Leading with Empathy - Step #14
When charged with a crime, your case is going to viewed as a name and a charge with little thought about the human being behind the data. To lead with empathy and purpose is the goal but being authentic and pushing forward with integrity is the true foundation of change.
To approach a criminal case in an authentic way is to behave in a consistent manner driven by your true values. The goal is for the criminal case not to define you; it is a mere impression, not a true impression, which means as soon as the incident is complete, and you're ticketed or released from jail, it's time to make the next impression which is more representative of who you are.
Creating a transformational change in your life is about stepping outside of your comfort zone and challenging the status quo of a name and a charge. A client must show their true colors; failure to speak up, and more importantly to put tangible actionable change in place will produce more status quo; you will be treated and labeled a criminal.
Clients orbit around fear of the outcome of their case; transformative change is about overcoming that fear and controlling your future. To adopt a positive lens allows a client to see their case differently; this is the first step before a judge or prosecutor will follow this same approach.
We must invite the judge and prosecutor to see the potential in transformative change vs resisting change. They simply don't know better or are not willing to risk the status quo; if the same people continue to appear before them in court, the problem isn't with the client, it's with the system. The criminal justice system is too focused on outcome, and not the process.
When we embrace the process, we move beyond our fear of outcome and can more clearly act on our true values. It is difficult to be ourselves when we are anchored by the fear of being judged as a name and charge. Having courage does not mean you ignore fear but rather as we clarify our deepest values and choose to act with integrity, we find the courage to do what we fear.
A court case is going to be feel dark and cold at times, but that does not change your own values and your decision to embrace the process. Choose integrity, find the courage to overcome fear and clarify values and choose to live with integrity. There are going to be challenging moments in a case, but the decision to constantly be mindful of how others perceive you will guide you in the right direction.
The goal is not to be perfect; you do not need to create new values because they sound good; a gap between values and how you act is being human, but the more you close this gap, the better you will feel about yourself. Focus on less shortcuts, excuses, easy outs and lean into conflict, and challenging moments. The more you embrace putting aside the easy way and go the challenging way, the more real growth you will experience during your case and beyond.
Integrity is at the heart of culture change; power hungry judges and prosecutors will resist change because it is not the status quo. As a client faced with a crime, you must consciously choose to courageously model the changes in the culture that you want to see. A judge and prosecutor will see 1000's of cases a month that look the same; you must fight hard to stand out; speak up and shine.
Real life example of the importance of authenticity and integrity
A very common part of any criminal case is conducting a plea with a judge. When a great deal has been worked out for a client, and they have led with empathy and purpose, we are in a great position to close out the case in a very favorable way. Despite these great shifts in the case, there will still come a time where the client does need to answer questions of a judge, and the judge is seeking authenticity and integrity; this is not the time to minimize or avoid difficult questions.
A good example would be on a drunk driving case; a judge at some point is going to ask about the amount of alcohol and what type of alcohol was consumed.
Although I practice this with my client and remind them of the need to be transparent, some clients turtle into a defensive mindset and "try to make it sound better" with the judge. I've had clients with extremely high blood alcohol levels who privately tell me how much they drank, but when a judge asks, the entire answer is coated in passive aggressive signs of non-accountability. Nothing will annoy a judge quicker and break up positive momentum than this type of approach by a client.
I tell clients that the best thing to do with a judge is to be so honest it hurts; a judge will appreciate a fully detailed account of all the alcohol you drank because it screams honesty and accountability.
There is no credit for making a judge think you drank less than you did, but potential opportunity to make a further strong positive aggression by leading with authenticity and integrity. Better to tell the judge you were so drunk that you honestly do not recall the amount than to minimize or guess.