Cultivating the habit of optimism

Holiday (a week reminding myself why living in the South West is so much better than simply visiting it, although narrow lanes south of Padstow when the lifeboat is on a shout make for interesting driving) and transactions (yes, they are still happening – just) have left little to time to post; a late summer lull and a transaction gone away are prompts to return.

A phrase I read recently, and have been shameless in using since, is “the habit of optimism”. In the current position a lot of us find ourselves in, it is useful to remember things may not be bad as they seem, and even if they are, it doesn’t always do to say so (and it is not just about talking ourselves into recession: a concept that I do not subscribe to).

In my post Spending time wisely in early July, I picked up on some of the steps that we can take in our practices to see us through the slowdown, whether it be long or short, and in particular to those identified by Nick Jarrett-Kerr of Kerma Partners, in his article in Kerma Partners Quarterly 2/08.

Nick, when looking at ‘where partners should be spending their time during a market turndown’ sees motivating and developing people as a critical task. I could not agree more. For most lawyers, this is their first experience of a down turn in the legal services market. There are few days when the legal press doesn’t carry a story about lay offs and redundancies, and ‘on the floor’ it is obvious that there is less work around. Inevitably this may have a demoralising impact on people; even if they are not directly affected, they will know people who are. The old certainties are longer be there.

Optimism is important: one of the panel at a recent Exeter Business Leaders Forum, having first reminded us that the current economic turbulence was the fourth time down turn he had experienced, told us that one of the main lessons he had learned  is that, even in a down turn, when you get up in the morning, the sun is still shining, people are still going to work, things are still being built, goods are still being sold. Certainly times are harder, and life is more difficult, but this is what happens.

Optimism is not blind hope that everything will be all right; rather it is knowing not just that there is a way forward, but what it is and what it will take to get there. This is a message that needs to be got across to the people who work for us.

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