Leadership for Lawyers-building your team

Leadership for Lawyers-building your team

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 AllianceFrom 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. 

When staffing don’t settle

When staffing don’t settle

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!

Attitude before Academics

Attitude before Academics

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!

One of the best clients I’ve ever had

One of the best clients I’ve ever had

Over the last 10 months I’ve had the pleasure of working with one of the best clients I’ve had in the 14 years that I have been coaching. So why is this client so good?

He was open and eager to receive help and guidance from the beginning. Even through the busy times, he did what he could in the way of moving things forward. He has a great attitude. Excellent work ethic. He’s smart. Well, you are all smart. But this guy is really smart! Business smart.

He has great instincts. He follows through on homework assigned. He reaches out in between our calls (as instructed but rarely fully leveraged by most of my clients). This guy is fully engaged and committed to getting the absolute most out of working with me. He wants it. Like a star athlete going for the next level, this is rare. I always say, I can show you how, but you have to ‘lift the weights’! He lifts the weights.

He checks all the boxes. He is a great example, actually one of the best I’ve seen, of what can be accomplished when you fully commit to coaching and getting support. You get out of it what you put into it.

Perhaps the most important quality he has, he has a great attitude. More on attitude next week.

Oh, and by the way, he is just entering his 5th year and already showing signs of leadership.

2019 Make it The Year of Relationships

2019 Make it The Year of Relationships

As I am a business coach, this post is focused on your business relationships. However, you could easily take these tips and apply them to your personal relationships as well.

Before you take the time away from your practice and go to the expense of attending that new conference, look at your contact list. Who should you be investing more time with? Current clients? Past clients? Friends from Law School? Other colleagues and connections?

I’m not saying don’t go to that conference or sponsor that event, or take that add out. But focus on your current relationships before you take on anything new this year. No matter where you are in your career, you have relationships. Sure, if you are relatively junior, you may have less, but you have them.

I see far too often where lawyers want to push the ‘easy button’. They think simply throwing money at their marketing and business development efforts will produce results. It makes them feel good like they are doing ‘something’. News flash-there is no easy way, no easy button-thanks Staples! Building your practice or firm takes time-your time! My suggestion is to focus 80% of all of your business-building efforts this year on strengthening the relationships you already have.

Pick up the phone. Send an email. Go for coffee, lunch, a drink (or juice), lunch or dinner. Take your best client(s) to a special event. Connect, re-connect and keep connecting!

Press re-start or pedal to the metal

Press re-start or pedal to the metal

If 2018 was a challenging or tough year for you, it’s time to press the restart button. But if 2018 was a good or growing year, it’s time to put the pedal to the metal.

Whatever the case may be for you; my friends, clients and colleagues, I wish you the very best for 2019: Health, Happiness and Prosperity!