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A Simple Country Lawyer

24 Sep

Several years ago at Kalypso, George came to me with a big concern and we agreed to take affirmative actions to increase the diversity of our team. After years of recruiting at Rice and UT we just had too many incredibly accomplished people from top tier universities.

Our first goal was to bring in an Aggie.

After using a New York attorney for a couple of years, I loved the idea of being represented by a simple country lawyer – maybe an Atticus Finch or a Matlock. But we got Ben. He is our Elle Woods. There is much more to him than just good looks and an “aw shucks” persona.

He is a true professional. He gets us. He is one of us. He keeps us out of trouble, and he has never lost a case – no matter how badly we might have screwed up.

Ben is a real family man. In addition to the four women in his house, he has what you might call an unusually extensive extended family. If he is not returning your call, there is a good chance that he is at his half-sister’s third cousin’s boyfriend’s little sister’s sixth grade graduation.

When he is working, he is a legal all-star. Congratulations to Ben on a legendary career as our lawyer, our friend, and a core part of this incredible cast of characters with character. We love you and you will be missed.

Melinda Keller for a Lifetime

16 Sep

Kalypso KARMA 2020 was in late August and we honored a number of people with Lifetime Awards. I was asked to say a few words about my friend, Melinda Keller. She was there from almost the very beginning of the firm and has always been there for me. Here is what I had to say:

“Melinda walked into my life 36 years ago this month when we were both freshman in college. It has been quite an adventure ever since. She has been right by my side through personal tragedy and professional triumph. If not for Melinda there would be no Stelos Alliance, no Housley Principled Leadership Program, and our memories of Kalypso KARMAs past would be very different. I could tell you stories of bull fights, bikini contests, bad camping trips, a bad trip of the other kind, and many tales of youthful indiscretion, but time constraints and the overt threat of mutually assured destruction prevent me from going into detail.

What I can say is that my life has been enormously enhanced by her friendship – and all of us at Kalypso owe her a debt of gratitude for her contributions to our success and the culture we cherish so much. She is the epitome of a Kalypsonian – an incredible work ethic, a valuable set of skills, a state school attitude about life that doesn’t take things too seriously, and, most importantly, something a little weird that makes her a character with character.

Melinda, thank you from me and all of the people of Kalypso past and present. You are our rock and I can think of no one more deserving of this recognition than you. One thing you can’t make more of is old friends. I love you with all of my heart and I always will.”

2013 Kalypsonian of the Year

3 Oct

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I was at a recruiting event in Texas last week and was asked the question, “What are the attributes you value when evaluating candidates?”

The first part of the answer was easy and boring. I said we want reliable people that possess a strong work ethic, creative types with sharp minds, and leaders that have demonstrated ability and ambition.

But what is it that makes the people of Kalypso special?

The people of Kalypso are so much more than just those great professional attributes I listed. They are as humble as they are smart, as funny as they are fearless, and they radiate positivity as they support their clients, colleagues, and compadres. They might have graduated at the top of their class, but they still know how to have fun in a state school kind of way. Most of the people on the team are a little bit quirky (this is a polite word for weird.)

In 2013, the person that best exemplified the Kalypso brand of professional was Colin Speakman – our Kalypsonian of the Year.

For the rest of the year he is only to be referred to as “Your Highness, Mr. Colin Speakman, Kalypsonian of the Year.” No abbreviations, shortcuts or informalities allowed.

The choice was not difficult. Colin is the Kalypso prototype. Not only is he an incredibly competent consultant, he displays all of the characteristics we admire in our colleagues. He is a great father and he accepts the fact that he is inferior to his wife in basketball, fishing, and just about any other activity that requires either brains or athletic skills.

Colin knows more about barbeque sauce than anyone else I know. As a kid in upstate New York he wanted to grow up to be a pumpkin farmer. Colin smiles a lot. He either knows something you don’t, or maybe he is just goofy that way. We all love Colin and I am proud to have him as a colleague and even happier to call him a friend.

Colin is an optimist and a dreamer. He is a Cleveland Browns season ticket holder.

At least he can say that he won something this year. Congratulations Mr. Kalypsonian of the Year!

Kalypso Recognized by Consulting Magazine

28 Sep

Consulting Magazine is out with its annual “Best Firms to Work For” edition and, once again, Kalypso was honored to be named in a handful of important categories. We were listed as a “Top Ten” firm for having a strong firm culture, doing interesting work, and having a positive impact on clients. Can you imagine better categories for a consulting firm?

We pride ourselves on having a strong set of core values that define our culture and set us apart. Among those values is a belief in the power of creativity and innovation to solve the world’s most pressing problems. This is the source of all that interesting work that we have the privilege of doing for clients every day. Delivering on the promise of innovation means moving the needle on our clients’ results. There is nothing more gratifying than seeing the outcome of your efforts highlighted in an annual report or – even better – on a store shelf.

I think that the good folks at Consulting have us pegged right. The people of Kalypso work incredibly hard within a culture where we genuinely care about one another’s success. We have fun doing the work we love while delivering on the promise of innovation for the best clients in the world. Kalypso is not only one of the best consulting firms to work for; I believe it is the greatest firm ever.

Read Consulting magazine’s “Best Firms to Work For” edition here.

Getting Ahead Virtually

20 Jul

As published in the Daily Muse, July 2013.

http://www.thedailymuse.com/careeradvice/getting-ahead-in-an-office-less-environment/

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Getting ahead at any company requires a certain amount of strategy. But a company that operates virtually—with no offices, no cubicles, and no in-person meetings? That’s a different game entirely.

As the leader of a global professional services firm that operates in a completely virtual manner, I have dozens of people working without a traditional office environment. Some work from home, others are always on the road, and some prefer the local coffee shop (or bar). But regardless of where they work, there are some things that distinguish the best digital workers from the rest.

If you’re looking to impress in your virtual workplace, follow these five steps to success.

Step 1: Be Available

The most important thing you must do to succeed in this environment is to be available. Since you’re not sitting down the hall from your boss or teammates, you need to keep online communication open. If your co-workers have a hard time reaching you when they need to, it slows down their progress—and the company’s.

Does that mean you’re destined for a life chained to your desk? Not necessarily. I really don’t care where you work: If you can be productive bagging rays by the pool or are able to effectively perform your duties on top of a mountain, that’s great—as long as I can reach you. But just as you wouldn’t slip out of a physical office in the middle of the afternoon without telling anyone, you shouldn’t mysteriously go MIA from the web. If you need to be offline during normal business hours, let your boss, subordinates, or anyone else who may need you know that you’ll be unavailable and when you’ll be back.

Step 2: Be Productive

Once you’ve got the availability down, it’s time to get to work. And I mean, really get to work. Since your boss can’t see that you’re putting in time every day, you don’t get much credit for effort. As a virtual worker, you can only prove you’re working hard by producing results.

Sounds simple, but where I see employees trip up is when they’re struggling with an assignment or when something’s more difficult than it appears. If that’s the case, say something to your manager. He’ll still be able to tell you’re working hard if you ask for help, but if you prolong the task and don’t get it done in a reasonable amount of time, he might just think that you’re taking advantage of the flexibility of working remotely.

Step 3: Set Boundaries

This may seem counterintuitive as a way to impress, but the virtual employees I respect most are the ones who get their work done—but who also establish work-life boundaries. Without an office to leave at the end of the day, it can be easier for your work life to seep into the rest of your life. I, for one, am a huge workaholic, and have no problem reaching out to my employees at odd hours of the night. I can easily fill my employees’ free time with work—but I will also respect whatever boundaries they establish as long as they continue to turn in good work.

It’s unlikely that your boss wants to interrupt your exercise time, your family time, your dog-walking time, or your reality TV time (and if she does, you have bigger issues to deal with). So be clear with her (and yourself!) about what your work-life boundaries are. As long as you’re getting your work done, your boss shouldn’t blink when you tell her, “Not right now—I am watching The Bachelor.” You’ll be a happier employee, and your work will show it.

Step 4: Manage Your Career 

Doing your job well may win you kudos, but it will not ensure that you continue to grow as a professional. After all, working virtually can lead to an “out of sight, out of mind” situation where your steady contributions are taken for granted and no one is pushing you to greater heights.

So, in order to advance your career, you have to be proactive about seeking out more challenging assignments and plotting a development course for yourself. Work hard to find new areas in which you could contribute or high-level projects you could take on, and don’t be shy about sharing with your boss and co-workers what your goals are within the company. If you don’t, you won’t advance.

Step 5: Connect and Lead

Creating culture and camaraderie in an office-less organization is very difficult. So, your company likely needs connectors who pull people together to share experiences and build a collective ethos. And if you can be that person while still getting your work done, it will be a huge testament to your success.

Look for ways to be a leader among your virtual colleagues: Force everyone in your local area to leave their homes once a week and find a place to get together and work. Offer to help on assignments. Swap stories. Counsel one another. Your efforts will not go unnoticed by your colleagues—or your manager.

Succeeding in an office-less environment is difficult. It requires an enormous amount of self-discipline and a commitment to yourself and the company. There is a clear distinction between those who survive in this structure and those who thrive, but follow these steps, and you’ll be climbing up the (virtual) career ladder in no time.

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