As part of my series about the “Five Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Leader During Turbulent Times,” I had the pleasure of interviewing Trisha Barita, Esq. She is a 15-year licensed practicing attorney in the State of Texas and the founder of Barita Law Firm, PLLC and Legal Skinny, LLC. She practices in the area of Labor and Employment Law on the management employer side in her law firm. She is also a podcast host in two podcasts, both legal skinny and three B’s on the law. Legal skinny also is an educational resource for the employer with blog articles, pod cast episodes and other information and tools. She is a homegrown Texan with an entrepreneurial spirit and avid interest in continuous growth both at a professional and personal level. When she is not counseling Employers and Corporate HR professionals in matters of Employment law, she enjoys participating in gumbo and barbeque cook offs with her husband and baking with her twin daughters.
Thank you so much for your time! I know that you are a very busy person. Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
Early on I thought I wanted to be an attorney but to be honest I really did not understand the different pieces of becoming an attorney. I went to college and earned a psychology degree and writing minor before heading to law school, so I have always had an interest in the analysis and writing part of the law. As I developed in law school, I had the opportunity to participate in mock trials and moot court and really learn the advocacy piece which is so valuable to learning how to convey a message in a thoughtful yet persuasive way. Then as I started my law career I got the opportunity to work at large and small firms prior to owning my own law firm, so I have had a lot of exposure to different management styles and employees which is key to understanding the different aspects of management. Now as a business owner myself, I am invested in growth as a leader with a continued interest in staying grounded in what creates and grows a great business and successful team for my Clients and for my own team.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?
Is was not funny at the time, but I attempted to do my own bookkeeping. I quickly realized this was not something I was passionate about and the ‘take away’ was definitely hire someone to do those tasks that are part of the administrative part of the business but can be delegated out so you can focus on the other parts of your business that you are skilled at.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
I have had a lot of great mentors over the years. A lot of young lawyers get stuck in the office and lack really seeing the inside of a court room, that was not my experience at all. Two mentors that spent a lot of time with me when I started out in particular were Kirk Sammons and Scott Vasquez. A good story would be Kirk’s lessons to me about how all a great trial lawyer needs to learn can be learned from the movie “My Cousin Vinny.” He clearly made an impression considering I can still remember the cross examination scene from that movie and his comments on it from almost fifteen years ago.
Extensive research suggests that “purpose driven businesses” are more successful in many areas. When your company started, what was its vision, what was its purpose?
For Barita Law Firm, PLLC, my purpose is to create a company where Clients feel they are cultivating a relationship with their employment or business attorney that as an investment in the future of their Company so they feel they have a legal solutions partner. For Legal Skinny, LLC, my vision is to bring educational and informational resources to HR Professionals and Employers.
Thank you for all that. Let’s now turn to the main focus of our discussion. Can you share with our readers a story from your own experience about how you lead your team during uncertain or difficult times?
Uncertain times can make it challenging in leading a team if you are not conscious of your actions as it relates to the team. As a leader, it is important to remember to share that you recognize the uncertainty but to give examples of how they can grow in their role during that time. There is no time for a leader to forget that there are others dependent on their leadership especially during difficult times.
Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the motivation to continue through your challenges? What sustains your drive?
No I do not consider giving up, I push myself to find solutions when I am faced with challenges. That is not to say that there are some days that are less motivating then others under certain circumstances, but I really try to stay positive and recognize that not every day will be perfect and that the everyday consistency of focus will produce results long term.
What would you say is the most critical role of a leader during challenging times?
I would say the critical role of a leader is the same during non-challenging times as it is during challenging times, be thoughtful that even if you may not know the way that others are leaning on you to guide them while you make a path to finding the solutions. Leaders should not forget to lead just because things seem amazing and they should not forget to lead when it seems like it is all crumbling around them. It is the calm during everything that makes others feel confident they can be the steady hand in the most challenging situations.
When the future seems so uncertain, what is the best way to boost morale? What can a leader do to inspire, motivate and engage their team?
This is a tricky one and probably depends a bit on the specific team, but morale is often boosted by individual recognition whether private or public to the team. For example, if the Company has had to lay off some people and there is not money for raises or bonuses, those team members that are left may need words of encouragement about their significance to the Company and team. Creativity goes a long way as well, some telework teams have received lunch from their bosses or just a handwritten note. It can be helpful to empower the team by avoiding micromanaging which can happen due to all the changes that the team or business maybe experiencing.
What is the best way to communicate difficult news to one’s team and customers?
Difficult news could mean all kinds of things, but when speaking with the team or customer base it can be best to just take ownership and be transparent and honest about the news so you do not lose trust. Further it is good to come to the table with solutions if possible depending on the difficult news.
How can a leader make plans when the future is so unpredictable?
There is so much planning in great leadership but sometimes the best thing to understand is that life is unpredictable and flexibility is key to growth. So plan for the unexpected to happen to the extent that you can but know who your trusted advisors are and be prepared to gather the troops and craft a new strategy if the unpredicted happens.
Is there a “number one principle” that can help guide a company through the ups and downs of turbulent times?
I would say the “number one principle” is to know your purpose well enough that if plans need to shift and adjust that you will have enough faith that you will not lose the vision of the business just because it looks different then you had originally intended.
Can you share 3 or 4 of the most common mistakes you have seen other businesses make during difficult times? What should one keep in mind to avoid that?
I would have to say that common mistakes I have seen businesses go through have been not embracing change such as telework where needed, micromanaging employees to the extent that they lose faith that you trust them, and being too hard on themselves as they navigate this very complicated time. To avoid these, I think businesses should be patient with themselves that many many businesses are going through the same issues and thoughtful in their approach to change and management of employees. It is a high stress time for everyone and sometimes taking a step back to recognize that can go along way in the perspective of how to handle these challenges.
Generating new business, increasing your profits, or at least maintaining your financial stability can be challenging during good times, even more so during turbulent times. Can you share some of the strategies you use to keep forging ahead and not lose growth traction during a difficult economy?
I work hard and I build a culture of positivity and I try to think first about how I can provide value to others or help others and I just believe the rest will follow.
Here is the primary question of our discussion. Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things a business leader should do to lead effectively during uncertain and turbulent times? Please share a story or an example for each.
- Think long term.
For some it has been easier to imagine the end of this pandemic at the end of the summer or the end of this year, but that is not helpful from a leadership standpoint. At this point, you should be thinking long term and planning for possible repeat scenarios or unexpected scenarios. Some thoughts leaders should be having are what if there are more shutdowns, what if you have a COVID-19 outbreak, or what if you run out of supplies to perform work. Panic should not ensue when these things happen, now is the time to start brainstorming with your think tank about what “ifs” could happen and any possible plans you can make to prepare in the long term.
2. Be thoughtful with how you speak and convey messages to your team.
Whether you have recognized it or not, people have been under stress during a large part of this year whether it is due to personal, business or economic reasons. This stress is being felt by the high up leadership in business and by every level of management down to the employees and team members. Recognition of this should make leadership realize that people may be sensitive and react differently then they would under normal circumstances, so being mindful in communication strategies should be top of mind to leaders.
3. Bring positivity into the workplace culture.
If you can find ways to lighten the situation for those working for your management and team members, it will go along way in rebranding your culture even during this time period. Your culture does not go away because there is a pandemic, leaders should instead seek out ways to reinject the positive culture into the workspace however they can.
4. Be creative.
Creative leadership and management skills can really shine under challenging times. Look outside the normal boundaries to see how others are being creative in your industry. Allow yourself and your team to be inspired as to how this can really be an opportunity to grow or pivot the business.
5. Embrace the change.
So many changes have happened in such a short amount of time and it is easy to be resistant because change can be frustrating and uncomfortable. Yet what if there are ways to do business different, reach different markets, lower overhead, work differently that as a leader you had never considered. Leaders that are effectively embracing some of the changes are finding more successes because they are open to the possibility.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
I have lots of thoughts and quotes, one of my favorites would be by Amelia Earhart, “The most effective way to do it is to do it.” Simple but effective way to say get out of your own way and take action. I have used this many times to move forward on a project or goal.
How can our readers further follow your work?
Connect with me on LinkedIn or check out my website BaritaLaw.com and for educational resources for the employer visit legalskinny.com, join my newsletter on the legal skinny website, watch my podcast videos on YouTube channel legal skinny or listen on apple podcasts, google podcasts, Spotify or iHeart radio.