Demystifying US Employment Law: Unveiling Misconceptions and Leadership Lessons

  1. EEOC-Employment Law
  2. Demystifying US Employment Law: Unveiling Misconceptions and Leadership Lessons

Employment law attorney Alan Crone was featured on the Leading with Integrity podcast to talk about how complicated employment law in the United States can be. We have the full interview plus a transcription below.

Demystifying US Employment Law: Unveiling Misconceptions and Leadership Lessons Podcast Transcription

David Hatch

Welcome back, listeners. Thank you for joining me again today. One of the big challenges for a lot of managers, a lot of leaders and a lot of business owners in today’s complex world of fast paced business and the great resignation and quiet quitting and all of these kind of employment challenges is the responsibilities that are encumbered upon an employer under the law.

So, to help me understand that a bit better, from the American perspective at least, is employment law specialist and attorney Alan Crone, joining us from the USA. So, we’re going to be talking about how employment law works, what some of the misunderstood concepts are, what some of the most common issues are that he’s had to deal with in his 30-year career in the law, as well as some of the lessons he’s learned about leadership from that time.

Well, Alan, thank you very much for taking time out of your day to join us today. And we’re going to talk about all things employment law and a bit about leadership as well. So, yeah, thanks for being here.

Alan Crone
Oh, it’s my pleasure. Thanks for having me.

Oh, very welcome, yeah. And to start us off, usually the best place to start, I find, is I hand over the virtual mic to you to introduce yourself to the listeners, tell them a bit about yourself, your business, what you do and what gets you out of bed in the morning, really?

All right, well, my name is Alan Crone. I’m the founder and CEO of the Crone Law Firm, which we’re an employment law firm located in Memphis, Tennessee, and St. Louis, Missouri, and we represent employers, executives, and entrepreneurs in legal matters that affect their ability to make a living. And I’ve been in employment law for 30 plus years.

I also am a recovering politician. I’ve been involved in my community and really enjoy doing that volunteer work. What gets me out of bed in the morning? My job. I’ve kind of transferred or shifted into more of the management here at the firm. Still run a few cases, but mainly I see my job as making everybody else look better.

My job is to make other people money, to help other people succeed in my firm and just help us achieve our firm mission, which is to help people get a level playing field and transform the American workplace into an efficient, fair system.

So that’s what we do. It took me a long time, but I love what I do. I love this mix of what I do, and it was great to get up early this morning and come talk to you.

Well, I’m pleased to hear it. And I have to say that’s actually a really nice way of describing leadership, isn’t it? My job is to make everyone else look good.

I find if you if you do that, success follows for everybody. And what better goal than for everybody to be success vessel? I know there are a lot of people out there who think, well, if so and so succeeds, then that takes away from me one thing I learned in politics is that’s what the great thing about credit is credit is unlimited.

You can give credit to everybody and there’s still plenty of credit for yourself. I find that every time I do that, I’m happy. But when I’m focused more on myself, I’m not as happy. So that’s kind of how I got to this place.

Yeah, I like it. And you can say the same thing about gratitude as well, can’t you? It’s self-creating, or self-perpetuating. So, there we go. I’m really interested to get into some of the aspects of employment law, particularly. I know in the US. It works very differently to how it does here in the UK for example.

So, it’ll be interesting to hear some of your thoughts on that. And to start us off on that topic, what are the three most common workplace issues that you tend to deal with in your firm from an employment law perspective?

Well, I think the biggest is a lack of communication and a lack of confrontation. A lot of people come to see me when maybe they’ve been fired or they’re on the process towards being fired and they really are confused and they don’t understand why these things are happening to them.

If they happen to be black or a female or maybe LGBTQ or some other protected class, they say, well, I can’t figure out what it is, so it must be this other thing. And I think in America we’re really bad at confronting people in a positive way, setting up expectations and letting people know when they don’t meet those expectations that’s the first thing is communication.

I think communication is key and if people communicated better, they probably would put me out of business, to be honest with you. Or at least I’d have to change my business. So that’s the first thing is communication. The second is similar to it and that’s expectations. A lot of employers don’t know really what they expect of their own employees. And therefore, if you don’t know what you expect, how can you expect your employee to understand that?

So, I think defining roles, and again, communicating those roles to people is very important and I find that that doesn’t happen a long time. And then the third thing is there are just some bad people out there. There are some people that have biases and prejudices that are deep seated and they act on those.

We have people that don’t understand how to exhibit their own sexuality correctly, and so they make comments or they take advantage of people in subordinate positions. And as an employer, you’ve got to be on the lookout for those folks, and you can’t make accommodation for those folks. You’ve got to nip that kind of activity in the butt.

And unfortunately, that’s part of human nature. It’s part of human behavior. And when companies don’t take that seriously, then they create a lot of liability for themselves and they hurt a lot of people.

Sadly, yes. So the communication and the expectation it’s wrapped up in that there’s that fear of confrontation, isn’t there? And a lot of managers and business leaders, they tend to try to avoid those difficult conversations.

Whereas in the long run, if they just have it early on and everyone’s on the same page from the beginning, exactly as you said, then in the long run it’s actually a lot easier than just putting it off and putting it off and putting it off until it becomes this unavoidable monster of a problem.

That’s right. I was talking to someone yesterday, and we were talking about terminations, and we were having this conversation, and I said, they end up firing somebody. And he said, and it’s probably six to nine months later than they should have done it. And that’s so true. Unless you’re just a psychopath. No one likes to fire people, right? I mean, no one gets up in the morning and says, oh goody, I get to go fire Betty today.

Most people don’t want to do it. Most workers want to be successful. They want to succeed. And either you’ve made a decision somewhere along the line as a manager that has led you to that point, when someone fails in your organization, you’ve got to own that.

Because either you hired the person for the wrong job, either they didn’t have the skill set or the aptitude or whatever it might be to do that particular job, or you haven’t trained them correctly to do the job to meet your expectations. And again, if you’ve communicated all of that, if you were careful in hiring someone, there are people out there I get it, that just don’t perform for whatever reason.

They get a job, and there’s a small percentage of them, just like we said, there’s some people that are just bad people, there’s some bad employees, and those you’ve got to head on. And in the movie Bull Durham, the manager said, the organization’s got to make a change. And professionals understand that the sooner you can make that change, you free that person up to go be their best self somewhere else, and you can get somebody in that really can do the job.

But most of the time if you confront people and say, here’s how we want this done, here’s some successes, here’s some steps for success, most people will conform to it if they’re able to. And if they’re not able to, then you’ve made a mistake in putting them in that impossible position.

Yeah. Or as you said, you’ve not defined what you’re expecting from them in the first place. You’ve not agreed how that’s going to be measured? And you’re not both on the same page from the start very much agree with you. The sooner you get rid of that person. If it is that bad employee type person, for their own benefit as much as anything else, but also for the benefit of your wider team.

Because if there is that underperforming, that bad, that toxic kind of person that’s there, and you’re putting off that conversation, the biggest damage a lot of times is to everyone else who has to work with them. And that’s why I think it’s such an important part of leadership, actually. Not that I advocate firing people quickly.

I think it’s better to fire quickly than slowly. I think in America and probably all over the world, we focus on firing as opposed to hiring. And if you do your work in hiring, then you don’t have to fire anybody. And I think it starts with a company’s mission.

I’ll bet you if I stopped people on the street and said, where do you work? And they told me, and I said, quick, tell me, what is your company’s mission? A lot of people would probably him and haw around that and give you something that’s kind of close. But if people can’t say, our mission is to represent employees, executives, and entrepreneurs in legal matters that affect their ability to make a living, and they can’t come back with that quickly, well, then I fail because I haven’t communicated my mission.

So, the first thing is you got to recruit to your mission, and then you’ve got to understand how each role fits into that mission, how it fits into, in my case, a law firm, and you’ve got to hire to that. We have five value pillars excellence, service, reliability, transparency, and integrity.

And we talk about that in the hiring process. And I have a whole section when I’m talking to potential job candidates, I talk about the reasons not to come to work here. If you don’t like accountability, if you don’t like public accountability, and some people don’t, don’t come to work here. If you don’t like following systems, don’t come to work here.

You’ve got to know what it is that makes your organization unique, but also what makes it run. And there are some people not everything is for everybody. And the fact that somebody’s been an accountant for 15 years doesn’t mean that they’ve got the knowledge and training and experience that you need for an accountant.

So, you’ve either got to hire to that experience or you’ve got to train them up to get to your point. I think a lot of people just hire some people and say, all right, well, it’s an accountant. I’ve got an accounting role. Well, there you go. Go ahead. You’re supposed to know everything. And when they don’t meet expectations that haven’t been communicated to them, now all of a sudden, there’s an issue.

So, I think you’ve really got to hire slow and fire fast. If you’ve made a mistake in that hiring process and somehow, you’ve misread the person or misread their qualifications, then again, do everybody a favor and go ahead and pull the trigger on that sooner rather than later.

But do your homework on the front end so you don’t have to do that. There’s nothing more expensive for a company than having to rehire, have high turnover anywhere in its organization.

Absolutely, yeah. The number that it’s getting thrown around lately is 300% of their annual salary to replace someone who leaves or you have to get rid of. Right. Yeah, it’s not cheap.

No, it’s not.

Another similar question. What do you think is the most misunderstood issue that you found in representing… I know you’ve done thousands of cases for both-size employees and employers.

That’s a great question. I think that probably the most misunderstood from a legal standpoint is, at least in this country, just how few rights workers have. We have the employment at will doctrine here, which we got from Great Britain being a former colonial possession.

I always tell people, yeah, I think lords and serfs. That’s really where the American worker starts. We had slavery, which is a lot worse than lords and serfs.

As a society, as Western civilization, capitalism has always treated workers as less than. I think that people don’t understand that you can be treated unfairly, you can be treated arbitrarily. But if you don’t fall into certain protective categories or certain protected activity, then you really don’t have any rights. The other thing is on the other side of that. It’s a mirror image of that.

I think a lot of times, particularly today, workers don’t understand how much relative negotiating position they have, and they have it before they get hired. They need to negotiate any terms before the honeymoon starts, before the boss says you’re hired. Oftentimes, there’s a lot of negotiating that can go on because they want you and you’ve got something valuable to trade.

Being attuned to that can help solve some problems down the road. I realize that, like I said, that’s two sides of the same coin. They sound contradictory, but they also go hand in hand because employment at will assumes an open marketplace.

Really until recently, at least in this country, you didn’t really have that two-way streak. Now, after whatever they’re calling it, the great resignation and quiet quitting and all of those things, now all of a sudden, a good worker who’s reliable and capable and honest and all of those great attributes is valuable and you can negotiate from that position of value.

Yeah, that’s interesting. We were talking just now about be slow in your hiring, but I think from what you’re saying there, certainly in the US, the same applies for when you’re the job seeker. Be slow in that. Make sure you do that negotiation before the honeycomb period, as you call it, and make sure that you’re picking the right employer as much as you ever can, and assuming you have the luxury of that choice as well, of course, because not everyone will, sadly.

Yeah, and that’s true to different extents at different times. Economy turns and there are no jobs, and all of a sudden, I’ve got to put food on the table, so I got to do these things. Although I think in 2023, there’s so many other options, everything from being an influencer to doing freelance work online.

My daughter just graduated from college, and she’s looking for a job in comedy writing. I know there’s a writer strike because we’re typing this, but if anyone out there needs a good comedy writer, give me a call and I’ll hook you up. But she’s doing all sorts of things, from walking dogs to doing some on-screen project work and other things.

She may actually be making more money than she would right out of the school job. It’s different than when I was coming out of school and your only option was, well, you get a job in your career and you progress from there. Because of that, I think that gives workers a little more leverage than they would have had 10 years ago.

Yeah. That’s a really good point, because we talk about this kind of generational shift over the last couple of generations and where, I mean, so even my parents, like, they would have spent decades in the same role my dad did. He worked for the same company for over 40 years.

But even into my generation, the next one dad, most people won’t stay in a job more than five or ten years in my generation. And the next generation, it’s more like one to two years now, me. But what we never actually think about, or certainly I haven’t until you just said that, is the reason behind that. It’s not so much a change in mindset, is it’s just there’s so many more options available now than there were.

And you’re right. I mean, all you need is an Internet connection these days and you can go and make some money doing something. Yeah, very good.

Make money playing video games.

Well, yes, funnily enough, I did have an interview with another guest a few weeks ago who works in Esports, which actually it’s not as easy as it sounds. Annoyingly.

Well, I know a young man that he would play Call of Duty on Twitch and people would tip him and it was as much a performance as anything else. He’s talking and it’s not so much, but they’re watching him play a game and they’re interacting with him, and he made very good money doing that.

And again, I think the point isn’t necessarily quit your day job and get on Twitch and play video games, but as you said, the opportunities are just so different. Most of the jobs that were the big money jobs when I was coming out of school, a lot of them don’t exist anymore.

Stockbroker. There’s no such thing as a stockbroker anymore. They’re financial advisors now, and they’re paid completely differently because of online. They lost their monopoly and that’s just kind of a run of the mill job. Being a doctor, a physician isn’t as lucrative as it used to be. Being a lawyer certainly isn’t what it used to be.

So, I think employers and everybody else really have to look at where we are in 2023 and realize that this must have been how people felt during the Industrial Revolution, and everything was becoming automated and things were moving from agriculture to industry and into the cities and everything else.

So, we’re in a period of transition and the changes are happening at lightning speed. It’s just crazy. Go nuts.

Yeah. And I think you’ve hit the nail on the head there. About one of the biggest differences, actually, is the pace of change. Industrial Revolution happened over quite a long period of time, whereas the last decade or so, those changes have just been getting more and more frequent, haven’t they? Like the speed at which technology changes and evolves and gets more complicated. Probably. Certainly.

From my perspective, every generation says that the next generation is completely different than they are. But in my case, it’s true, right? I mean, you look at my dad and me, we basically had the same high school experience. Three or four television channels, landlines, air conditioning, automobiles. Level of technology may have been a little bit different, but if he or I wanted to ask a girl out. The process was pretty much the same. You either saw them in the hall or you called them or whatever.

My kids, completely different social structure. The way they approach dating, the way they approach finding a job, the way they approach deciding what they’re going to do for dinner. Completely different. Just night and day difference. And when you take that as a microcosm of the larger society, it really is amazing that the world isn’t more chaotic than it is because it’s just so much different.

But man, what a great time to be alive, to see all of these changes. And you got to take the bad with the good, but the good is great. It’s just a great time to be a human being. And so hopefully we’ll continue to adapt and change, and 50 years from now, we’ll come out on the other side of this, a better society, hopefully with more opportunity for people.

You’re absolutely right. It’s definitely an interesting time to be alive. Yeah, I guess it’s a double-edged sword, isn’t it, the Internet? Because on the one hand, you’ve got access to every piece of human knowledge that does or has ever existed, probably literally at your fingertips.

And then on the other side, you’ve just got this horrible, toxic, poisonous part of the Internet that just destroys everything. And I must say, it’s been particularly interesting life experience for me because I started school before the Internet.

But then by the time I graduated from a bachelor’s degree, it was kind of the financial crash time. The Internet was everywhere. The smartphone had just been invented. I don’t want to say the best of both worlds, but certainly got a bit of both worlds. And living through that time of transition, I don’t know what it would have been like doing it either way. The other way.

Yeah. I always say you look fondly back in history and say, oh, wouldn’t it have been great to live at a genteel time; 16 hundreds during the 15 hundreds, the Renaissance and Michelangelo, but no air conditioning. And you take all that technology and you boil it all down. It’s a reflection of us as human beings.

Human beings aren’t perfect, so technology isn’t going to be perfect. And all of the toxicity really is just amplification of those people I was talking about before that, for whatever reason, are fallen. And we’re all fallen and we’re all damaged to a certain extent. Social media is just it used to be in a small village. Your gossip and your meanness went as far as your voice carried, but it still got around the village. Well, now everybody just has a larger megaphone, and the village is a lot bigger.

Yeah, good point. It’s amplifying the voices, isn’t it’s? Not necessarily changing. Well, assuming we don’t get into the conversation about social media and the algorithm, which I think is great, best to avoid that. Soapbox what would be your first piece of advice for someone who’s maybe a new manager, first time business owner, somebody like that, who’s really struggling to get to grips with what their actual responsibilities are under the law?

Well, the first thing I would do is I would tell them to buy this great new book, The Law at Work, that I wrote, and it’s very readable. I tell people I wrote it for non-lawyers. If I’d written it for lawyers, it would be that thick, because you got to put a lot of extra words in for lawyers. But I think that’s the first thing is really kind of understand what your responsibilities are.

And, you know, it all boils down to this. You got to treat people fairly, and to treat people fairly, you got to come at them where they are. And I always say diversity is overrated. As an employment lawyer, that raises a lot of eyebrows. But let me tell you what I mean by that. You want no diversity in your organization with respect to your mission.

If everybody is homogeneous in that they buy into your mission and you hire the people that are the best to accomplish your mission, you will end up with diversity of your workplace in the accidental forms of what they look like, what gender they are, how they identify sexually, where they come from, all of those categories that we’re protecting.

If you focus on that and you focus on hiring in the best interest of your firm or your organization, then you’re going to eliminate a lot of problems right off the bat. So, you’ve got to be mission focused and hire to that. And then going back to what we said at the very beginning, you’ve got to learn how to communicate. You’ve got to learn how not everybody knows what you expect.

And I’ll give you a quick, kind of silly example. I had a law partner that he loved for when you stapled a paper. He wanted the staple to be at an angle, not vertical or horizontal, but at an angle because of the way it folded. Well, when we first started practicing together, he didn’t tell anybody that. He would just get upset. Why can’t these people staple things correctly?

And I said, well, have you communicated that? Well, they should just know. I said, no. That’s crazy. But I said, it’s important to you, so you just need to tell them and maybe tell them four or five times.

And then when they do it wrong and say, oh, you were serious about that, say, yeah, I was serious about that. As I say, that’s kind of a silly example, but it’s a true-life example. I mean, that sort of thing is all over the place. I know I’m a broken record, but you’ve just got to communicate those things.

The other thing is you’re in a manager, make friends, get resources within your company’s legal department and HR department and become curious and ravenously hungry about learning all of those policies and procedures, not just learning them on the surface, but what are they designed to do.

And good HR compliance is good business. Hiring fairly, treating people fairly, all of those things are part of HR compliance, but they’re also good business. If you have a good record there, you’re going to have less turnover, you’ll be more profitable and probably more effective.

I like that. It’s same to be said, isn’t there, for understanding the spirit of something as well as the technical definition of it. And I think that’s what you mean when you talk about the intent of the law as well as the letter and your first point.

I think it speaks really well to one of the biggest traps or mistakes that a lot of leaders fall into, which is assuming that everyone else has the same understanding of something as they do, whether that be how they want their documents stapled or, I don’t know, something a bit more significant, like how to talk to clients, for example.

And I think that having that conversation early on, you can avoid a lot of pension and conflict in the workplace quite easily, potentially.

And I think as a worker it’s also incumbent upon you to figure those things out too, to try to anticipate how you can make your boss’s life easier. I had a boss once who said there are two kinds of people in this world, people who make my life easier and people who don’t. And guess who get raises? I think that’s fair.

Companies paying you money not just to come in and do a good job, they’re paying you to come in and do a great job. It needs to be a two-way street. Neither side needs to be passive. And I think that’s part of the issue is at the end of the day, most people are lazy or at least take the path of least resistance. And what we’re talking about here is hard. It takes a lot of energy and effort to build a relationship. And again, that’s another way of saying what we’re saying.

Yeah, I think you’re right. But I think if we go back to what you’re saying earlier about the values and the mission of the organization, I think, yes, people can be naturally lazy, I know I certainly can. But equally, if this is something where they’re aligned with the mission, as you described earlier, they’ve fully bought into that, then they’re going to work harder for it.

And I think that’s where it becomes a responsibility of the leader to get the most out of people. But at the same time, I do agree with you, it is incumbent upon the worker, the employee too, at least to the point of they have a responsibility to ask a question.

If they don’t know something, if they don’t understand something, if they don’t get the way that it’s been explained to them, then they should put your hand up and say, I don’t get that, or how did you want this specifically? Or ask that question so you can do a better job. Because nobody’s a mind reader, are they? At the end of the day, yeah.

And I think humility is a virtue that in our society, we’ve kind of downgraded and people don’t talk about it as much anymore. But I’ve represented a lot of people who have worked at a place for 10, 12, 20 years, and someone new comes in and has a new way of doing whatever process it is, and they just can’t let go of what they’ve always done.

And they don’t have the humility to say, okay, she’s the boss, this is the way she wants it. I don’t agree with it, but I’m going to do it this way. And I think that’s also part of it is you got to have a certain amount of humility. You’ve got to have a certain amount of humility as a boss to say, okay, I’m coming in and I’m shaking up an established workforce.

Maybe I need to incrementally make these changes and get to know my team better so that my changes are seen as good, not as arbitrary. So, I think a dose of humility is good for all of us. It’s hard. I know it’s hard for me. I’ve got a big personality. I’m very confident. I’m sure people have described me as arrogant behind my back.

Some have done it to my face. So that’s something that we all have to work on. But again, I think you make that shift and I think it reduces your stress level a lot if you can let go of a lot of things.

Definitely. I think the key bit there is really it’s the two-way street, isn’t it? Whatever it is. I mean, there’s so many different concepts in that kind of leader follower interaction. We could talk about it in terms of trust, respect, communication. I mean, all of these things. It’s important that you see it not as a one directional relationship. It goes both ways.

Hopefully most listeners will have seen it and get this reference. But the question is, why should you never do a Jerry Maguire and just walk out on an employer in the way that Tom Cruise did in that film?

Well, I don’t want to be that guy, but you know, Jerry Maguire didn’t walk out. They told him they were going to fire him. They went to lunch. He went to lunch with his boss, who told him he was getting so Jerry Maguire didn’t exactly walk out. But let me say this about that.

There’s a lot in that question, because what Jerry Maguire did in that scene was, he started to call his clients to see how many he could take with him, and his boss was doing the same thing. And it really does highlight the notion in 2023 that there’s not a whole lot of loyalty.

We started talking about the employee at will doctrine, and that’s where the American worker starts. And so, your employer doesn’t owe you a turkey sandwich on Thanksgiving. Your employer doesn’t owe you tomorrow. I think everybody has got to take their own bit of where their loyalty begins and ends.

Now, while you’re working for a company, you have a duty of loyalty. As long as you’re working there, even if you’re thinking, okay, in two weeks I’m going to quit, you owe your duty of loyalty to the company. That’s why he couldn’t make those calls until his boss told him, we’re going to fire you. And he did what he had to do to protect himself at that point.

And so, I come down a little bit differently on that. I think at some point you got to do what you got to do for yourself, but you’ve got to stay within whatever your own morality is. You certainly don’t need to do what Jerry Maguire did, absent a termination and absent a declaration that I’m walking out the door.

But I think it really depends on the relationship that you have with your employer. And if you work for the kind of place that at any day, any moment could come in and tell you hit the bricks without any warning, then you’ve got to be prepared for that to happen.

And of course, different, he was a sports agent, and so that’s a different thing than someone who has a more inside administrative kind of job where you really can’t protect yourself.

But you’ve got to always be building your skills and always be building your resume, because you’re not guaranteed anything tomorrow.

I’ll give you an example. At one point, I had a lot of clients who were welders. And one thing you’ve never seen is an old welder. It’s a very physically demanding job, and there’s a shelf life to it. You get to your forties, and sometimes between 42 and 52, if you’re a welder, you’re going to have a career ending injury. If it’s a chronic injury or sudden injury, there’s exceptions to everything.

And so, I tell people, look, NFL players, basketball players, baseball players, they know that there’s a shelf life to what they can do. And so, they’ve got to be thinking, all right, when I hit 38, what am I going to be doing? I said, you got to do the same thing. This is good money now, but okay, unless you’ve banked enough money to retire at 50, what are you going to do in your fifties and sixties?

And so, you’ve always got to be preparing yourself that next eventuality because we all have different chapters in our lives. Each chapter sometimes comes to an end. I think a lot of times, particularly at mid-level management of big companies.

They just think, oh, I’m going to retire as the regional vice president of sales when I’m 65. No, you’re not going to. It’s not going to happen. You’re going to either get forced out or fired. When you’re in your 50s, so they can bring somebody in who’s going to be there for the next 20 or 30 years.

The only way that you survive at that company is continue to advance. You’ve got to go from the regional vice president to brand vice president on up. That air gets rarer. There’s not as many of those jobs. You’ve always got to be thinking about that because what you have today is fleeting.

Two, three, four years from now, life is going to happen, and you may need to make adjustments. I don’t know if that really answers your Jerry Maguire question, but that’s my stream of consciousness from that starting point.

I’m pretty sure that at that lunch, Jay Moore’s character told him he was fired. I’m pretty sure. But yeah, again, I think in the spirit of your question.

 I think you’ve always got to be thinking about next week. By that, I mean don’t burn your bridges. You never know when the people you’re working with now are going to become important in your life again.

Again, it doesn’t hurt to be nice. It doesn’t hurt to leave a little on the table as you’re going out the door because you see the same people on the way down as you see on the way up, and circumstances change.

Whether you’re a Christian or some other faith tradition, good deeds always you plant those seeds, and that’s just good for the world. I think being nice is always better than being a jerk. If your recollection is right, then that’s what I would say, is you can’t burn your bridges as you’re leaving the office.

Yes, I do agree with you in principle. I’ve not always followed that in practice, to be honest. One other thought that’s popped into my head as well while you’re talking. I guess the whole Jerry Maguire concept is probably quite a bit way out of date now, isn’t it?

Because I would assume most businesses in that environment where they’re dependent on big ticket clients, they’re going to be some non-compete clause in the employment contract, isn’t there? Maybe it’s all a moot point anyway.

Well, that’s a really good point. A lot of people have those clauses, and they don’t understand them, and they don’t remember them a lot of times. That’s something that you’ve always got to consider if you’re in that circumstance. That’s one of those things I was talking about. Those things can be negotiated on the frontend, and most of the times they can be negotiated on the backend. But you’d rather do it on the frontend.

I think in 2023, that scene would be very different. Also because of technology, he made a lot of those calls from inside the office. That might be something that they could put the kibosh on. If that was an employer-provided phone, for example, they could shut it off or they could ask for it back or other things.

Lots of movies and television shows, if you film them today, they’d be very short because of the cell phone. Let me call them and make sure, Oh, okay, thanks. I was completely wrong about that. Do you want me to meet you on top of the Empire State Building? Okay, well, let me text you. I’m on my way. The Sleepers in Seattle is like a 15-minute movie.

Yeah, absolutely. I think a lot of those things, certainly this particular film we’re talking about, I think the main difference would be that the first 5, 10, 15, maybe even 20 minutes would be about the same, and then the rest of the film would just be a court case drama.


Wouldn’t it?

Awesome. Well, let’s talk a little bit about leadership specifically then. My first question for you on this one, quite interesting perspective. I’m sure you can bring this from a career in the legal field, actually. What do you think is the biggest leadership lesson that you’ve learned from your career so far?

I think it’s the importance of relationships. When I was younger, I always heard about and saw people who were networking. I didn’t know enough at the time to put it in these terms, but over the years, I’ve come to label it this way, I always saw networking as transactional. I’m going to this meeting to find people who can help me, and it just seemed phony and transactional to me. It just seemed funny and transactional to me. That’s because I didn’t really understand it.

But over the years, I’ve learned that the relationships you build just make your life so much richer. As we said at the very, very beginning, the more you give to others, the more… If all you’re looking for is what do I get out of it? The more you give, the more you get back. I think it’s really important you’ve got to build relationships.

If you’re a leader in any organization or any… You’ve got to build relationships with the people that you’re leading so that you know how to speak to them where they are. If you’re relational and not transactional, then you get more to where I was talking about that credit is elastic, where it’s just not you’re measuring every interaction by am I getting more out of this than I’m putting in?

Over the long haul, I think that’s key. The other thing that goes along with that is authenticity. People talk about that a lot now, but it’s so true. It’s like the old joke. If you can fake sincerity, you can do anything.

Now, I’m just saying about being authentic, being authentically yourself. I think that’s always been a tough human problem, is we have so many insecurities and so many fears and so many defenses that we’ve erected to make sure we don’t get hurt physically and emotionally, that sometimes we’re not authentically us. Again, I think when you approach leadership authentically, this is who I am. Again, you own it.

You say, yeah. One problem I have is I tend to silo myself. I get so in my head about what’s going on that I forget to communicate out to people.

A lot of times I have to say, look, if I get that way, I’m sorry. I’m working not be that way, but help me get out of my silo. I think people appreciate that. I was driving to give a speech a weekend or two ago, and I was going pretty fast. I get pulled over and the state trooper walks up to me and he says, you were going pretty fast.

He tells me how fast I was going. I said, yeah, that’s pretty fast. He said, why are you going that fast? I said, no good reason. He walked back to his car and did whatever they do and came back, I’m going to give you a warning and you can go.

I’m convinced that one of the reasons he did that was that I was authentic. I wasn’t trying to get out of it. I fully expected to get a ticket, probably deserved a ticket. But for whatever reason, he decided not to give me one. I attribute that to just being transparent and owning what I had done.

I think if I had tried to talk him out of it, I wouldn’t go in that fast, or I’ve got an important meeting, or don’t you know who I am, which is a phrase that’s said right before tragedy happens, don’t you know who I am? That just shows you that nobody knows who you are if you got to say that. Yeah, I think being authentic is really, really important.

I agree. You’re right. It’s turning on a lot more attention of late. I wonder if part of that isn’t because somewhat, we were talking about earlier about the rise of the internet. Certainly, the last couple of years as well with the shift to remote and then back and then hybrid and all that, but it’s become easier to section off your life, hasn’t it? You can hide behind the internet to a great extent.

If you don’t have to physically go to work, then it’s a lot easier to not show your true self in a lot of ways. Maybe that’s why it’s resonating with a lot of people so much now. Not just in the case of leadership, but my personal branding, marketing, all of those areas too. What has been your personal best experience of being led?

From 2016 to 2020, I was our mayor’s special counsel. I was his Senior Policy Advisor. It’s a great job, enjoyed doing it. He is a tremendous leader. His name is Jim Strickland. He would do several things. One is he would listen to a lot of opinions. We had a meeting every Friday, and he would go around the room with all his senior leadership team, and we’d all give reports.

But then at the end, he would maybe two or three issues and he’d say, okay, what do you all think about this? He’d throw it out on the table and we talk about it. He would have a vote on it because it was his call. But he would listen, and then he would make a decision, and then he would stick to it. That’s so rare for a politician.

As I said, as a recovering politician, I can say that. Again, just that, and he was a very authentic guy. He is who he is. But just having that integrity, having that backbone to say, this is my decision, and have it be a reasoned decision and sticking with it, I saw what that did to city government because people knew that the mayor had their back when they were executing a policy.

I think Jim Strickland, as mayor, is probably by far and away the best leadership that I’ve ever had in my life.

Sounds good. Sounds like he’s picking a lot of the boxes there, definitely. All the more impressive in a politician, I say, as a long-suffering voter. Yeah. Okay, this is going to be a difficult question, I think, but let’s see. If you could go back in time to the beginning of your career, what advice would you give to your younger self?

I would tell myself that networking is not. I would go back and say, look, what you’re concerned about is the transactional nature of this. Build relationships. Relationships are what’s going to sustain you throughout your career. As I said, not just years, I mean, decades, I didn’t understand that. Without hesitation, that’s what I would go back and tell my younger self.

I know what you mean by networking on a similar experience, actually, I used to view it in exactly the same way, but I think it does also depend on the group that you network with and the forum for doing that because there’s some really terrible ones out there, but there’s also some really, really good ones. I think that can have an impact definitely.

Okay, last question. This one is my favorite question. I hope you’ve got a good answer for it, but no pressure. No pressure.


No pressure.

It’s called Leadership Heroes. The question is, you get pretty much free reign. But if you had to pick one person, they can be alive or dead, past or present, someone from history, real or fictitious, if you get really stuck, that’s usually quite good out, who, in your opinion, would perfectly embody leadership, who would that person be and why?

Well, I would be remiss if I did not say Jesus Christ. I think if you go back and you look at Jesus as a leader, first of all, he’s a servant leader. He realized that the leader has to be the first servant. Then he picked people that… He picked his apostles and disciples very carefully. He picked people that he knew he could count on to further his mission when he was gone.

He was very, very smart about that. He picked people that, again, were diverse in a lot of different ways, but who bought into his mission. He was all about self-sacrifice. I mean, you walk by a crucifix, and that tells you what he thought he had to do for his friends.

As he emptied himself for others in Christian theology, it was the one and only completely selfless act in the history of humanity. Again, if you buy into Christian theology.

And so, it shows you the power of sacrifice and it shows you the power of humility. Because again, no matter what you think of him, look at the legacy that he left behind. Started with twelve guys in Palestine in the first century. So that’s my leadership hero.

Yes, it’s always an interesting pick, I must say, and it’s not the first time we’ve had it, but I like your explanation better, I think, particularly the point about legacy, because that’s one aspect of leadership that is often forgotten, isn’t it? It’s parting the leadership on, it’s the succession plan or however else we might choose to describe it, but it’s creating future leaders.

And very clearly, as you said, that’s what happened there. That was the purpose of the disciples, wasn’t it? And yeah, I really like the servant leadership analogy there as well. That’s spot on, I think. Yeah. Great pick.

Well, Alan, thank you so much for your time. As a very last question, if any of the listeners would like to learn more about you, perhaps get a copy of that book, would you like to point them towards a website or something that they can get more information?

Again, the book is The Law at Work, and it’s on Amazon, it’s on and, all those kinds of places. If you google Alan Crone Attorney Memphis, you will get more hits than you probably want. But that’s how to find me. I’m here to help. So, if I can help anybody, I’d be honored to do so.

Lovely. Well, thank you so much for your time today. It’s been a really nice conversation. Thoroughly enjoyed meeting you and thanks for your time.

Likewise, thank you for having me on and thanks for some challenging questions I hadn’t thought of, so that’s always a lot of fun.

Well, I do my best.

All right, David, thank you.

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