Making Work, Work

If you stopped working today, what business legacy would you leave? Unless you do something about it, it could be a bullet-point list of skills on your LinkedIn profile, a string of work emails or how many billable hours you’ve worked. Is this really how you want to be remembered in your professional life? It’s worth taking a hard look at what you do and how you do it, to shape your business legacy into something that reflects who you are – here are a few tips.

How Do You Want To Be Remembered?

In her TEDx talk, How To be Remembered, Obelisk Support CEO Dana Denis-Smith talked about her visual archive, the photographs she’s collected from birth until age 16 in rural Transylvania. In one striking shot, she shows the audience a DIY collage of her photographic collection for her youth – just 11 photographs covering 16 years of her life, and not one more. “Until I took a deliberate action to document my life,” she says, “I made a lot of assumptions about how much I had.”

What documents would you keep to shape your business legacy? Is there a paper you’re particularly proud of, a professional award, a ground-breaking court case or a contribution to a larger body of work? Some lawyers are remembered because they broke barriers. Others because they revived originalism and textualism in the law. Others thanks to their pro bono involvement. At Obelisk Support, we are very proud that we helped hundreds of brilliant female lawyers return to the law after career gaps, when nobody else would give them a chance because career gaps are a deal-breaker for many legal recruiters.

There are so many ways lawyers (and other professionals) can make a difference in the world, even if it’s at microscopic level. Whatever it is you want to be remembered for, make sure that you keep track of the achievements you are proud of.

How Your Work Behaviour Reflects on You

Maya Angelou famously said that, “people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

It’s true of the professional world too. When I started my career as a young tax lawyer at Clifford Chance, I remember distinctly how one partner always supported me and mentored me, helping me grow from an inexperienced trainee to a corporate tax project manager. We’ve stayed in contact through this day and I still appreciate him as a great human being. On the other hand, another partner was very short-tempered and I remember his temper outbursts more than what we worked on together. One made me feel valued while the other one made me feel useless. Obviously, personal relationships can have a huge impact at work and a negative attitude can badly affect your colleagues.

At Obelisk Support, we recently hosted a workshop on emotional intelligence that resonated with many of our legal consultants. Using the principles of emotional intelligence, there are ways for people to learn to deal with anger in constructive ways. If that doesn’t work, try these tips to keep your anger in check. Yes, being a lawyer is stressful but a stressful job is a poor excuse for a bad attitude. We all have to deal with shit in our lives. Don’t be remembered for the wrong reasons.

CEOs, What’s Your Human Legacy?

If you’re in a leadership position, your human legacy will matter more than any multi-digit fancy spreadsheet. As a CEO or high-ranking executive, the obvious legacy you leave behind is how you grew or transformed a business. However what you leave behind in terms of people matters more and more. Using a Game of Thrones analogy, do you want to be remembered as a Cersei Lannister, Stannis Baratheon or a Jon Snow?

Being a good leader is hard work, but being an ethical good leader creating social value both for employees and other stakeholders is even harder work. In a 2014 global CEO survey, PwC asked 1,344 leaders what they wanted to be remembered for. Roughly 30% of CEOs wanted to  to be remembered for the kind of personal attributes they exhibited, compared to 9% in 2007. According to the survey, “the financial crisis might be the catalyst for the double-digit growth in the number of CEOs who wanted to be remembered for their sound personal qualities. CEOs have been reminded that regaining public trust in the role of business starts with ethical leadership and conduct.”

Indeed, a bad legacy can backfire. On Glassdoor, an employee who worked five years full-time at a large consulting firm writes: “Legacy of ex-CEO remains, driven more so by bottom line profit than other Big 4 (from my experience). This can come at the sacrifice of keeping talented employees.”

Though we live in a society that’s obsessed with measuring data and trends, people also need inspiration and creativity to progress towards higher goals and better well-being. They need to dream and they need to hope. Without dream and hope, life wouldn’t be worth living.

In Gregory Dess and Joseph Picken’s Changing Roles: Leadership In The 21st Century, the five key roles of leadership are listed as:

  1. Using strategic vision to motivate and inspire
  2. Empowering employees at all levels
  3. Accumulating and sharing internal knowledge
  4. Gathering and integrating external information
  5. Challenging the status quo and enabling creativity

So, shall it be Daenerys Targaryen, then? 

As individuals we can’t all do something huge and world changing, but the impact we have on our own little corner of the earth can help carve a path for more positive change, long after we are gone. It’s never too soon to think about what business legacy you will leave behind.

Making Work, Work

A recent report showed that 81% of people would look for flexible working before joining a new company. But businesses in the western world are still slow to respond to the demands for flexible and remote work infrastructures.

Last week, we were looking at the details of a report on The Competitive Advantage of Flexible and Family Friendly Working, compiled by My Family Care. The report looked at the way that people across a variety of industries work and how they want to work. It provided some very interesting insights about both employees and employers. According to the results, a whopping 81% of employees would look for flexible working options before joining a company. In addition, over half of respondents (53%) would prefer flexible work over a 5% salary increase. Naturally the trend is slightly stronger amongst parents and carers, but overall the majority of Millennials and those over the age of 34 would like to work flexible to some degree (51% and 71% respectively).

And while 32% actively promote flexible work practices in their business, 68% admit they don’t, while 61% of companies involved in the study say they allow flexible working to take place ‘under the radar’. There is still the impression that a high number of business leaders recognise the need to embrace remote and flexible work patterns. Perhaps, because industry cultures are slow to respond to the growing trend, they are reluctant to take the leap and invest in a proper course of action. Indeed, this would be backed up by another recent study by Epicor that found companies in the developed world are slow to invest in technologies such as sharing platforms, and cloud storage that support remote and flexible working patterns. Emerging markets are proving to be a step ahead, with 75% of businesses in emerging markets agree that flexible working practices and technologies are significant in helping retain key people (compared to 62% of respondents from developed countries).

With our focus this month on the time and productivity gains to be made from the 1 Million Hours available to legal businesses from our pool of talent, statistics like those above still come as a surprise. Our global, mobile society is hardly a new or emerging trend, so we would expect to see more businesses actively investing and promoting agile and remote working practices. Those who are doing so would appear to still be pioneers of progression.

Get in touch to be part of the changing legal landscape and see what you can gain from working differently.


Obelisk was one of 30 London-based fast-growing technology scale ups to accompany the Mayor on his trade mission to NYC and Chicago this month. The Attic caught up with Dana to find out how it went…

What kind of businesses and individuals did you meet?

The Mayor of London is a great champion of small businesses, especially given our role as the largest job creators. So it was in this vein that he selected 30 fast growing businesses to join him on his US trip. The businesses had to focus on the B2B market as the nature of the trip was to introduce us to large corporate buyers and to showcase the strong businesses that are London-based.

The other businesses were absolutely fascinating – very innovative services and amazing variety of sectors. Most of them are technology-enabled ground-breaking businesses that are reshaping the industries they serve. The energy of the founders and leaders that joined was truly contagious – a lot of lessons can be learned from being in a peer-to-peer environment that is supportive and ambitious.

How did you enjoy opening the New York Stock Exchange?

This was a unique moment and without a doubt the highlight. It was wonderful that only the women leaders on the trip were invited to join the Mayor to ring the closing bell. Sadiq Khan is not only a supporter of SMEs but also a great believer of the economic value of women in the workplace, so that was truly a special moment.

What do you think of the work the Mayor and the London and Partners team is doing to show London is open for business?

The #LondonIsOpen campaign was a brilliant and positive response to the Brexit vote. It has kept the world’s eyes firmly on London as a business destination; they have done a lot of work to highlight the strength of the private sector, they showcased the fast growing businesses and the general open business environment that London offers as an enabler of building a business.

How important is it for growing London-based companies such as Obelisk to present themselves to the US market in the wake of Brexit?

All fast growing businesses are looking for markets in which they can grow, for business partners that value their services and that can underpin that growth. So being able to be in the US with the Mayor was fantastic from an access and credibility point of view. We now know we have a lot of help at hand to push for growth in the US, across that whole market.

Did you get much down time to explore as a tourist?

I started every day with a long walk – around the financial district or walking along the Highline which is a suspended garden walk along some decommissioned train tracks. Nothing beats jet lag like a walk and a hearty breakfast.

What was the most important take away for you from the experience? What do you hope to see in future once we leave the EU?

If you have a strong business, although a ready-to-access market can help, in the end you can take your services anywhere. Success has no borders.