I think in the world of. It's even more. So how do you integrate, how do you strike a chord? A rhythm? That makes sense. So Janet Ward, thank you so much for being with us today.
Yeah. When so y'all know we are recording in my home today and it's so nice. Cause we're, it's all cozy and we've got our flowers and our coffee and our water. So, so everybody get ready. We're just going to sit in. I want you to feel like you're in the living room with us, Janet. Let's just start from the beginning, whatever that means to you, but like professionally, talk to us about who you are.
Obviously, I've said you're an attorney, but like who you are and how you got to where you are today. So as the owner and principal, principal, owner, and leader of your organism, Well, if you had asked me when I was a little child, would I be where I am today? I would tell you absolutely not. I knew exactly what I wanted to do from the time I was two years old.
And that was to be a doctor. I loved science. I loved anything that I could dissect. Anything that I could mix some kind of potion and. After doing pretty well in high school, getting a chemistry scholarship to college Davidson college, right outside of Charlotte, North Carolina. And the worst thing that happened to me as I placed out of freshmen biology, which put me in organic chemistry my freshman year at Davidson.
And I made a C plus on the first test. And I'd never made a C plus in my life. And so here, I'm thinking now, wait, I'd had this plan of being a doctor my whole life. If I can't even do this. What am I going to do? And my father, who was a depressed person, in other words, he came of age during the depression.
He had always told me, I want you to have a job where you never have to ask anybody for a job. And I said, Hmm, okay. Doctors, don't have to ask people for jobs. Who else doesn't have to ask somebody for a job - lawyers, I'll be a lawyer. I didn't know a lawyer. I had no idea really what they did. And so it was with that sort of level of intellectual rigor that I made the decision that I was going to become a.
So I ended up changing my major to economics, which was the closest thing there is to business at Davidson college. And then I had an interesting little hiatus between my junior and senior year. Would you like to hear about that? I would love to, and I know that our audience does too. Yes. Well, I decided that I would try participating in a beauty pageant because people from my hometown had come and said, would you like to do this?
And I played the piano and I said, well, I hadn't really thought about it, but okay. And I finished that pageant as first runner-up. And then I figured out that there was all of this science and preparation behind being in the pageant world that I didn't know anything about. So I said, Hmm, well, I'm going to do this again.
And I tried for Ms. Charlotte Mecklenburg again, the large city in North Carolina. And was fortunate enough to win Ms. Charlotte Mecklenburg. So that was in January, about 40 years ago. And then over my spring break, while I was at Davidson, my father passed away. And then two months later, I competed in miss North Carolina and won miss North Carolina.
And then three months after that, I competed in Miss America and one, a most talented finalist award for my piano playing. And then that caused all of that calls me to take my junior year off. What would have been my senior year off at Davidson so that I could serve the state of North Carolina as a beauty queen, which means that you go cut ribbons and you're in parades and you go to other kinds of events.
It was a remarkable way to get to learn about the state. And what people often don't realize is that the Miss America pageant is still the largest scholarship pageant scholarship organization in the world for women. I know once my dad passed away and I was getting ready to finish Davidson and then go to what ended up being duke law school, I had a pretty expensive education ahead of me and the pageants really helped that.
So after that, I decided that I would go to duke law school because their parking lot was bigger than another school that I thought I was interested in. And I spent three fund full years here in your hometown of Durham, North Carolina. Can we rewind, chose to go to. Because of the size of the parking lot.
Yes. Okay. So I had gone to chapel hill, which was my other kind of top choice. I wanted to stay in North Carolina because I was so deeply embedded in North Carolina. And I couldn't find a parking space and I couldn't find the building because it's called van Hickey. We talk, instead of law school, I came to Durham.
There was this big gravel parking lot and the word law on the side of the building. And I said that's the place for me? Yeah, you're making it convenient for me. I can park my car duke. It is well, I mean, I wish all my decisions in life are that simple. I wish I had consulted my mother who was a school teacher at the time and she never said, oh, I don't want you to try to go to duke because of the money I want you to go to wherever you think is best.
So I, I knew that there was one thing though. I never ever wanted to do want to guess. I can't. I didn't want to speak in public. Oh no. Yes. So I go to law school and I don't take any kind of trial advocacy because I don't want to have to speak in public. So I get out of law school. I couldn't find a job. I had a really hard time finding a job.
And finally, this tiny little law firm in Charlotte hired me to do what I thought I wanted to do, which was sort of contract negotiation. And I hated it. And so I heard that there was an assistant district attorney's job in the two counties nearest to Charlotte. And I went to the elected da and I said, would you hire me now?
Keep in mind. I had no experience doing any kind of trial work and they never had a girl. And the office before and he gave it a chance. So I started in the DA's office and then practiced in what's called district court here, which is right in front of a judge, not a jury. And then they moved me upstairs, which means I started trying jury cases about 10 months after that and did that for about three years.
And it was a remarkable place to get. Education and to learn how to track cases and make decisions on your feet in large volumes. Because on a typical day in court, you'd have 200 cases where you never talked to the witnesses before you just had to figure out on the fly, how to make things happen.
So I think it's helped me. Systems over time. Yeah. So then one day, one of my favorite adversaries, so a lawyer I was against in criminal cases came up to me and said, we're getting ready to start an asbestos litigation department. We'd like for you to come work for us. And I'm like, well, I don't really know what asbestos is, but it's interesting.
And she said we'll pay you $10,000 more than you're making. Well, I was making $20,000 at the time. So a $10,000 raise sounded like a good thing. So I said, okay. And it was an all-female law firm. And that was really a remarkable thing in the 1980s. I started doing work there. I stayed there for two or three years and then decided that I wanted to move to a larger city Greensboro, North Carolina.
I went to another former adversary and asked him if I could come practice in Greensboro. And he said, well, yes, we'll pay you half of what you're making now while I was making a lot more money then. So I had to make a decision. Am I going to take 50% of my salary to do what I thought was the right thing for my future?
And I did that. As time passes, eventually he and I become 50 50 partners. And then about 16 years ago, that relationship wasn't what I needed it to be. And so I told him that I wanted to separate split the law firm up. Well, what ended up happening was he left, but it left me with all the cases, all the stats.
All of the overhead. And I had to figure out how to run a business. Well, understand. I never planned to be one that barely planned to be a lawyer. And I certainly never thought I would be working for myself. I never paid attention to that kind of thing. You know, it's like, does it matter to you about the copier or how you do employment tax?
How do you handle HR issues? At that moment in time, I had to figure out how to come alongside an organization that could help me be a business leader. And so I ended up joining an organization that's called C 12, which has all Christian-based chief executive officers and company presidents. That was really pivotal for me because it allowed me to be in a room one day a month with 12 other business owners.
Completely different practices, and types of business. And to use that group is kind of a board of directors. Okay. To help me figure out how to run a business. Well, now I sit here 16, almost 17 years later, I'm still a member of C 12. I go one day a month to that organization. And it helped me figure out that every business is the same.
Every business is trying to increase its revenue. Decrease their expenses and keep their staff from killing each other. And that's basically every, so it doesn't matter if you're a landscape company or if you're, or if you're a manufacturer or if you're a law firm. I originally was afraid, oh, these people are not going to have anything.
They're not going to know anything to help my law firm, but the truth is we just sell legal services. So we still run a small business. I have about 25 employees. Many of them have been with me for a very long period of time. And I would never expect myself to be in the position that I'm in right now.
There was no great strategic plan. There wasn't any expectation that I would do this and then this, and then this, I just, frankly kind of let it all happen and I wouldn't trade it for anything in the world. Yeah. Yeah. Well, I knew some of that. I didn't know all of that and I. Struck again by our podcast is entitled the reinvention red trip, but this is what you just laid out for me was a journey of reinvention, whether it was obviously a lot of times we reinvent we're reinventing ourselves all the time, but sometimes it's conscious.
Sometimes it's not intentional or not. Non-intentional unintentional. And you just said, I didn't have this map. Like I'm going to go to college. At the end of 40 years, I'm going to run a firm and whatever, and kind of have that as your north star. It sounds like I'd love to know what you think your north star is or was it, it's obviously not a professional north star, but is it being true to yourself?
Is it taking risks? Is it leaning? What is, what do you lean into. When you're making these decisions because from miss North Carolina to the Miss America pageant to choosing duke kind of on a whim, but like you're still, you're kind of drawn some you're being drawn towards a thing. I'm curious if you've ever thought about that.
Like, what's that anchor for you? Well, I am a person of deep faith. And so a lot of times I work out of my gut. What's your gut telling you is the right direction. And I think also for me, I can't, I'm gonna use a double negative. I can't hear about people. So the reason why I was desperate to make the firm work is that I had 20 other predominantly women looking at me going.
I've worked here for 15 years. What are you going to do about making sure that I can feed my family and that I have health insurance? And so a lot of the drive is making sure I don't let my people down. And then by what I get to do for a living, we also help. We seek justice. So we get on a one-on-one basis to be able to make a difference in somebody's life.
So most of what we do is represent seriously injured people. So a lot of times when they come to us that very first call, they may not be able to pay their rent, or they may not be able to pay for their medicine. They're in a place of pain that we can help address. And then also by being a lawyer, Particularly with what we do, we have the ability to affect policy.
So for example, in North Carolina, I can play a role with the North Carolina legislature or with the governor to try to be an influencer, frankly, to say, don't do this because it'll hurt. Real people do this because it will help people. So I think ultimately I would have been probably a rotten doctor because I'd have been really upset when something bad happened to somebody.
But now I have an arena that allows me to help an individual as well as potentially millions of individuals because of making use of my education and my relationships and my connection. So I think really perfect. And, and passion is sort of what it boils down to. And then frankly, it has to be to me, a sacrificial execution of your work.
If you want to run a great business, you better not be in it for yourself. Because the truth is you have to be able, I had to be able to say that first, frankly, it was about three years. I didn't get paid at all. Okay. I had to get paid to make sure my staff got paid and they had helped with insurance and the lights were on and we had great computers and we had, and we were able to execute our work well.
Well, a lot of people would say, I'm not willing to do that. I'm quitting. I'm gonna go and find myself a job where I can get a stiff check because that's safer. But for me, I was willing to say, I'm going to lay this down for, for my friends, from the people that have been with me through my practice, and see if we can make something that we never planned for me.
But here in retrospect, I see that we're, we're able to help people in ways that defy my own expectations. That surprises me every day. That's so good. And you Allie to me right into the next question that I had for you. Gosh, I'm so glad you talked about this. It's about sacrifice, but I'm so glad that you brought it up.
That you had to sacrifice your salary for the bigger purpose, which is people because you care about people. And also just the mission of the organization. Like this is a grid, there's something bigger on the other side of this horizon. And I'm willing to like go on this journey. Um, So I'm going to give up my salary for the sake of what is on the other side of that.
So talk to me about sacrifice, cause we're going to get into a burnout in a minute, but 40 years in the game, the journey wasn't easy. You alluded, you didn't you said right direction that you're a woman. You are the only woman. Right? And then we kind of kept going, but like you're a woman in the field we're in the south a year and now as a more traditional profession.
But at the time probably was not as prominent, right. Women. Weren't just like flooding out of law school. And you have a successful career today. Talk to me about other sacrifices that you've had to make along the way that maybe you're like, oh, I don't know if you have any regrets. That might be a really good question, but just sacrifices in general, you looking back and like, yeah, I don't didn't do this.
Don't have that, but, but I do have this and it's worth it. Let me separate it into two separate categories. Perfect. I had the opportunity because I was chosen not because I asked for it to serve as president of the North Carolina trial lawyers, which at the time was about 4,000 lawyers, and then five or six years later, only two years into my new business to be present in the North Carolina bar association, which is 16,000 lawyers.
I knew I should not have been. Let's talk about the bar association for a minute. I knew I should not have been chosen for that. Why me out of the 16,000 lawyers, why? Well, normally you wouldn't expect them to have an injury attorney who advertises on television. Who's on billboards, who's out there in the public face.
That really wasn't the the image of your usual North Carolina bar association president. And even though the organization had been. Existence about 110 years at that point, I was the fourth woman. So it is, it has been historically a male bastion. But I believe that God gave me a concept for us to execute during my year.
So not that I deserved it, but that there was something that had to be accomplished. And I was sitting in a meeting and just had basically, an epiphany about creating a program that would pair up lawyers with people who could not afford legal counsel. In a media way. So one of the aspects of it was for us to have a one-day event where lawyers would volunteer would go to television stations all across North Carolina and would answer people's calls.
That they wouldn't ask for contact information. They wouldn't say who they are. They would just say, hi, I'm a volunteer, a lawyer. How can I help you? And so my year that started the very first four all day. So that was one aspect of it. And then to also let lawyers know there are people out there who can't afford it.
They can't afford it. They need one, but they can't afford one. So how do we pair up where it's not scary for lawyers to be able to volunteer and help the average person who needs to know about a will or has a landlord issue or their child's criminal record needs to be expunged? How do we connect those together?
So we created a program and said, we have a couple of bee hacks, big, hairy, audacious goals. One is we're looking for a thousand lawyers to volunteer on one day, which would make it the largest volunteer effort in, in North Carolina history from the bar association. And we wanted to raise a million dollars to help pay for the educational debt of lawyers who worked for legal.
Meaning that they work to represent people for free. They have other options, but they choose that career that may not compensate them in the same way, but they have the same educational debt. So could we help them pay for their educational debt to let them stay in that sort of service line? And the first four, all day, we ended up having 1066 lawyers volunteer and it created something that I didn't expect because it was bigger than me.
First off, I got a team that was better. They were all smarter than me. I pick the best and brightest to be the ones who would execute this over the years. Television stations loved it because there were people calling into their stations with people like watch TVD because they're, they've got lawyers on there and you can call and talk to somebody for free.
So the media loved it. The staff, the people who were the ones calling in. And then the lawyers did because the lawyers would come out that day and say, that's why I went to law school. I got stuck in this job where I'm in a cubicle somewhere. I'm not enjoying it, but man, that just jacked me up. How loved what I got to do today.
The point of all that is, even though I started that in 2008, it happens now every single year. And more than a hundred thousand people in North Carolina have talked to a lawyer for free because of that one concept of one day, the legacy has lived past me. So it was so much bigger than me. And then now we've raised, I think about $7 million to help address the educational debt of folks who are serving in legal aid.
So that's one big piece. Are you ready for the other one? Okay. So inside of my law, 10 years ago, I had another epiphany. And if you really want to get in the weeds, I'll tell you about it. But if not, let me tell you what I know. You're a Piffen has been pretty remarkable. Well, then their impact of them is quite remarkable.
So go for it. Okay. Okay. Well, here's hold on, hold onto your seat. That's what we're here for. Let me take a sip. I don't have wine with me, but I do have some sparkling. I was riding to, to my office one morning and I heard in my head, I am a substitutionary God. And I was sitting there thinking about what I was eating for lunch.
That was not kind of what was on my mind at all. And I said, wonder what? That wonder what that means and why I don't hear from God often. And when I do, it's very. Infrequently and it's short sentences, but I felt like that was something that just came into my head. That was not something I was asking for when I started thinking about it.
I'm like, yeah, my God is a substitutionary God in the Old Testament, there's all of this about sacrificing animals for people, sin or crops and the like, and then in the New Testament, Christians have Jesus Christ as the ultimate substitution for everything they've done wrong. And I'm like, well, what does that mean in my book?
And I started thinking that one of the reasons I think I'm blessed is because I have always donated 10% of my revenue, whatever my income was to churches or to other good works. And I said, Hmm. I wonder if what I'm supposed to be doing is tithing on the firm's gross revenue. Because if I tagged on the firm's gross revenue, that meant that I was tithing for all of my employees.
So I could substitute for them, even if they have never been in a church or not a person of faith or don't feel like financial, or they could, could add, then protect them by doing that for them. So my executive director, who's a brilliant engineer, lean six Sigma certified wonder woman comes to my office.
When I said I got something I want to talk about. Now we're seven years into the law firm as my firm. And we had never made more than a 1% profit, never we squeaked back. So, Rhonda, I explained to her what I heard and what I thought it was, but what you were supposed to do. And she said, well, you're not been working on the budget.
I think we can do that. A budgeted profit. And so I think we'll be able to do 10% of the profit. I said, no, not 10% of the profit, 10% of the gross. And she swallowed hard and she said, okay, well, I'll give that some thought. She walked out in the hall and then called her husband and told him that I had lost my mind because we didn't have 10% margin.
Right. So over the last 10 years, and this very year is our 10th anniversary. We have given away to nonprofits, 10% of our gross revenue. We have a committee that meets together. We invite INGOs to come to speak at our law firm, to our little committee. They have no idea why. Awesome. We look for best-in-class nonprofits that are helping people who are hungry, sick, thirsty, jailed, and people from other countries.
We are systematic and strategic now in how we do our philanthropy. And then we give that money away to them and tell them that they do not have permission to use our name. So we do it anonymously so that the law firm, isn't just doing it as some glorified marketing, but read it that there's purity in what we do.
And so now we probably, it does it's so it's amazing continuing, well, we overtime now we probably have 160 nonprofits that we've given to over time and what we didn't expect out of it. Yes. We are the ones whose socks are blown off. We are so blessed by it because now we have all of these leaders from non-profits that we are in relationships with, and we can say, Hey, do you know, so-and-so, they're trying to do the same thing, or here's something else that you're in the process of trying to accomplish.
We know that so-and-so's already done that and they're non-profit here's their contact information. And then we hear story after story of how. That nonprofit is taking part of a dime on a dollar for us. And then the calling that, that NGO has its purpose, they are executing it. So rather than my staff going and working, say in a soup kitchen, we might do that occasionally, but we are an economic engine for good.
We are trying to do things where we can use just a little bit of money and get it to people who are going to execute it with as much skill and depth and perception as they possibly can. So we thought we were helping other people, but the truth is it has helped us. After the first year, it was a miracle to us that we made that we were able to make enough money, and give away 10%.
And then we had the highest profit we've ever had. We were able to give the biggest bonuses that we ever were able to give. And so now 10 years later, we're in a place to look back and now we budget that 10%. We have strategic planning that we apply to it. We have business systems that we apply to the business side and do our philanthropy the same way.
Why would we be sloppy in our philanthropy if we're strategic in how we execute the business. And we know that that dime on a dollar, it's making a bigger difference frankly than maybe what we're doing with the 90%, because the 90% is paying our staff and keeping the lights on, but that 10% is changing the.
Drop the mic. That was amazing. Wow. Wow, friend. I had no idea. It's been so much fun. Just we're happy to talk to any, any business owner about what we've been doing anything. Yeah. Okay. Because you created this model. Do you know anybody else who, I mean, other people have their own methodology for philanthropy?
So have you share what you're doing? Like I just think about it, their law firms or others that are similarly positioned. Is anybody else following suit? Yes. We've had the opportunity to speak to company presidents and company owners, at least a regionally here. I'm actually heading to South Carolina to do it next week.
But think about it, I have a relatively small law firm. I talked to one business here in Durham, where they are, are in a position where they've chosen after kind of hearing a little bit of what we're doing. They're giving away 10% of theirs. But 10% of their profit is more than 10% of my gross. So just doing, what can you do as a business leader, even if you're an entrepreneur and it's just you and an apple computer, and you're figuring out how to make it, what can you do with a little bit of what you have, or if you are the person who owns Google, if you are the person who owns SAS, what can you do where you can actually change the world?
Because what. I've seen is over the last hundred years, individuals have given a certain amount of money away from the government and they try to address people's needs for that. The government does that as well. It tries to address people's needs, Medicaid, social security, disability, that kind of thing. And then you have the nonprofits trying to address it, but there's still a huge.
Of people out need help. They need mental health help. They need shelter, they need food. They need to just to be able to live with dignity. So who makes up that gap? Well, in my view, it's the business community. If we can use our businesses to be economic engines for good, we can solve the gap. That's great.
Come on, business community. I hope you heard Janet Ward is calling you to task on this, which I love women. We lead the way don't we, but this is in the methodology is clear and simple. It's simple. I say this a lot simpler, but not simply because you have to have the heart behind it to the strength and guidance and leadership in your case, faith, to understand that this is bigger than you and to sort of following the calling that you had while you were having.
One day, listen to your gut. You said earlier, love that. All right. So you have, tell me about the breakdown of your firm. How many people and how many women are in your firm. So of the 26 offices, there are five males. There are five lawyers. Two of them are male. We have about seven administrative staff and the rest are paralegals, professionals, professionals, and legal staff.
And so running on the other side, The pandemic is topsy turvy and people have found their rhythm. The latest studies are somewhere between 65 and 80% of folks are using the term burnout right now. And we all know that that has there's a lot of that has some residue from just being thrown upside down with our work schedules and our ways of work and working with our kids and all the things.
Is that happening or are people feeling burnt out or using the term or feeling exhausted? Just give me a flavor of what it's like, let me talk about it outside, and then go to the firm. I think that the whole notion of work-life balance is a fantasy and most people's circumstances.
I have a cousin who's a single mom of three kids. All of whom are under the age of 10. She's been single their whole life. She can't get out of what she has to do. She just has to do it. Right. She's got to figure out how to earn a living, how to look after those kids. She can't go take a sabbatical for three weeks in Europe.
She just trying to figure out how to keep, keep them fed and clothed. Right. So I see a lot of times that where individuals are working in jobs, where. They feel burnt out and it can be multifactorial, but one of the things, a lot of time is who their boss is because the boss is not giving them a bigger purpose than themselves.
And so I think a lot of times for us in our law firm, The purpose that has been created out of the tithing, the 10% that we do, let's each individual know that what they are working for is bigger than just that one client that they're able to help. And that's satisfying that itself, but they can see what are we doing in the community and can wink at each other when they will see, something happening with a nonprofit that we've been helping because they know that they are a part of that.
So I think a lot of times that people who are working. Let's talk about if you're working in a manufacturing facility, how do you get purpose out of doing the same thing every single day? What's very hard. If there's not something bigger than the endpoint itself. Correct. Now, are you manufacturing chemotherapy medication?
Yes, you can go. What I'm doing is really important, but if you're manufacturing, widgets, it's hard to go. Boy, I'm really excited about having another day-to-day making widgets. So how can the business go? No, we want to have something where you see that you're doing more than just your job. So I think at least for a lot of people on.
And particularly with law and litigators, where your schedule is not your own, you go where the judge tells you to go when he tells you to, or she tells you to go do whatever. So you have to work around that. So I really think people should consider is your burnout as a function that you don't have an endpoint that's bigger than your own sustenance.
And I'm reminded of. I think it was Freud and Freud, by the way, I was not a believer in any kind of God, but he said that the single biggest solution for depression was to volunteer in an external organization. Go work in that soup kitchen because you then felt better about yourself. It's not that you are doing it altruistically, but would you like to feel better about yourself?
Go do something for something else and all of those endorphins and the serotonin, all of that stuff responds in you when you're helping somebody else. And so I think we see a lot of that inside of our staff. Yeah. That's a good point. So two things I'm getting out of this, I just made a few notes. One is, I mean, you put some of the.
On the leadership of an organization, you said bosses is the leadership of a company, the leadership of an organization, giving employees opportunities to explore a greater purpose than what they are, their scope of work, their job description, their department, their cubicle, their day to day. And I think that's interesting.
I mean, it's an interesting way to look at it because I, I think that's true. And I think that we as individuals, the workforce, me in my body, own what I do on that day. Also have to take responsibility for understanding what my fulfillment is, and what brings me joy, because of my boss. In, this example, I wish more leaders would do this because I think you're right.
I think that the bottom line gets in the way of understanding that the the greatest asset of a company is the workforce. Literally, like the money that you're putting in for salaries to training professionals. All of that. That's expensive, it's expensive. It's capital, it's real. And we don't take care of it.
We don't care for it. We don't see it other than maybe the dollars that live above the head of that person. Like imaginary dollar signs above that person. But what the retention, the fulfillment of that individual can live within the leadership and the strategic planning of an accompany on how we go above and beyond to your point of the enterprise.
And that individual that sits in that cubicle also owns it. What is it that you need? I think what drives your fulfillment if it's not here and that greater purpose is not, isn't still enough or maybe the leader doesn't rise to that challenge you just presented. So what are you going to do to create an environment that the whole person?
We use that term a lot, but like, it's true. Like we're all of you can kind of get fired up where all of you can find a spark. If it's on a weekend if it's once a month or whatever, what is the thing that lights you up? As you said, you said it with the attorneys, the 1066 attorneys who got the privilege of like stepping into something that they, that they'd never done before.
And left that day being lit up because they were reconnected with their purpose and passion. Or maybe they're passionate for sure. And it meant everything to them, right. Not just the person on the other end of the phone. So I love this. I think I think burnout that it's like, gosh, I don't want to have to think one more thing about what, how to fix it.
But if we don't invest in the answer personally, invest because I can't solve it for you. You can't solve it for me. I have to do the wandering of my mind and the opportunity to push a reset button and say, And because I matter, the people that I impact will benefit from the work that I'm getting ready to do for myself.
And I think one way to think about it is what is the business culture. And we know, when we hire, we now hire for, is it a, is the person a cultural fit, even before we look at competency and capacity, And I think for people to be satisfied employees, they have to be a cultural fit and the leadership has to create a culture.
Like, what is your culture you're trying to make here? What is it where people would go? I can't wait to go to work because I'm getting to. X Y and Z. How do you create a culture? And then for me, I think people need to leave jobs. If they're not a cultural fit, they just need to say, maybe I'm burned out because I'm not, I'm just not, this is not the culture for me.
I need to find someplace where there is fulfillment, where I feel like I'm using my vernacular. All of my God, give gifts that I am operating in the place where my heart is singing. And then the other thing that came to mind, I told you, my mom was a teacher. She was actually a high school English teacher, and way before it was a fad, like in the 1970s, she taught a course on death and dying in English for it, for English credit in high school.
And one of the things that she had the students do was to write their own eulogy. And there's a big difference that has been made clear. There are resume values and there are eulogy values. So when something happens to me, nobody's probably going to be talking about my gross revenue or how many people are employed or whatever they're going to be talking about.
What's the individual story. What is the story where I had an impact? What did somebody do for their children or their grandchildren or the next-door neighbor? How do you work for having the eulogy values as opposed to the resume? And I think it's really easy for all of us when, particularly when we start working in our teens or in our twenties to think I need to chase the dollar, I need to be improving my resume, but then you probably may have to move a number of times for you to get in that place where your heart is singing.
And then if your heart's not singing, you need to still keep looking because you are not using everything you have. And you're not feeling fulfilled in the way that I think each of us each has a place in the world and we need to keep looking for it. Hmm. I love that. That's a great note. I have one question and we'll wrap up I'm over here, violently shaking my head about eulogy values or thinking about your legacy because when you think about your legacy people, you're right.
They're not talking about. What our annual overhead is versus our revenue versus profit. They're not doing that. They're that let's look at our P and L from the last five years, nobody's cares people share. Do you care about the legacy that they've left behind for their family, friends, and community? Most people do.
And I think that is where the heart of the matter is. And I do love this gap. I think for our folks who are wanting to do an exercise, this would be a great exercise. Write your eulogy or write the legacy that you want to leave behind. And then think about you today. Present-day. Are you living in that space?
Are you headed there and ask that question at the end? It doesn't need to be dramatic, but write it, look at it, sit with it and say, am I on that track? If you're not, that's where you start. Hmm. I love that. All right. Any advice? I mean, I just gave a little bit of advice based on your, on your insight there, but any advice that you have for high achieving women who are listening to this, you know, our drivers up, everybody who listens to me, we have men who listen to this podcast to there and they're listening for their employees or their wives or daughters or whatever.
Like any advice that you'd give. When you look back on your career that you like to leave with, To women specifically, I don't want to talk about it in terms of burnout, but just in terms of how can you be the most effective in what you're getting ready to do over the next 30 days? I think it's really important to pull away and pull up.
And try to look at your business as opposed to all the time working in your business. It is so easy for people like me, where I'm like, I need to deal with this on this case and this case and this case. And I need to take care of this. And that I get so busy working in the business. I don't take the time to work on the business.
Whereas if I can move on, I can improve the processes and the procedures, I can make those examinations of culture. I can figure out where are our roadblocks? What are the things that we're not doing well, and how do we improve the flow of the process? And so I think you just have to take the time. This is not talking to.
Going on top of a mountain and, and humming. I'm talking about just pulling away and going. I need to look at my business from a 39,000-foot view. What needs to change? What's going well, there's a concept called plus Delta that we use in our firm where every time we have an event, for example, we will say, okay, what were the pluses?
What worked. And then we document that because we're probably gonna do the same thing next year at the same event. Right. Then we look at the deltas, one of the things that we need to change. Okay. Well, this caterer, what? And good. Okay. The seating. We document all of that so that when we're trying to reconstitute that event, the next time.
We have celebrated that, which we've done well and figured out how to improve on it, but we've identified the things that need to change the deltas. So I think all of that kind of, it's not Naval gazing it's analysis. It's strategic planning. Own your business rather than in your business. All of that plus Delta is so good.
And folks, if you are not doing that and people don't, I love that you are, I only know like one or two other people who make this a practice, do that. It's a quick exercise and you do it right after people used to call it. Post-mortem I don't love that. Plus Delta is perfect. Do that. It's an important ritual.
Every time you do something that you want to repeat, that you want to learn from. Okay. I did have one final thing I want to sorry. One more thing. So you said something and the last time we were in a room, With the North Carolina advocates for justice. And it was around the say-do ratio. And it was the thing that I was like, oh, you have to come on this podcast for all the reasons, but also because we are aligned around this.
So talk to me about why it matters. So for my audience, you all have heard, hopefully, listen to the podcast on Sadie ratio, but the point of the podcast was, do you do what you say you're going to do? And the say-do ratio is a really great place to measure that and it's, but let's boil it down to the word.
It's integrity. And that's where it lives is in the safety ratio. Oftentimes. So just give me your thoughts on that. And then we'll really truly we'll land the plane. When I talk to young lawyers, they wonder, how did you get to be president of the trial lawyers and the bar association? And I said, well, I said what I was going to do.
And I did it on time. I am amazed at how few people actually do that. They may talk a good game and have all these wonderful ideas, but they don't execute. Or they're going to execute it, but they're two weeks late. So if I'm making hiring decisions, I want people who are trustworthy. So the say-do ratio to me boils down to, can I trust you?
Can I trust you with the client? Can I trust you with training staff or overseeing staff? So all of it, I think you're exactly right. It is an integrity issue. So we can look at employees and say, are you doing what you say you're going to do. And are you doing your own time and you would think that would be at least just kind of a basis for what people should do.
But folks out there realize folks are looking for people with great ideas, but you got to have somebody who's the dreamer. And then if they're not the good person to implement it, you need to have a great implementer. You need an integrator, you need somebody who's like, oh, I got a great idea. And then you've got to have somebody else who is, will come along behind that person and cross all the T's and dot all the I's to have the perfect project X.
So when we talked about the four all day, that's what I did. I had the Beehag. I had the big, hairy, audacious goal, but I looked for the two liters of it to lead a group of 60 people that I knew would do what they said they were going to do and do it on time. I would not be embarrassed about the organization.
Wouldn't be embarrassed. And now it has created a legacy that has continued on because they were perfect. Say, do ratio people. I love that. Well, folks, I mean, we went to school today on business, which was fantastic. And the idea on how to sort of sustain this long term and we didn't get into, into the depth.
That's not, that was not the point of today, but there were so many surprises today. Like the journey, right? The journey. Often unknown, but there are various. Clear principles and anchors around the ways in which you can get to a destination. Maybe it's unknown, but you're getting to a destination drawn from purpose, passion, following your gut, listening, and moments that are critically important, honoring those moments with what you do.
Living within your say, do ratio and understanding the impact that it has both positive and negative on the people around you, because a negative say do ratio has a great impact on people, but a positive one can take and store your career in places that you maybe didn't imagine and creating relationships that.
Grounded in something bigger than you, the purpose, the idea that your firm invests in community anonymously in a way that is honoring the voice that you heard, I think is so remarkable and very special, and it's sort of a treasured gift for your firm. And it's a gift to us now today because people can implement that and duplicate that and take that and own it in their own way.
And again, impact thousands of people. And like you said, change. So, thank you so much for being with us today. It says great. Enjoyed you so much. Thank you for having me. All right. All right, everybody. We'll see you. Next time. We'll dig into more on burnout with our next group of executives looking forward to it, and we'll see you on the road.
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