Elephant Post: What Is The Most Important Trait To Have In Your Profession?

Image (cc) boskizzi
I love this question and the the contributions we received this week. The answers were as diverse as the 24 defined traits. Some of the contributors cheated a little and named off more than one, but that's okay. Steven Levy's answer that it is wise not to limit the world to a 24-cornered box of traits. However, since we had a handy list of 24-traits, we thought that was enough for at least an good Elephant Post question.

Although my personal favorite was "Curiosity," there are many traits that I look at on this list of twenty-four that make for interesting conversation when it comes to the personalities you work with day in and day out. Enjoy the discussion, add a comment or two of your own if you think someone missed an important trait, and then take a look at next week's Elephant Post where we turn this question upside down and ask what trait would be the biggest hindrance in your profession.

Peg LaFrance
Citizenship: working well as a member of a group or team; being loyal to the group

These are tough choices. I really wanted a combination of grit and citizenship. I am known as a person who rolls up her sleeves and does what needs to be done even if it isn't really part of my job.  But, this morning, I told a vendor that I really value a sense of humor and competence, but I'd take a competence over humor if I had to.  Perhaps a healthy sense of the absurd would be the best trait to have in a law firm.

Jennifer Ekblaw
Social intelligence: being aware of motives and feelings of other people and oneself

Librarians create very useful services for their users/patrons, but sometimes they are underutilized because the marketing of these services does not resonate with the target audience.  Therefore, it is crucial that librarians understand the motives and needs of users in order to demonstrate how services satisfy those needs.

Steven B. Levy, author of Legal Project Management
Author, consultant, teacher
Wisdom: being able to provide good advice to others

Wisdom: the ability to see that dividing the world into 24 overlapping traits is ridiculous.

Gene Hamilton
Helper of Technology Helpers (HelpDesk Supervisor)
Open-mindedness: examining things from all sides and not jumping to conclusions

Forced to choose one, I'll take open-mindedness. There are lots of places where this also blends with list items "curiosity" and "grit". In the tech support world, we're constantly faced with integrating what we know well (technology) with what we generally know less well (application to law practice).  Way too many times we jump in quickly with a solution, often to be reminded that they haven't fully expressed their problem yet! We need to *want* to poke around (curiosity), need to be determined to poke around until we get the right answer (grit), and we need to be able to accept the right answer when we see it, even if it doesn't agree with what we wanted the answer to be (open-mindedness).  There are lots of other good candidates, and I certainly think that anyone who wants to be great at what they do had better demonstrate well the majority of items on the list.  As an analogy, I have often said that HelpDesk answers need to be technically correct, timely, and genuinely helpful (gets into aspects of attitude as well as searching out the whole problem). Missing any one of those three significantly reduces the value of the response.

Bob Wells
Self-control: regulating what one feels and does; being self-disciplined

Running a mandatory bar puts one in the gunsights of disgruntled members, legislators, citizens and others.  You are often the face of the organization, so you have to gauge all of the political winds and potential consequences without revealing your personal beliefs.  And you have to move the organization forward without letting up.

Amy Bowser-Rollins
Litigation Support Guru
Love of learning: mastering new skills and topics on one’s own or in school

Technology is constantly changing and it has a direct impact on the role of litigation support so we need to attempt to keep up as best we can.  Others on the legal team rely on litigation support to know the latest trends and technologies in litigation support and electronic discovery in general.

Scott Preston
Technology Alchemist
Curiosity: taking an interest in experience for its own sake; finding things fascinating

It is difficult to pick one trait as most important, but I believe curiosity is the trait that has served me best in my career as a legal technologist.  My curiosity for the impact that technology has on our world has been at the center of my career.  Curiosity is the trait that keeps us searching for a better way.  A trait that isn't listed but should be (IMHO) is perseverance.  Perseverance is the trait that came to mind when I first though about the question.  In the legal  space you must be able to press forward even when you know that change is slow and adoption is slower than change.  Another trait that is very important (and also not listed) is humility.  Working with a lot of type A personalities can be very challenging and a good dose of humility will serve you well.

Ayelette Robinson
Knowledge Management
Social intelligence: being aware of motives and feelings of other people and oneself

Kudos on a fun and challenging question, Greg. While of course it's difficult to pick "the" most important trait here, since several are keys for success, the one on the list that stands out for me is social intelligence. Not because in and of itself it's more necessary than the others, but because -- among the required traits -- it's perhaps the one that's least obvious. And yet, if you don't understand where other team members are coming from (and whether where they're coming from is the same as or different from where you're coming from), an otherwise successful project can fail.

Sarah Glassmeyer
Director of Content Development, CALI
Hope: expecting the best in the future and working to achieve it

Unless my liberal arts education is failing me, I do believe that the one thing left after Pandora opened the infamous box and unleashed chaos and evil into the world was "hope."  And it's for good reason that the myth writers included this fact.  Hope gives you the courage to try new things and keep plugging away through failure because even though things may seem bleak, crazy and scary - and lets face it, things sort of do for both the legal and information professions currently -  you at least have the belief that one day they can and will get better. Otherwise, why bother?  I couldn't continue to do what I do if I thought I was only contributing to a broken system.  Why would anyone, really?  I mean, you could, but it would just make you bitter and crazy.  Which perhaps explains some of the people I've met along the way in my career.  :)  Hope is a reason for getting out of bed in the morning besides a mortgage and student loans.   It turns a job into a profession.

Meg Hayden
Hope: expecting the best in the future and working to achieve it

Without hope, many of the other traits lose their meaning. Hope is what makes work fun, makes you enjoy the journey, kill yourself to learn something new, rejoice with others when something works, serve the public with kindness and compassion, explore possibilities, laugh off your errors, and just feel part of the greater good.

Karen Sawatzky
Curiosity: taking an interest in experience for its own sake; finding things fascinating

In order to find the hidden ways to help your clients, it's important to be genuinely interested in them. Being curious about their business as well as their personal lives gives me insights in performing the "magic" that I do. It helps me with ideas about how to align myself with their goals. And gives me an excuse for reading 3 Geeks regularly ;)

Grit: finishing what one starts; completing something despite obstacles; a combination of persistence and resilience.

Since I am not one to be beholded to artificial boundaries (like "pick one"), I am picking Grit, Social Intelligence, Creativity and Leadership.    Grit:  Work, like life, will throw you obstacles.  You have to have perseverence to get where you want to go.  Don't stop swimming, even if you have to tread water once in a while. Social Intelligence: You have to understand what motivates yourself and others before you can make intelligence decisions and know how to best implement your ideas and inspire others. Creativity:  This is how you build a better mousetrap.  Being a problem solver is a highly valued skill.  Don't just complain-offer a solution. Leadership: This may not apply to everyone, but if you are responsible for a team, if they succeed, you succeed.  Making your team successful is your job.

Andrea Cannavina
Legal Virtual Assistant
Integrity: speaking the truth and presenting oneself sincerely and genuinely

Without integrity there can be no trust.

Janet Smith
Legal Assistant
Integrity: speaking the truth and presenting oneself sincerely and genuinely

They are all important!  Striving together as a team, striving towards implementing all of these traits will bring change and growth to any Firm or business.  Mastering these skills in a working environment benefits all.  Will everyone like you if you attempt to master all of these traits? No, of course not.  But, will you like yourself and do well at your job, be noticed and appreciated by your employer, the executive committees, others, who make the Firm/Company run and stay in business?  Yes, and the true reward for being diligent in giving your work your best effort by utilizing these traits, is in your heart, not in your paycheck.  Paychecks, bonus, rewards - all good, but happiness comes from the rewards of mastering your work products and making change for the better and helping the Team, to meet goals and to be recognized as a Firm with integrity.

Next Elephant Post:
What Trait Is The Least Important To Have In Your Profession?
I really need to state this question in a different way, but needed it short for the "title" of the next Elephant Post. Think of it this way – if someone you work with has too much of one trait, does that mean that he or she loses something off of another important trait? Does too much grit mean that there is too little open mindedness? We all deal with strong personalities. I have to deal with Toby and Lisa a few times a week, so I understand your pain of dealing with strong personalities!

Let us know if being too strong in one trait can cause someone to not be well-suited for your profession.

Bookmark and Share



© 2014, All Rights Reserved.