You don’t have to be the Managing Partner to be a great leader. I have clients at various levels within their firms that are demonstrating great leadership.
One of the critical components of becoming a great leader is how you build your team. It comes down to this-don’t try to be all things to all people. Know your strengths, what you’re really good at, what you’re not good at, and what you don’t like. Then fill your team with people that compliment your strengths by filling in the holes around what’s missing.
Just because you CAN do something doesn’t mean you are the BEST person to do it. If that action pulls your time and energy away from the things you are good at and that will help your grow your practice and firm, it just doesn’t make sense.
I always conduct a SWAT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) analysis with my clients. There is one school of thought that you shouldn’t waste too much time and energy on improving your weaknesses, you should focus on your strengths. When examining the weakness component of this analysis, I help my clients determine if by improving weakness, it will add to strengths, or take another approach.
Often it’s just best to get people around you who complete the puzzle. I use the word ‘puzzle’ intentionally because most lawyers find the concept of HR ‘puzzling’. Like many other components of business, law schools are short on the instruction of Human Resources.
So as you are building your team, concentrate on the skills, experience and knowledge that you, yourself, lack or don’t really care to improve on. Then, find the best people to fill these voids. The puzzle will come together with a lot less effort and stress. In the end, you will have the best people in the best roles producing the best results.
This is part one of a series I am doing on Leadership for Lawyers. You can also follow a series on The Lawyers Daily entitled “Building a Successful Law Firm”, that I am collaborating on with Lisa Dawson and Mayur Gadhia. We have formed a Law Firm Leadership Alliance. From start-up to wind up, we bring leadership expertise in Finance, Business Administration, Taxation, Risk Management, Cloud and Technology, IT Decision Making, Human Resources and Full Cycle Talent Management, Executive, Associate and Support Staff Leadership Coaching, and much more.
Here is a link to the intro article published last week, TLD.
Recently I’ve been working with two very different clients that have exactly the same challenges-incompetent staff. One is a partner at a national firm, and the other is a small firm owner. If you follow my writing you will note that I have been a very vocal advocate for lawyers and staff in that I believe in giving them everything they need to succeed in the way of development and support.
This however is one of those times where I am clearly on the side of ownership/management.
Their perspective is limited while mine is broad working with lawyers, paralegals and mgt across Canada. And from my perspective there are some pretty talented and amazing people out there. So there is no good reason to settle for incompetence whatsoever!
When they don’t show up, show up late, or constantly produce inadequate work? When they constantly complain. When they… Time to let them go. Don’t settle for less than excellent. Your clients won’t.
In addition to performing poorly, these people will drag the rest of your team down to their level. When you settle with the bar so low, other people will follow. Be firm. Be clear on expectations. Give them support and encouragement. But sometimes it doesn’t work out and you need to let them go. Don’t worry-there are great people out there who would love to work for a great boss like you!
When my clients ask me for advice around recruiting I always advise them to consider attitude as the no#1 attribute to look for. I am not discounting academics, or technical ability, but let’s be clear, they can be learned. Attitude is far more difficult to teach and learn-you have it or you don’t!
A few years ago I remember reading a story about this one top-tier law firm in the US. Their approach to recruitment was out of the norm-to say the least. First, they didn’t target top-tier law schools, they looked at 2nd and 3rd tier schools. Secondly, they didn’t look at straight ‘A’ students, they looked for ‘B’ students who worked while going to law school to pay for their tuition. Their thinking was that this demonstrated a strong work ethic and great attitude-these students were willing to do whatever it took to succeed. I was taken aback when reading it. I totally agree. Not to say that straight ‘A’ students don’t have a great attitude, but this firm got it right. “Attitude before Academics”. They often found that in the case of the straight ‘A’ students attending top-tier law schools that with that came a sense of entitlement.
With the right attitude you find the solution. The wrong attitude “Well if I breath in, then I am going to have to breathe out.” The right attitude. “What’s the solution? There is a solution for everything”- that is when you have the right attitude.
People with the right attitude or ‘good’ attitude will do what it takes to learn what they need to. They will do the work….They won’t complain or drag others down. They contribute. They are a part of the solution. in many cases they ‘self-manage’. And generally, they are a pleasure to work with.
So before marks, before resume, choose the attitude! In my humble opinion, it accounts for about 90% of everything!
This post is a collection of some of my favorite quotes with respect to business and life. I hope they inspire.
“Awareness is like the sun. When it shines
on things, they are transformed.”
Thich Nhat Hanh
“The primary wisdom is intuition.”
“All successful people, men and women, are big dreamers
They imagine what their future could be,
ideal in every respect,and then they work
every day toward their distant vision,
that goal or purpose.”
“If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it.”
“A goal is a dream with a deadline.”
“We have found that by reaching for what
appears to be the impossible, we often actually
do the impossible; and even when we don’t quite make it,
we inevitably wind up doing much better than we would have done.”
“The greater danger for most of us
isn’t that our aim is too high and we miss it,
but that it is too low and we reach it.”
“We don’t accomplish anything in this world alone.”
Sandra Day O’Connor
“Motivation is what gets you started.
Habit is what keeps you going.”
“The past has no power over the present moment.”
“Wealth is the ability to fully experience life”
Henry David Thoreau
And my favorite…
“We are what we repeatedly do.
Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”
Law firm leadership is often talked about and has been for some time. Yet we still find very little progress on this front. If you’ve read my column before you will note a very practical, common sense and simple approach that I take with my clients. Keep it simple, because simple works.
When you set your people “free” you will be utterly amazed to find out what they are capable of achieving, hence the title. If you restrain them or try to keep complete control, they will not be as invested or motivated to contribute on a higher level. Engage them, empower them and inspire them to be a part of your plans — whatever those plans might be.
Read more here.
I am old enough to remember the urban legends spoken by our dearly beloved elders. “You kids have it so easy these days. Back in my day we had to trek through blizzards for ten miles wearing boots that barely covered our feet.”
I’m sure you’ve heard older partners say something to the effect of “When I was a junior, I kept my head down and my mouth shut and just did the work. Eventually I got to work with a partner and learned my way. You kids want us to show you everything. Whatever happened to self-reliance?”
While I agree that self-reliance is an important quality to have, I don’t believe that leaving your juniors to fend for themselves is your best business decision.
The thing is this. The sink or swim attitude or approach wasn’t good then, and it’s certainly not good now. If you don’t develop your junior talent, they will leave and go and work for your competition. Down the road, who is going to be left to buy you out when you want to retire?
When you develop your talent, give them constructive feedback in order that they can learn and grow, it’s an investment that will directly affect your own pocket-book. Nothing is ever 100%. But from my experience, taking a more positive approach and developing your talent will pay off more than it won’t.
If you don’t do it because it’s right thing to do, fine. Do it because it will put more money in your pocket.