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!