Lawyers as Leaders: Building the Team
Lawyers as Leaders is a series of articles designed to help lawyers become leaders in their organizations and firms.
There is a saying that a leader without followers is just a person who walks around. Unfortunately, many lawyers see themselves as leaders without fully understanding the time, dedication and long-term commitment that true leadership requires. When lawyers take on leadership and management roles in their firm or legal department, they must follow six steps to ensure their teams trust their leadership and are motivated to achieve team goals and objectives. . These steps are:
- Understand the Why. As the leader of a team, you must understand the mission of the team. In other words, why does the team exist and what is its purpose? Are you preparing a company for bankruptcy or writing the annual report? Manage blocking and dealing with day-to-day legal issues or dealing with “bet on the business” type disputes? These are extreme examples where different and varied skill sets, temperaments, expertise and levels of strategic thinking will be needed. If you, as the leader, do not understand the goals assigned to the team, you will not be able to explain to your team why it is important to achieve these goals and why each member is an integral part of achieving them. Always remember that if you don’t understand the why, you (and your team) cannot be expected to develop the how.
- Listen. It is rare that a leader manages to build his team from scratch. Instead, leaders are usually assigned to teams to manage. When you take on the leadership of a team, one of your main tasks should not only be to understand the professional experience and expertise of each member of the team, you must also get to know each member of the team personally. team, especially what excites them about their current work and what will motivate them to execute the action items that the team has been asked to accomplish. The most effective way to get this information is simple: ask questions and listen. Schedule no less than 60 minutes with each team member and ask them about their career path, interests (professional and personal), strengths, weaknesses, and short and long-term goals. The insights you gain from taking the time to get to know each team member will provide a treasure trove of invaluable insight into how best to motivate and inspire each team member. Exceptional leaders understand that the same approach won’t work for everyone. For example, a lawyer on your team who has practiced law for thirty years should require a different level of commitment and oversight than a lawyer who has only a few years of law school. It’s your job to appreciate those differences and see what each team member expects of you and the organization to stay motivated and engaged.
- Put the right people in the right roles. Once the strategic objective has been established and you have taken the time and effort to get to know each member of your team, it is your responsibility to set each team member up for success by ensuring that each has been loaded with consistent responsibilities and expectations. with their experience, know-how and skills. Do you have someone on your team who likes to focus on the “big picture” and has a strong strategic mind? If so, the best role for that person might not be to proofread a 10-K. Indeed, if you ask the strategic thinker on your team, who is not thorough, to tackle such a detailed task, any failure of this person falls on you. Each goal, whether big or small, requires different skills, both personally and professionally. Your team can have members who are nimble and successful in any situation and members who can only do one thing at a time (and only when asked). It’s your job not to pile all the work on your stars (or just the ones that remind you), but to identify the best way to delegate and assign the work that needs to be done to those who are best equipped. and qualified to obtain such work. Finished. In other words, while it is important to build the right team, it is even more important that each team member has the right role in advancing the success of the team. For example, while your team’s strategic thinker may be essential if you need to develop the team’s long-term goals, he or she may be of less value if the task at hand is reviewing memos or a detailed and dense jurisprudence. An effective leader understands where each member will thrive and that the more diversity of skills, thoughts, experiences, backgrounds and knowledge the team has, the greater the chance of success.
- stay away. Once each team member has been given a task that matches their experience, expertise, and temperament, your job as a leader is to break free and let them achieve their goals. Micromanaging the team will not only breed frustration and resentment, but it will undo all the effort you put into finding the right person for the right role. Assuming you followed the steps outlined above, each team member was set up for success because everyone understands the team’s goals, their assigned tasks, and just as importantly, that the tasks assigned to them correspond to their particular needs and abilities. If so, there’s no need to micromanage since you’ve positioned each person to the best of your abilities. Also, if quarrels arise between team members, you should strive to let those team members work out their differences on their own. If you rush at every opportunity to overcome challenges or resolve conflicts, your team members will never learn the skills necessary to become true organizational leaders.
- Engage in collaborative decision-making. As the team executes their goals, they may encounter obstacles, including office politics, where they need your guidance or a helping hand. When team members come to you, don’t begrudgingly or curtly share your views on how best to solve their problems. While the easiest thing for you to do is to quickly resolve each team member’s issues and move on to the next issue, that would be doing the team and each member’s professional development a disservice. Instead, you want to engage in a collaborative dialogue where you help each team member manage and solve problems on their own. An effective leader guides a team member to solve their own problems by asking questions and pointing out false assumptions and blind spots. Take the time for each team member to feel comfortable and confident that every decision the team makes, especially when managing through internal and external obstacles, is a collaborative and considered decision.
- Be humble and curious. No leader has all the answers and those who think they have them are generally not effective. Your team will have ideas, observations and recommendations outside of your expertise. It’s OK and should be celebrated. To make the most of this certainty, you, as a team leader, need to create an open dialogue with each team member where everyone feels absolutely comfortable sharing where they are not. agreement with you and where you may have a blind spot. These are tough conversations to have, so you need to encourage everyone on the team to always be upfront and direct. If every member of your team doesn’t think you’ll be receptive to constructive feedback, your leadership and ultimately your team will suffer. For this reason, you need to check in with each team member regularly and pressure test whether they are getting the right resources and support from you to achieve the team’s goals. If the answer is no, it is up to you to adjust responsibilities, resources and possibly your attitude accordingly.