My legal training and license differentiate me in my environment (higher education), and the fact that I’m a lawyer has always been a valuable asset even as I’m not formally practicing law. I have always been licensed, and that also has been valuable.
What is your primary practice area?
My legal knowledge comes in handy across the full spectrum of work I do, from problem-solving in fraught situations for individuals or workgroups to prevention, which is where my passion lies. In prevention, I work with current and emerging professionals to help them understand what they don’t know they don’t know–the unwritten rules of the real world of work—what I call the Career TRAGEDIES. That’s an acronym for: Temptation, Rationalization, Ambition, Group and authority pressure, Entitlement, Deception, Incrementalism, Embarrassment, and Stupid systems. My work in leadership development occurs through workshops and coaching, and through my book The Young Professional’s Survival Guide: From Cab Fares to Moral Snares.
Working with colleagues, I assess and investigate workplace dysfunction and we work to combine all of this to help leaders create and maintain environments where ethical work happens, and the normal frictions of working with other humans are addressed with civil and professional skills, to avert avoidable pitfalls and solve problems when they do arise. Recently at NCPRE, we created an online specialization, Professional IQ: Preventing and Solving Problems at Work, on the Coursera platform. NCPRE also provides professional and leadership development materials for engineers, athletes, and researchers.
How has your practice evolved in the last few years?
I’ve become more interested in the prevention end of my work over the years of solving problems created and experienced by very smart, highly-educated people in the workplace. That is why I spend so much time on leadership and career development based on some core principles of good personal/professional boundaries, basic skills and concepts, and always rooting your actions in core values. One initiative I’m involved with is the improvement of training and guidance for those involved in academic research. This training is typically mandated where Federal grants are made, and it’s a great opportunity to inculcate the essentials of professional IQ at an early stage of people’s careers.
If you could offer one piece of advice for young lawyers, what would it be?
Know yourself well, and choose your colleagues and bosses for character! The research base is very clear that we become more like those around us: start by identifying and articulating your core values, and align your actions with those across your career.
What’s one technological device, application or tool you could not function without?
I conduct a huge amount of my life through email—way more than I’d like. It allows me to keep a lot of balls in the air all at the same time. I’d have a really hard time without email or some form of asynchronous communication that creates a trail.
How has civility made a difference in your practice of law?
Daily, I come across people using their power of nice to clarify miscommunication before an aggression spiral launches, to “catch” someone doing something well and compliment them on it, and to work with others to come to resolution of complex problems. It’s all around us, if you look for it and start noticing it in others. One of my first mentors told me: never attribute to malice that which incompetence will explain. A later mentor added: never attribute to incompetence what miscommunication or temporary inattention will explain. I find that professionals working in that spirit, those who don’t attribute motives to others, who have the practice of asking before assuming, they are the ones who build good reputations, have great relationships, and enjoy life more. I’m with them.
What do you do for fun?
Travel, knitting, model building
For further information about Tina Gunsalus, go to C. K. Gunsalus and Associates Consulting