Try to stay thankful and look at what has already been achieved. Sometimes you get so wrapped up in the now that you forget about everything it took to get you to where you are. Being grateful and looking back at all the successes can get you back into the right mindset to reduce stress.
Asa part of our series about “Optimal Performance Before High Pressure Moments”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Brent Daub, Senior Founding Partner and Trial Attorney.
Brent Daub is a Senior Founding Partner and Trial Attorney at Gilson Daub- a workers’ compensation defense, subrogation and general liability firm. Daub has over 15 years of experience in litigation and business management and is also currently working to pursuing a Doctorate in Interdisciplinary Leadership.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive into the main focus of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your backstory?
Since 2002, I have been an attorney specializing in workers’ compensation defense and representing large employers and insurance companies. In 2010, I started to think about ways that the practice of law could become better from an attorney, client, and entrepreneurial standpoint. That same year, I began looking at efficient ways to run a law firm — keeping technology top-of-mind and overall focused on a different type of model that might work better. One year later I opened Gilson Daubwith Dan Gilson — my now-retired founding partner. It was just us at the beginning and we handled everything soup-to-nuts. Over time, however, we began to gain success and new clientele to the point of needing to hire, on-board, and train new attorneys. After a few years of exponential growth and new hires, I felt we needed to add additional team members that could help with leadership of the firm, which led me to focus on management development for my practice. Today, over ten years later, our firm operates in six states with over 100 employees and we’re looking to expand our footprint across the U.S. even more. We always work hard to go beyond the cases — from team and leadership development to embracing technology with the creation of our case management software, Casefriend, I’m always looking to uncover how else we can best improve.
What or who inspired you to pursue your career as an entrepreneur or business leader? We’d love to hear the story.
When I was an undergrad, I took on a few prelaw courses in the political science department and found myself quite interested in the study of law. My junior year, I decided to do an internship at a District Attorney’s office under the director of the juvenile division, Wes Lane. He was extremely helpful and served not only as a mentor to me, but also helped me to develop a clear path in evaluating law school and determining where to go and what to do after I completed my education. Wes was influential in my decision to become an attorney and gave me sound advice on how to become a successful lawyer by establishing long-term values that would take me further and also inspired me to create a different kind of firm when I was ready to take that next step.
None of us can achieve success without some help along the way. Was there a particular person who you feel gave you the most help or encouragement to be who you are today? Can you share a story about that?
Beyond what I just mentioned in the previous question- my mentor, Wes Lane, always pushed me to think of new solutions to the many problems faced when I started my firm. With a brand-new practice, money wasn’t very abundant so as we set out to hire attorneys, grow, and compete to retain top talent, I reached out to him once again. With a career in civil government like he had, there wasn’t always an opportunity to entice with a large salary (he had to work within a budget for hiring) so I asked how he was able to find top-tier lawyers to work for him within strict monetary means. His answer was simple but has always been important to me as a business owner; Wes said, if you can create a great workplace where people feel valued, you’ll offer something more. Finding a way to ensure your employees get home at a reasonable hour,have a good work/life balance, are happy, and treated fairly is the best solution to retaining talent and building an organization that people want to be a part of and that is exactly what we’ve done at Gilson Daub.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting mistake that occurred to you in the course of your career? What lesson or take away did you learn from that?
I am, by nature, a driven person who thoroughly enjoys the work I do. Over the years, I’ve learned from the mistake of trying to do it all myself, however. As a business owner and a practicing attorney, I’ve had many different responsibilities and as my firm started to grow, I began to realize that I just couldn’t do it all on my own. I had to learn to release some of the control, otherwise I’d be the bottleneck to our success. When our firm began to take off, I found myself spending hours each day interviewing prospective new hires and when I was unable to complete other tasks due to the time spent on recruiting, I realized I needed to make some changes. It took those moments, among others,to understand the true importance of delegation as well as the strong need to develop other leaders within the organization that I could trust to take on important but time-consuming tasks.
The road to success is hard and requires tremendous dedication. This question is obviously a big one, but what advice would you give to a young person who aspires to follow in your footsteps and emulate your success?
Often times I see young people wanting to be an overnight success but usually, that isn’t how it works. To truly succeed, you should first find an industry that you’re passionate about, get rooted in it, and learn as much as you can. Then look at the industry that you’re so well-versed in and think about what works, what doesn’t, or where things can be improved to create a vision about how you’re going to make changes for the better. From there, you have to craft a plan to put that vision into action and inspire others to believe in your idea as well. Once you’ve established your vision and brought it to life, figure out how you can develop and train the people around you to help expand it. I whole-heartedly believe that you must invest in developing other leaders and give up some control of your plan or vision to continue the momentum.That is the only way you can expect to grow and surpass your original goals.
Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
I have two books that have been quite significant to me as a leader. The first is called “Strengths Finder 2.0” by Tom Rath. This book has been so transformative for me and helped me to identify my own strengths to see where I could further build my team at Gilson Daub. If I assemble a group that has different strengths and weaknesses, we’re going to be stronger together. This also book taught me to see where I’m the strongest and where to devote more focus in those areas and learn to let go of some of the control and delegate other tasks where I might not be as strong. It’s helped me form Gilson Daub into a place where everyone contributes and knows their place of strength so we’re always running at optimal levels.
The second book would have to be “The 360 Degree Leader”, by John Maxwell. This book stresses that being a leader isn’t about the title; it’s about influencing the people around you. In our careers, we’re all influencing one another and this book reminds you to step into the roles of each person and instead of thinking of being an owner from a hierarchical perspective, you are taught to empower each team member and help them to recognize how they can utilize their own strengths to work with one another, become leaders in their own right and, in turn, bolster the organization as a whole.
Can you share your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Why does that resonate with you so much?
“People want to be a significant part of something significant.” This quote is an important daily reminder for me as a business owner that my employees are not simply there for the money; they want to be a part of something bigger and as their leader, it’s my job to provide that. I also keep this in mind as we continue to grow at Gilson Daub. If I have a firm full of likeminded people who want to make a difference, then they’re going to be happy, productive, and we’re going to be a more successful team working towards a common goal.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?
My job excites me every day. I get the opportunity to work with innovative and creative businesses — from small mom and pop shops to some of the largest businesses in the country. For me, it’s so interesting to see how my firm can help them navigate through litigation and new workers’ compensation defense claims. Additionally, having a footprint in six states with plans to further expand, I get to learn the twists and turns of this sector of law for each region. I’m constantly getting to meet new people and learning new things.
Our plans of expansion is a project in itself, figuring out the states that will be best for the overall growth of the firm, finding top talent to bring on, and determining the best way to design an office in a new state that will meet both my client’s and employee’s needs are just a few of the logistics it will take to further Gilson Daub’s reach.
OK, thank you for all of that. Let’s now shift to the core focus of our interview. As a business leader, you likely often face high stakes situations that involve a lot of pressure. Most of us tend to wither in the face of such pressure and stress. Can you share with our readers 3 or 4 strategies that you use to cope with the burden of stress?
- Having a daily routine and scheduling framework sets you up for success.
- Be intentional in developing other leaders. There’s too much work to be done for one person — develop and delegate to alleviate stress on yourself.
- Establish a vision and keep your eye on the prize. You’ll never be able to fully eliminate stress. Think of it like a bicycle — it is the most stable when it’s in motion — so embrace stress as part of the ride and learn how to overcome it and always find a workable plan to get through it; also, keep things fluid, flexible enough for changes, and open enough to pursue unexpected opportunities.
Aside from being able to deal with the burden of stress, can you share with our readers 3 or 4 strategies that you use to optimize your mind for peak performance before high pressure, high stress situations?
- Make sure you are in good health — mentally, physically, and emotionally. I like frame out my day in blocks — working through as many tasks as possible during the day and once I’m home and away from work, I try my best to truly be away from work and present when at home with my family.
- If possible, try to keep someone on your team involved in every task you do. If you’ve set up a team that can support one another and share responsibilities like brining in new clients and decision making, etc., you can share the workload which can significantly alleviate stress.
- Try to stay thankful and look at what has already been achieved. Sometimes you get so wrapped up in the now that you forget about everything it took to get you to where you are. Being grateful and looking back at all the successes can get you back into the right mindset to reduce stress.
Do you use any special or particular breathing techniques, meditations or visualizations to help optimize yourself? If you do, we’d love to hear about it.
I utilize my mornings efficiently — I get up before it’s light out and find peace and devotional time before everyone else is awake. I then get in some physical exercise while listening to a podcast to ensure I’m staying mentally and physically fit.
Having time to get outside is also helpful. In the mornings, I’ll take a short stroll with my wife to catch up and get some fresh air before work. If I have a call that I can take where I don’t need to be in front of my screen throughout the day, I’ll do that as well.
Do you have a special technique to develop a strong focus, and clear away distractions?
- It is very important for people to determine when they’re most productive. For me, it’s the morning, so I start the day early and make time for physical, mental, and spiritual health — and then go into work prioritizing the biggest tasks of the day first. This is what works for me, Finding what works for you will ensure you can keep a strong focus.
- Fitting in time to take a vacation is important, too. I try to take a family vacation plus one get away with just me and my wife. I ensure my attorneys take vacations as well and if they don’t do so in any given year, I’ll have a manager discuss it with them. It’s good to get away from work every once and a while and I’ve found that I always come back feeling so much more focused and ready to take on anything.
- At the end of each day, I try to make sure that my inbox is cleared out. Having a clutter-free mailbox and knowing that I’ve at least addressed everything for the day makes me feel much less overwhelmed or distracted.
We all know the importance of good habits. How have habits played a role in your success? Can you share some success habits that have helped you in your journey?
Good habits have always been essential to my success. Creating routine in your life is so important and when you make it second nature, you don’t have to plan for it; it just comes naturally. This goes for my personal life and my work life. When I have a systematic plan in place for my workday, I’m more able to eliminate the unimportant things.
My wife is reading a book called “Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Old Ones,” by James Clear. For her, habits and routine don’t come quite as easy as it does for me. In this book, she is learning how to better develop good habits and break bad ones through the process of ‘habit stacking”. It’s such a simple idea that I’ve adopted as well. It helps both me and my wife identify current habits and stack a new habit we want to build on top of. It’s a productive way to build something new into a routine. Before you know it, it becomes automatic.
I also try to enrich myself in podcasts and audio books while I’m driving. Filling that time this way is educational, productive, and overall beneficial.
What is the best way to develop great habits for optimal performance?
As I mentioned before, — ‘habit stacking’ — that is, adding something new before or after a habit that you already have in a routine to get into a rhythm — i.e. implement making the bed before you get your routine morning cup of coffee, etc. Also just remember that it doesn’t happen overnight. Start small and use the effect of building things up over time to continue your momentum in changing and creating productive habits.
How can one stop bad habits?
First, I find the root of the habit so I’m more aware of why or when I’m doing it and then I try to replace the bad habit with a good one. When I figure out the cause — boredom or stress in many cases — I think about what I can do to swap it out for something more productive or positive.
As a business leader, you likely experience times when you are in a state of Flow. Flow has been described as a pleasurable mental state that occurs when you do something that you are skilled at, that is challenging, and that is meaningful. Can you share some ideas from your experience about how we can achieve a state of Flow more often in our lives?
I think flow comes from feelings of accomplishment and taking pride in what you do. However, if we try to capture ‘flow’ at the team level, we can extend the feelings it provides by relying on one another. We can also then balance out those lows together and celebrate the wins collectively to extend the longevity by sharing it with others in your corner.
Ok, we are nearly done. You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
As much as I love practicing law, I think one of the bigger impacts I hope to have is more so about inspiring leadership. A major focus of mine has been about building a successful team of leaders that can help us grow and scale. It is my hope to inspire leaders and managers to lead the teams they’re overseeing and ensure they don’t see them as just an employee. I believe it is a special and unique opportunity to help people grow in their careers, relationships, personal development, etc. and strive to motivate others to see that as an invaluable opportunity as well.
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we both tag them 🙂
A part of my job I really enjoy is getting to meet so many interesting new people from all walks of life. Before COVID-19 hit, I found myself getting to enjoy a lunch meeting with two to three people a week — always walking away with some newfound perspective.
To be honest, I think that if I had an opportunity to have a breakfast or lunch with anyone, I’d probably get my firm together for some good food and great conversation — it’s been so long since we’ve gotten to do that type in-person interaction that we all have been used to and enjoy so much.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
Thank you for these really excellent insights, and we greatly appreciate the time you spent with this. We wish you continued success.