In so many law practices, whether large, medium or boutique, the missing ingredient is team momentum, writes David Sharrock.
The amazing performers of Cirque du Soleil perform feats of great daring, grace and beauty at an awe-inspiring level. In their performances, there is a momentum required for completing their astounding feats and gaining resounding applause.
Similarly in a law practice, momentum happens when there is a fully engaged, high-performance team propelling the law practice toward success. Partners, senior associates, lawyers and support team members can form a truly awesome Cirque du Soleil troupe, worthy of accolades.
A prominent ethos of team and team building must pervade such a law practice, with core principles at heart, such as a culture of empowerment influencing the whole team, with team members being fully engaged and effectively acting as business owners.
They will be enjoying life-giving relationships among themselves, and with customers and other stakeholders, including partners and senior associates. They are respected as real people with their own hopes, ambitions, dreams, needs and interests, without ever being treated as “useful resources”. They are encouraged and enabled to reach their full potential. Governance and leadership will be egalitarian, with no one being in a position of superiority. Such an ethos provides a powerful conduit for team momentum.
There are certain traits or hallmarks of a high-performance and fully engaged team, flying high and having great momentum. Such a team is inspired by vision and by visionary leaders, and seeks highly effective leadership. Communication is great, with high levels of trust and confidence.
Team members have a lot of grunt, as well as heart and soul, willing to step out with courage and commitment. They are keen to attain to their full potential and will readily embrace change to facilitate improvement. They focus on others, building community around a common cause. The whole team enjoys life-giving relationships and having fun. Such traits facilitate momentum as the team flies high.
For law practices, there are an abundance of practical and helpful team building initiatives that together can generate great team momentum, such as:
A team charter will specify expected standards of conduct, behaviour, actions and words for the whole team as they relate to one another.
More than a mere piece of paper, such a document sets the scene for a vibrant workplace culture to be enjoyed by all, based on common sense, trust, respect, dignity, courtesy, a listening ear, helpful input, care and concern.
When recruiting for new team members, look for team fit, conformity with (and likely contribution to) workplace culture, potential, passion, teachability and flexibility, attitude and aptitude, insight and wisdom, strong people skills, sound personal values, right motivation, workplace antecedents demonstrating achievement, innovation and ideas, as well as determination and emotional resilience in the face of difficulties and challenges.
Yes, this list sets the bar high. No one will arrive in any law practice ready-made, of course, but potential and possibilities for growing into a role are essentials.
Everyone works to a comprehensive business system of policies, processes and protocols which guide and monitor optimal performance.
The system produces performance data, not to monitor and sanction team members for underperformance, but rather to set expected standards for attaining full potential. Data is used as a powerful, self-motivating tool to optimise personal performance. Such data goes way beyond the ubiquitous timesheets, precedent banks and lawyers’ budgeted billings to include many other relevant, helpful quantitative and qualitative performance measures.
Performance reviews are conducted regularly, in a balanced, fair and reasonable manner.
How they are conducted is the key. They are to supplement daily “management by walking”, affirm team members with a genuine expression of gratitude for effort, congratulate team members when results have delivered real value and benefit to stakeholders, and have no shocks or surprises. Team members can also appropriately share any issues of concern.
The way in which meetings within a law practice are convened and conducted, and the extent to which meetings are purposeful as to outcomes and actions so as to deliver significant value and benefit, are critically important for team building.
Boring, long-winded meetings are an anathema and will slow team momentum. Well-chaired and well-prepared meetings, supplemented by passion and creativity, can generate momentum, especially when the underlying agenda is one of dynamic team building and developing standout, high-performance team members.
These five initiatives are an important but small sample of endless possibilities.
In your law practice, building momentum with your whole team can be an exciting and exhilarating part of the journey together toward professional and business excellence.
David Sharrock is the managing principal of Sharrock Pitman Legal, a Melbourne-based, boutique, commercial law practice.