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How team engagement can drive business success

Engaging an in-house legal team in 2024 requires looking after the team and balancing flexibility with connection and collaboration, say this trio of GCs.

user iconLauren Croft 25 June 2024 Corporate Counsel
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According to Tabcorp group general counsel Ivana Kovacevic, general counsel of technology procurement, data, and privacy Fiona Tyas, and general counsel of M&A, treasury, and corporate services Tom Boyd, capacity constraints, strategic objectives, emerging technology, and ongoing scarcity are all key trends for GCs to be abreast of in 2024.

Speaking recently on The Corporate Counsel Show, the trio discussed key challenges each of them is facing so far in 2024 – as well as how the Tabcorp legal department is moving through these challenges and how other legal departments and GCs can do the same.

Many in-house teams across the country face the issue of having urgent competing priorities – and post-pandemic, engaging legal teams and fostering a collaborative environment requires balance, Tyas said.

 
 

“Everything in life is about balance. Part of what we’re trying to do is build a really good culture. So, a lot of people do want that flexibility. Some people love coming into the office five days a week; some people want to come in three days a week. And some people have flexible working arrangements. We also have people in our team who are remote working, and it’s a challenge that this organisation has had for a long time because it’s spread over three main corporate offices,” she said.

“We have Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne, and so it’s something that Tabcorp has grappled with for years. And I think one of the silver linings coming out of COVID was really that we all had to practise good management of this issue and the ability to connect, even if it’s connecting remotely. And it does involve a bit more effort to really drive those communications.

“We try to create a lot of opportunities for engagement at a more formal level and also at a really fun level, so that everyone feels engaged and encouraged. And we’re also focusing on really helping people develop their personal goals, whether they be sort of hard skills specific to an area of law or soft skills like leadership, or other types of skills that people need to succeed and move forward in their careers.”

These hard and soft skills are something that Tabcorp both looks for and develops in those coming through the ranks, Boyd noted.

“We’re in a heavily regulated environment. Things are moving quickly. We employ, usually from private practice, technically capable junior lawyers, and hope they stay with us and develop careers at Tabcorp. But, of course, you can’t be an effective advisor to anyone if you don’t have soft skills and understanding of people’s drivers, where they’re coming from, what your own values are, what their values are,” he said.

“There are all sorts of influencing skills and being effective in a role. Back to the trusted advisor concept, you can’t have any of that if you don’t have what are maybe unfairly referred to as soft skills. But of course, we seek to develop Tabcorp lawyers, people who can advise various different business stakeholders, not just in specific areas of law, but sort of knock about commercial lawyers a lot of the time who have specialties in various areas.”

Looking ahead to the remainder of 2024, the team also reflected on some of the lessons they’ve learnt around navigating workplace challenges and offered key advice to other legal counsel.

“For me, personally, it’s that laser focus on alignment between what the legal team is working on and the company’s priorities and making sure that we’re assisting with all of those things. To move the needle for the company as effectively and efficiently as we can for our various internal stakeholders is the main bit for me, but also, I guess, just that the sense of no one can do it on their own,” Boyd said.

“So just constantly thinking as well, from a team perspective, is our team set up properly to assist with that most efficiently? Are people playing to their strengths? You can’t always play to your strengths 100 per cent of the time, but if someone likes doing a specific bit of work, are we giving them that opportunity? Are we giving our people an opportunity to learn, to develop, to flourish, to have a sense of autonomy over their roles?”

For the legal team to be laser-focused on strategic priorities, Kovacevic said that there’s “a lot that happens in the background” process-wise.

“As much as you can, take away the low-value and admin work and replace it in other ways, whatever efficiencies you can bring to the team so that you can shift them into you go and spend your time where you’re actually going to add value and have a seat at the table, I think is really important. So, technology is just a huge benefit in this space. I can’t wait to see what AI has to offer in this space to assist us even further,” she said.

“But then also touching back on the team, I’m a firm believer that a team that is happy, that is fully engaged … and that means more than just free pizza. It’s a team effort to get to a point where you have that level of engagement, that team then also delivers much better results for the business. It’s really looking after your team so that at the end of the day, you can give commercial, pragmatic advice that’s aligned with what the business wants to achieve.”

The transcript of this podcast episode was slightly edited for publishing purposes. To listen to the full conversation with Ivana Kovacevic, Fiona Tyas, and Tom Boyd, click below: