My spouse/business partner and I strive for excellence, if not perfection, in everything we do on behalf of our clients, our employees, and ourselves. This is a noble aspiration, however, people and situations being what they are, invariably and despite our best efforts and intentions, something goes wrong. Our jury research exercises involve travel, often long distances; cooperation and assistance from hotel and research facility staff; reliance on an outside vendor to procure the mock jurors or other research participants; attendance by numerous citizens who serve as our mock jurors/research participants; and a myriad of high tech computer and audio visual equipment. Given that all of these elements must interface with 100% accuracy and efficiency, the likelihood that one or more things will go wrong (for example, a delayed or cancelled flight) is great. Knowing this, we train all of our employees on how to act when, and not if, something goes wrong. If we are “on our toes” when the video camera stops recording, when the attorney making the presentation is an hour late, or when another expected, but unplanned, problem occurs, we will be in a much better position to address the problem before it worsens. Often, we are able to re-adjust something following a technical difficulty with great speed and finesse, such that our client never notices something was amiss. The main point to realize is that no one is perfect and handling the imperfections that are a part of everyday life is part of a day’s work, at least in my line of work.
The “something” which goes wrong can be painful, a big problem, or, more frequently something which is less obvious. It is critical to keep one’s cool when things go wrong – as in “don’t let them see you sweat.” But, that is sometimes easier said than done. For us as managers, it has been important to forewarn employees of potential problems both in policy manuals and in training to attempt to prevent problems of which others have learned, “the hard way.” It has also proven useful to screen potential employees to determine whether they can handle the stress of a work place problem or crisis. We ask questions such as, “how do you handle people with demanding personalities (e.g., lawyers) when there is a problem and they are upset?” And, “what do you do when there is a technical problem for which you are responsible? How do you handle the pressure?” One, perhaps overly honest candidate said she would go the restroom and cry, then return and fix the problem. Strangely, at the time she was employed as a 911 dispatcher at the time, but obviously was in need of a career change. And, as technology has evolved and become the norm in trial presentations with electronic presentations using PowerPoint, Trial Director, Visionary, and TrialPad, the potential for problems is multiplied tremendously. Too often clients arrive for a mock trial planning to use an electronic presentation, but having now idea how to do so, or without bringing all of the required equipment/wires. So the “something goes wrong” expands beyond us and our employees, to having to help clients solve such problems. The key for employees and their supervisors is to learn to become a problem solver, think fast, stay cool, and consider work arounds when other options fail. Most of all, anticipate that something will happen and don’t let it catch you off guard and unprepared.