Imbibing knowledge of a high-functioning team

Imbibing knowledge of a high-functioning team

19 October 2021 By Jerome Doraisamy
Jon Downes

Perception is key – particularly in an increasingly virtual world. In order to ensure the wider business knows how well the law department is performing, leaders must create an environment of sustainable engagement.

Speaking last week on a special episode of The Corporate Counsel Show – produced in partnership with LOD – Willis Towers Watson head of legal (Asia-Pacific) Jon Downes detailed how better support for one’s team has broader flow-on benefits, not only for productivity but also in how the legal team is perceived.

The episode featured a discussion of LOD’s recent Trust: An Antidote to Uncertainty report, which unpacked how trusting in-house lawyers are and the challenges around finding time to think.

Mr Downes mused that the age of coronavirus has reinforced that trust within and in one’s law department is not something that can be developed overnight.

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Trust, he said, is a “slow burner”.

“I’ve found that if you boil it down, you have to do the basics. You have to be true to your word. You have to honour commitments, and be consistent and honest. If you do all of those things, you’ll realise that, over time, trust is developed,” he said.

Then, when it comes to building the impression of a high-functioning legal department, one thing that Mr Downes learned earlier in his career, he said, is that “perception is the key” – something that is even harder to create in the market since the onset of COVID-19.

“How do you create the perception that your team is doing a fantastic job? If your team is engaged, and you also support your team to work effectively and efficiently, you enable your team. If you create a positive work environment, and you support your team physically and socially, and you support their emotional wellbeing, you energise your team.”

If you put that enablement, energy, and engagement together, he surmised, you get what he referred to as “sustainable engagement”.

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“If your team is sustainably engaged, they are effectively a high-performing team,” he said.

Looking at his own team at Willis Towers Watson, Mr Downes pointed out, “the proof is in the pudding”.

“The way that they interact with internal clients, the quality of the work. It all flows through from having this engaged team. And that ultimately goes back to trust.”

Because of the trust he has in his team, Mr Downes said, the law department has recently launched a new hybrid working model that is inspired by the idea of planning for one’s work and working for one’s day.

Effectively, he explained – and against the backdrop of the eight-hour working day being “a thing of the past now” – one’s work “dictates how and where you work, rather than by arbitrary rules that you have to be in the office”.

“It takes into account the flexibility that your team members have. Some team members don’t want to be in the office, or they’ve got young families, they might be caring for somebody. If you look at the work that you’ve got to do, your team understands that work,” he outlined. 

“If they’re happy and engaged, the business knows that the quality of the work shines through,” Mr Downes posited.

The transcript of this podcast episode was slightly edited for publishing purposes. To listen to the full conversation with Jon Downes, Paul Cowling and Sarah Standish, click below:

Imbibing knowledge of a high-functioning team
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