Relentless prioritization of work is increasingly an important skill for in-house counsel and business leaders.

Here’s my checklist of steps that corporate counsel can take to ruthlessly prioritize their work and be even more productive:

☑️ Alignment on Work > Maximum Impact: Gain clarity from your legal management team and senior business clients on specific work areas you should be focused on that drives high business and legal outcomes.

☑️ Analyze Your Work: Capture and document the various types of legal work you perform.

☑️ Classify Your Work: Group your legal work into two primary categories: (1) work that drives high business + high legal impact; and (2) lower impact work.

☑️ Focus on High Impact Work: Spend most of your time and energy on high impact work as that work provides the greatest value to your organization.

☑️ Spend Less Time on Lower Impact Work: Limit your time spent on less impactful work. When needed, redirect such work to paralegal/program manager resources, trusted third party legal providers who provide services at commercially reasonable fees, technology automation solutions or business clients who embrace self-help resources that you previously created. Also, consider simply “stop doing” low-risk aspects of that work.

☑️ Delegate More: If you have the privilege to lead a team, trust your teammates and delegate more work to them.

☑️ Embrace Better Time Management: Spend less time on conference/video calls so you can free up time to get more real work done. Consider convening calls that are shorter in length, only participate on calls where you provide value, learn or build key relationships, block your calendar for call-free times to focus on doing real work, record calls that can be viewed on-demand when needed, avoid calls where issues can be solved via emails/instant messages, etc….

☑️ Done is Better Than Perfect: Lawyers don’t need to be perfect in rendering legal counsel. Our time seeking perfection often puts us into the zone of diminishing marginal returns.

☑️ Embrace Change. Our business environment is very fluid. The high impact areas that you are working on now are probably different than those areas you worked on last year. Be sure to update and refresh the high impact areas that requires deep legal support so you can continue to deliver maximum legal value to your organization moving forward.

Best of luck on your journey to relentless prioritization!

Many experts are predicting that we will see growing business uncertainty during 2023 in the US and that perhaps a recession may even be on the horizon.

If that is the case, a challenging economic climate provides opportunities for in-house counsel to really “show-up” for their clients and to deliver higher-impact legal services. For instance, during this period of economic “headwinds,” our clients will need corporate counsel to help (1) unblock new revenue opportunities with customers/partners, (2) lower their costs of doing business; and (3) make sure they are still acting with integrity and compliance.

Back in 2017, I wrote an article for Bloomberg Law entitled “10 Things Lawyers Should Consider When Taking Risk” where I put together a methodology which I have used in my career to help my clients engage in smart risk-taking.

I believe these principles – which I call the 10 Ps of Smart Risk-Taking – are still applicable for in-house counsel and their clients. I’m sharing excerpts of that article below for lawyers to leverage to help their clients during these uncertain times:

While there’s no singular definition or way to engage in smart risk-taking, a good starting point involves embracing these two fundamental concepts: (1) never, ever assume any integrity risks; and (2) never put your customers, partners and employees at risk.

Since embracing compliance and respecting your customers, partners and employees should be straightforward foundational pillars to guide your clients in making risk-based decisions, let’s consider some specific smart risk-taking practices that you may want to consider employing when advising your clients. Over the years I’ve developed a methodology that I call the “10Ps” of smart risk-taking. While I originally created these “10Ps” to help advise my clients in taking smart risks during complex contract negotiations, I believe this framework can also be applied more broadly.

Let’s review these “10Ps” one by one:

Practicality

Consider whether you are focusing on theoretical risk or on the actual and tangible effect in assuming a specific risk regarding the matter where your advice is sought. It is much easier to thoughtfully assess a potential risk if you break it down to understand its real, quantifiable and practical impact to your clients versus viewing it in an abstract fashion.

Perform

Simply put it is not a smart risk to undertake any obligation that your organization cannot perform and fulfill. Doing so may lead to confusion, unhappy customers and partners and potential disputes.

Precedent

Be mindful of the future expectations and precedent that you may set by taking on more risk. When you decide to assume additional risk in a certain situation, make sure that you take a long-term view of that risk, as it may not be contained to just one isolated matter.

Process

Depending on the level of risk that you are asked to assume, it is critical to first obtain any applicable approval from specific stakeholders(s) that may be required as part of your organization’s internal processes. Respecting and following through on an organization’s internal controls and procedures is an important element of smart risk-taking.

Past

It is always instructive to understand what your organization has done in the past to address a specific risk. Any prior approval, denial, lessons learned or alternative solutions for such risk (and their associated analysis) will help shape your risk-taking determination.

Players

Try to ascertain whether the key players in your industry – your competitors and other marketplace leaders – are also agreeing to the same types of additional risk that your organization may be considering. While it may be challenging to obtain such information since it may be confidential, any publicly available marketplace intelligence may be helpful in determining whether the additional risk that your organization is considering is indeed commercially reasonable and industry standard for your marketplace – and thus more easily rationalized as a smart risk or not.

Public

As we all know in our social media driven environment, news and other information travels extremely fast. Actively consider how your smart risk-taking guidance may be perceived outside of your organization in the event it becomes public.

Principles

When analyzing and balancing risk your organization should stay true to its fundamental core values and principles. Such values and principles should always serve as your organization’s “north star” that guides its smart risk-taking decision making process.

Patience

Even though we live in a fast-paced and technology-driven world, please make sure that you are deliberate and patient regarding your smart risk-taking decision-making. Take the necessary time to gather the appropriate facts, slow down a bit so that you and your clients can think clearly, and do not be pressured into making a quick and less than ideal smart risk-taking decision.

People

Remember that your clients are busy professionals who probably do not have a legal background. Be sure to clearly communicate your smart risk-taking recommendations in a format that is succinct and easily understood by a regular person.

Helping your clients engage in smart risk-taking during these uncertain times provides all lawyers with a great opportunity to demonstrate their skills as trusted legal advisors.

During this time of increased business uncertainty, it’s important for legal departments to adopt a Moneyball approach in running their legal teams. In case you did not know, Moneyball is a terrific book written several years ago by Michael Lewis and it became a popular movie starring Brad Pitt.

Moneyball is essentially a philosophy for running a professional baseball organization that was originated by the Oakland A’s baseball team where the A’s embrace cost efficacy and data analytics as part of how they run their baseball organization. Over the years, the A’s have had very good baseball success with its Moneyball approach.

In my latest 3 Strikes video which I recently posted on LinkedIn, I wore my “vintage” Oakland A’s baseball jersey and outlined this Moneyball mindset for in-house legal departments based on these 3 key areas:

⚾️ Cost Optimization: Look for opportunities to gain greater value from your third-party expenditures and seek to reduce your costs where possible.

⚾️ Data, Data, Data: Really understand what types of work and activities that you and your teams perform every day for your clients. Group such activities into two areas: (1) high-impact work; and (2) low-impact work.

⚾️ Operational Excellence & Relentless Prioritization: Once you have the specific data regarding the types of work that you do, spend more time delivering high-value work to your clients and less time delivering low-value work to your clients. Be sure to ruthlessly prioritize your work based upon its importance to your clients and to avoid potential legal/compliance risk.

Best of luck with this Moneyball mindset!

Like many folks, I’m intrigued by ChatGPT– the new and powerful AI #chatbot that was released to the public last week.

I took ChatGPT “out for a spin” and I was very impressed with its capabilities.

ChatGPT highlights the possibilities for AI to be used as a tool by lawyers to better serve clients and to free up time for lawyers to perform more high-impact work for clients.

Lawyers can develop and deploy chatbots to help quickly address common, routine and repetitive questions from their clients.

For example, in the screenshot below, I asked ChatGPT the following question that I have routinely received from my clients throughout my #inhouselegal career: “What are some best practices when sharing confidential information?”

Here was the response from ChatGPT: “When sharing confidential information, it’s important to make sure that the recipient is someone who has a need to know the information and is authorized to access it. Additionally, you should take steps to protect the confidentiality of the information, such as sending it securely (e.g., encrypted email) and not sharing it with anyone else without the proper authorization. It’s also a good idea to clearly communicate the confidential nature of the information to the recipient, and to remind them of their obligations to keep the information secure.”

Wow. ChatGPT sounds like a pretty good lawyer 😉.

As #inhousecounsel, we need to embrace #operationalexcellence and look for more opportunities to make better use of our limited resources to drive higher value for our clients.

If your legal team is considering deploying chatbots to interact with your clients, here’s three suggestions:

🤖 Start Small: Develop chatbots that are conversant in a few areas that are routinely asked by your clients.

🤖 Low Risk Areas: Focus your chatbot development in surface areas that are largely non-controversial and pose low legal risk.

🤖 Thoughtful Client Messaging: Many of our clients want “bespoke” legal support from us. However, just like our clients, we have limited resources and we need to do more with less. Drive clarity that if their teams use your chatbots to address common and routine legal questions, this will free up more time for the legal team to focus on mission-critical work that will help them like closing revenue-generating contracts with customers/partners, avoiding potential compliance issues, etc…

Look for opportunities for AI to help deliver more high impact legal services to your clients. What are your thoughts about the intersection of AI and the practice of law?

A big congrats to Fred McGriff AKA the “Crime Dog” 🐶 who was elected to the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame this past weekend!

Mr. McGriff was a model of consistency as a terrific power hitting first baseman over a very long career for baseball teams like the Toronto Blue Jays, the San Diego Padres and the Atlanta Braves.

While Mr. McGriff hit almost 500 homeruns, had nearly 2,500 hits, drove in 1,500+ runs and helped lead the Braves to their world championship in 1995, he was often overlooked and unappreciated both during and after his stellar career. In fact, his career almost never started as he was actually cut from his high school baseball team in Tampa, Florida during his sophomore year.

There’s a lot that we can learn from Mr. McGriff’s Hall of Fame career and he was part of a highly significant baseball trade as a young player which is instructive for us.

In 1982, my beloved New York Yankees made one of its worst trades in its storied history when they traded Mr. McGriff to the Blue Jays and received two players who provided zero value to the Yankees.

So, here’s two lessons that we can learn for the workplace from the Yankees trading a future Hall of Famer in the form of Mr. McGriff for practically nothing:

⚾️ Don’t Give Up on Early in Career Talent: I’ve seen instances where managers in essence “gave up” on talented employees who did not perform at a high level very early in their careers. Let’s make sure that we help nurture our talented teammates and we provide them with the needed time, space and coaching to thrive in the workplace.

⚾️ Be Strategic in Your Deals: This point is very important as we face an increasingly uncertain economic climate. Be sure to take a long-term view in the deals and contracts that you establish with your customers and partners. Think about the impact of your deals and contracts over a long horizon and not just to simply close a key deal for a specific business quarter end. Also, make sure that you can operationally fulfill and deliver upon those deals and contracts over the long term.

Congrats again to the Crime Dog!

A few days ago, I officially marked my 20th anniversary working for the greatest legal team on the planet: the Microsoft Corporate, External & Legal Affairs team.

While it’s hard to believe that I joined Microsoft 20 years ago on December 2, 2002, it continues to be an absolute honor and privilege to work at Microsoft. I want to thank all of my terrific Microsoft teammates over the years who have made me a better lawyer, a better leader and a better person.

Since I have also been a lawyer “in the field” serving our world class sales teams during my Microsoft career, I also want to thank our outstanding customers and partners for the opportunity to earn their trust.

At this point in my career, I pride myself in being a coach and mentor to help develop the next generation of great Microsoft lawyers and legal professionals.

To commemorate my 20 years at Microsoft, here’s 20 things that I have learned which may be helpful to you in the workplace:

☑️ Wellness, Wellness, Wellness: Taking care of your mental and physical well-beings are your most important investments.

☑️ Change is the Only Constant: Embrace change and never fear it.

☑️ Always Be Learning: Don’t be a “know it all.” Be a “learn it all.”

☑️ Simplify: Don’t overengineer matters. Instead, decomplexify them.

☑️ Offer Solutions: When identifying potential issues, also provide meaningful problem-solving solutions.

☑️ Integrity is Everything: Be highly ethical and never compromise your integrity.

☑️ Be Kind: Always be nice, respectful and professional with everyone.

☑️ Exude Confidence: Be self-assured and believe in yourself.

☑️ Play Bigger Than Your Role: Perform your job at a high level by going above and beyond.

☑️ Ruthless Prioritization: Make it a habit to relentlessly prioritize your work.

☑️ Earn Trust With Others: Trust cannot be claimed. Trust must constantly be earned.

☑️ Seek Feedback & Be Coachable: Ask for and embrace feedback from others

☑️ Make Your Teammates Better: Always provide high value to your teammates and constantly share your knowledge with them.

☑️ Drive Clarity: As Brene Brown like to say, “being clear is kind.” Overcommunicate when needed.

☑️ Be Humble & Energetic: Remain hungry, thankful and enthusiastic.

☑️ Keep Things in Perspective: Unlike doctors, firefighters and other first responders, most of our work does not involve saving lives. Stay balanced and keep your job in perspective.

☑️ Toot Your Horn: Advocate for yourself by actively messaging the positive impact of your work to your management team.

☑️ Relationships Matter: The workplace is not a meritocracy. Build deep relationships with senior leaders.

☑️ Inclusivity: The highest performing teams are those who are highly inclusive.

☑️ Remain Optimistic: While your career journey will have its up’s and downs, always stay positive.

Major League Baseball (MLB) is my favorite sport and tomorrow is MLB’s Opening Day 2021. In honor of Opening Day, there are lessons that all in-house counsel can learn from the great sport of baseball about the importance of versatility.

One of my favorite baseball players is Javier (“Javy”) Baez and he plays for the Chicago Cubs baseball team. Nicknamed “El Mago” in Spanish or “the Magician,” Mr. Baez is a very exciting ballplayer for the Cubs as he has a rare combination of strong defense, power and speed. However, in my view, one of Mr. Baez’s greatest skills is his ability to play multiple positions on the baseball field. While he is primarily a shortstop – he has also played third base, second base and on occasion first base. He is also athletic enough to play any position in the outfield – and I have little doubt that he could play catcher in the event the Cubs catchers were injured.

As teams were determining their final player rosters for Opening Day this season, all of them wished that they had a Mr. Baez who can play a variety of positions very well in order to maximize their resources and make the team much stronger. All in-house legal teams need lawyers like Mr. Baez who have “range” and can “flex” when needed so that we can best serve our clients.

Here are some thoughts on how in-house counsel can be like Mr. Baez and make themselves more versatile – and more valuable – to their respective legal teams:

Be a Technology Wizard: The pandemic has underscored the importance of technology in the way all lawyers work. Increasingly, technology is the foundation for the operations of all legal departments and their respective practice groups. In-house counsel can make themselves more versatile and valuable by being “power users” of technology – and leveraging the associated data analytics from such technology to help make smart decisions – in order to promote greater productivity, efficiency and collaboration in how she/he works.

Privacy, Privacy, Privacy:  While technology plays a bigger role in our lives, the massive amounts of data generated by that technology needs to be properly protected. As we continue to see a proliferation of new data privacy laws and growing cybersecurity concerns, the legal skills associated with understanding data privacy/data protection are core skills for any legal department’s practice group. Data privacy is a learned skill that all corporate counsel need to be deeply conversant as it is easily transportable and highly relevant to virtually any role within a legal team.

Stretch Yourself: Actively seek out opportunities from your management team to learn new skills or to “shadow” others in their roles. Embrace the growth mindset mentality by “stretching” yourself in doing new things for your legal team. For instance, if you are a deal lawyer, ask for an opportunity to work on matters involving your dispute resolution team, your compliance team, your regulatory affairs team, etc… Also, be the first to raise your hand to help on special projects and new initiatives that are important to your legal teams.

Legal Role Rotations: A great best practice for any legal team is to periodically move their lawyers around to work in various different practice groups so they can gain new skills and become even more valuable. As legal teams embrace a “hybrid” or “remote” work environment moving forward, there will be greater opportunities for in-house legal departments to more seamlessly rotate their lawyers in this fashion. One of the lawyers on my team recently supported our partner group team earlier this fiscal year, she is now back with my team and her six month rotation supporting a different set of clients – and being exposed to a different set of business/legal issues – has made her even more valuable to our team.

Make Others Better: In-house counsel should view themselves as “coaches” to their teammates. Look for opportunities to always making your teammates better by proactively sharing your knowledge, mentoring others, offering them feedback, collaborating effectively and being a true team player in helping them problem solve issues for their clients. Taking the time to invest in your teammates and making them great provides important positive impact for your entire legal team – and makes you even more valuable.

Online Training Opportunities: Continue to build your skills on a remote basis by taking advantage of virtual trainings that your employer or others may offer. For instance, LinkedIn offers terrific resources for you to gain more valuable skills so that you can better serve your clients.

Become Certified:  Consider obtaining industry/legal practice-type certifications that require you to become more skilled in a particular area and which are relevant to the work that your legal department performs. For example, the International Association of Privacy Professionals (IAPP) is a leading privacy group that offers several certifications in the area of data privacy. Also, don’t be shy and seeking reimbursement from your legal team for the associated costs in such certification(s) by building a thoughtful business case as to why such certification(s) are relevant to your job/legal team.

After this season Mr. Baez will become a “free agent” – meaning that teams other than the Chicago Cubs can offer him a contract for his services as a ballplayer. At the time that I wrote this blog, the New York Mets baseball team offered a $325 Million 10-Year contract to another comparable baseball player named Francisco Lindor – who plays the same primary position of shortstop as Mr. Baez – but Mr. Lindor is technically not as versatile as Mr. Baez. It’s just a matter of time before Mr. Baez’s versatility and value will financially pay off for him and make him very wealthy. As in-house counsel, it’s smart for us to try to be like Javy Baez on the legal playing field.

 

When I was a kid growing up in the 1980s, Air Supply was a popular music duo with songs like “Lost in Love,” “All Out of Love,” and “Even the Nights are Better.” Nowadays, another phrase with the word “supply” in it – supply chain – is becoming popular across Corporate America and for in-house counsel.

Last month, President Biden signed an Executive Order on America’s supply chains.  This Executive Order is a must-read for all in-house counsel, it underscores how companies are very reliant on third parties to enable solutions for their customers and that in-house lawyers play an important role to help ensure that their companies’ supply chain are resilient and secure.

Let’s first provide some clarity as to what is meant by a supply chain. A recent post in Supply Chain Digital offered this excellent definition of a supply chain: “A supply chain is defined as the entire process of making and selling commercial goods, including every stage from the supply of materials and the manufacture of the goods through to their distribution and sale.”

The focus of this Executive Order involves a review of key supply chains with the longer term goals of the United States becoming less dependent on foreign goods and to help bolster American manufacturing. The Executive Order involves a 100-day review of products in these four areas: semiconductors, high-capacity batteries, pharmaceuticals and critical minerals/related materials. In addition, there will be yearlong reviews of six industry sectors.

Without a doubt, supply-chain law is a growing legal practice area that all corporate counsel will need to become increasingly conversant in so they can provide high impact legal services to their clients.

Here’s a list of considerations for in-house legal teams to keep top of mind as their deliver supply chain-related legal support to their clients:

Procurement is Paramount: Nearly every organization has a procurement or purchasing group function that has primary responsibility for establishing relationships with suppliers and other entities that are part of a supply chain. In my experience, sometimes the legal support associated with this group has not been as highly valued when compared with other in-house legal practice areas. As we see more focus on the potential opportunities and challenges associated with supply chains, it’s important for all legal teams to invest the appropriate amount of legal resources, time and attention to properly support supply chain-related legal work.

Reviewing & Onboarding Supply Chain Partners: A variety of legal entities can be part of a supply chain network and they all need to partner well together to help ensure success. Legal teams can help their supply chain groups by assisting in the appropriate vetting of supply chain partners prior to consummating a relationship with them. Since many lawyers have deep skills in the area of due diligence, they are in a unique position to help their clients identify any potential “red flags” with potential supply chain partners. Consider developing a scalable and detailed review process akin to a “checklist” when evaluating potential members of your supply chain. Also be sure to develop an appropriate onboarding process for new supply chain partners so they can learn more about your business and are set up for success.

Trustworthiness of Supply Chain Partners: A wise person once said that “trust cannot be claimed – it must be earned.” Given the proliferation of data privacy laws, the increased boldness of cybercriminals and the fact that technology and data are playing a bigger role in our lives, companies need to clearly understand the steps that supply chain partners – and members of their own supply chain – take to properly secure data.  Be sure to include your data privacy, cybersecurity and compliance experts in the process for determining whether or not you can truly trust members of your supply chain to protect the highly important data that may be shared with them and that they will share with others in your supply chain network. It is absolutely critical for members of your supply chain to earn your company’s trust on a constant basis as it relates to data security.

Thoughtful Agreements: Be sure to establish the appropriate written agreements with your supply chain partners that are comprehensive enough to address the totality of your business relationship and are also very clear and straightforward. Organizations should develop standard template agreements to use with their supply chain partners – as well as “fallback”/alternative provisions to use as needed. Think about incorporating your companies’ code of ethics/integrity principles as part of those agreements. As the business changes, also refresh those standard agreements as needed.

Deepening Relationships with your Supply Chain: It’s important to partner closely with the members of your company’s supply chain – especially as they may also be your customers and competitors. Designate senior business leaders at your company who can serve in “Executive Sponsor” roles to the individual members of your supply chain. Perhaps there are also opportunities to convene quarterly business reviews or “check-ins” with members of your supply chain so that you can deepen relationships and mitigate the likelihood of any potential business or legal issues from occurring.

Breaking Down Silos & Center of Excellence: Often times, many dispersed company employees and teams are involved in building supply chains for their respective organizations. As a result, organizations may become siloed in their approaches for managing their respective supply chains and may not properly collaborate. Look for opportunities to centralize how you work with your supply chains, actively share supply chain best practices/lessons learned and identify lawyers and business leaders who can serve as your company’s supply chain “Center of Excellence.”

Responsible Sourcing: Companies should have high standards as to what they should be expecting from their supply chain – especially as it relates to human rights, labor, safety, health and ethical considerations. In the words of Brene Brown, “clear is kind,” so be sure to drive absolute clarity with supply chain members about those expectations. Also, from a corporate social responsibility perspective, companies should be transparent to the public about their focus on responsible sourcing.

Sustainability: Companies across many industries are increasingly focused on sustainability and reducing their carbon emissions as a strategic business imperative. We may also see further regulation in the sustainability space. As you build and evolve your supply chain, consider partnering with companies who are proactively committed to environmental and sustainability considerations and learn from them.

Diversity & Inclusion: As many of us know, diverse and inclusive teams consistently perform non-diverse and less-inclusive teams. Driving greater diversity and inclusion within your supply chains will result in better business outcomes. In addition, as you develop your supply chain network make sure that you have a deep enough and broad enough network so that you are not reliant on just one – or a few – companies. Make sure that your network is well-represented from a geographic diversity perspective and ideally are not based in just one region or country.

Leverage Trusted Technology: As the supply chain area grows, increasingly there are leading technology solutions that can help enable your supply chain to become more productive and resilient. Think about opportunities for deploying highly trusted technology solutions that are rich with product features to help manage your supply chain operations. For instance, Microsoft Dynamics 365 provides cloud-based solutions that are focused on enhancing a company’s supply chain resiliency and agility.

Every company needs to be increasingly focused on their respective supply chains. As in-house counsel, we are in a unique position to help our business clients effectively navigate the growing complexities of the supply chain space.

Continue Reading Supply Chain Supplies Opportunities for In-House Counsel

There’s so much that we can all learn from the iconic Hank Aaron – who sadly passed away last month at the age of 86. When I discovered my favorite sport of baseball as a young boy, Hank Aaron was one of the first baseball stars that I looked up to, I proudly collected his baseball cards (and the picture above is my 1956 baseball card of Mr. Aaron) and in my opinion he is the greatest baseball player ever.

As this month is Black History Month, it is an appropriate time to reflect upon the legacy of Hank Aaron. Since his nickname was “The Hammer,” here’s six  H-A-M-M-E-R leadership lessons that all legal and business professionals can learn from Mr. Aaron.

H = Humility: As a high school kid I remember meeting Mr. Aaron at a baseball card show at the Westchester County Center in the 1980s shortly after his Baseball Hall of Fame induction so that I could obtain his autograph. Although I only had a very brief interaction with him, he was very gracious and welcoming. Every since his passing so many people have also expressed similar stories about Mr. Aaron as he was universally humble and nice to everyone he met whether it be a “VIP,” the baseball clubhouse attendant or an ordinary fan like me.

In Corporate America it’s important for everyone to treat others with respect and decency – regardless of your title or position. This is especially important for leaders as we all need to set the proverbial “tone at the top” about embracing inclusivity in our respective workplace cultures. In my experience, the very best leaders are the ones who are highly approachable, humble, down to earth and are genuinely interested in the views of their teammates, customers and partners. If a legend like Mr. Aaron can treat a then high school sophomore like me with respect, then there’s no excuses for you not doing the same with others in the workplace – and in our personal lives.

A = Authenticity: As a baseball player Mr. Aaron was not considered as “flashy” as some of the other baseball stars of his era like Willie Mays, Mickey Mantle and Roberto Clemente. Nor was he as “flamboyant” as another baseball legend named Babe Ruth – the highly popular player he surpassed in 1974 as the all-time Major League Baseball home run king. Since Mr. Aaron played his entire career in the “smaller-market” cities of Milwaukee and Atlanta and he only won one World Series early in his career in 1957 (where he was the Most Valuable Player that year and led the Milwaukee Braves to a world championship with a high batting average of .393 and 11 hits, including a triple, three home runs and seven runs batter in), he did not receive the same notoriety and appreciation in the media as some of his peers. However, Mr. Aaron always remained his true and authentic self – both on and off the baseball field. As a result, he gained universal admiration from his fellow players.

It’s important for leaders in the workplace to be real and authentic so they can command the necessary respect from their teammates. The best leaders are hard-working, transparent, lead by example and avoid being fake. Transformational leaders are highly credible because they are true and legitimate just like Mr. Aaron.

M = Mentorship: Mr. Aaron had a long reputation for taking his baseball teammates under his wing, mentoring them and making them better players – and most importantly better people. One example is the current and highly successful Houston Astros manager Dusty Baker who played with Mr. Aaron as a member of the Atlanta Braves for six seasons from 1968-1974. After Mr. Aaron’s passing, Mr. Baker released the following statement about his relationship with Mr. Aaron: “Hank Aaron was the most important influence on my life, next to my Dad. He was the best person that I ever knew and the truest and most honest person that I ever knew. He taught me how to be a man and how to be a proud African-American. He taught me how important it was to give back to the community and he inspired me to become an entrepreneur. Hank impacted my life, my family and my world, both on and off the field. He was a great man.”

Always be a “Hank Aaron” with your teammates – especially during these challenging times where most of us are working remotely and need help more than ever before. Look for opportunities to coach, train, advise and mentor your work colleagues and to serve as a “big brother” or “big sister” to them. As Dr. Martin Luther King once said, “”Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, “What are you doing for others?””

M = Model: At a private party in 2014 in Washington, DC to celebrate Mr. Aaron’s 80th birthday at a hotel overlooking the White House, then Attorney General Eric Holder gestured toward a window and offered this giant compliment to Mr. Aaron: “The young man who lives right over there (referencing President Barack Obama), his path was made easier by this man.” Mr. Aaron was the quintessential role model and inspired others to reach their goals.

As leaders in the workplace we have the responsibilities of serving as great role models. Our teams, our customers and our partners are all watching us and our actions will speak louder than our words. Mr. Aaron exemplified the ultimate in class, dignity, integrity and grace. Be sure to model the same values in your workplace.

E = Excellence: My Aaron’s accomplishments on the baseball field are truly incredibly as he relentlessly performed at an extremely high level for such a long period of time. His baseball statistics are eye-popping and here’s a sampling of them: he owns Major League Baseball (MLB) records for 2,297 career runs batted in, 6,856 career total bases, 1,477 career extra base hits and 25 all-star appearances. From 1955-1970 Mr. Aaron played in 145 games or more in every single season (the number of games per season was 154 until 1962 when it then changed to 162 games). Finally, in my opinion he is the “true” MLB home runs leader with 755 as the player who surpassed him in this category in 2007 – Barry Bonds – has long been tainted as using Performance Enhancing Drugs (PEDs)

Always aspire to be consistently excellent like Mr. Aaron – both as a leader and in your craft. Of course, maintaining such a high level of excellence year in and year out in the workplace like Mr. Aaron did on the baseball field is an extremely difficult thing to do. It requires you to have a growth mindset, to be a lifelong learner and to embrace change as needed. Mr. Aaron once said, “Failure will never stand in the way of success if you learn from it.”

R = Resilience: Unfortunately, Mr. Aaron faced a tremendous amount of racism throughout his life.  He initially experienced discrimination as a young boy growing up in Mobile, Alabama. As a minor league player for the Jacksonville Braves in the South Atlantic League, he was often separated from his team while traveling due to racial segregation and Jim Crow Laws. Towards the end of career as he was nearing Babe Ruth’s career home runs record, he received lots of hate mail and was subject to death threats. Despite all of the ugly and pervasive racism that he faced, Mr. Aaron still persevered and thrived both on and off the baseball field.

Mr. Aaron’s resiliency during the most difficult of times is truly remarkable. We can all learn from his tremendous strength as we face challenges both in the workplace and in our personal lives. Mr. Aaron’s grit and courage are an inspiration to all of us and here is one of my favorite quotes from Mr. Aaron: “My motto was always to keep swinging. Whether I was in a slump or feeling badly or having trouble off the field, the only thing to do was keep swinging.”

Hank Aaron was much more than a legendary baseball player. He was also an American hero. Let’s all continue to learn from his incredible legacy.