Leadercast 2017 – Great Content (but not enough of it)

I have attended Leadercast for many years. Occasionally I miss one due to a scheduling conflict, but I have been to most. I have attended live in Atlanta many times, have done the Executive Experience a few times, and have also attended a simulcast in Asheville two times. My observation is that though some content remains excellent, there is less of it. I am not exactly sure when the downturn occurred, but the fact that the event is ending one hour earlier in the day the last two years (end time of 330P instead of 430 PM), and the pullout of John Maxwell, (last appearing a few years ago), may have much to do with it. Pricing has escalated for the Executive Experience in Atlanta, though regular attendance is still affordable. It is my observation that as Leadercast has searched for new speakers to provide content, it seems that perhaps they have lost sight of the fact that not every great leader of an organization is a great speaker about, and teacher of, leadership. The sweet spot for Leadercast and other leadership conferences seems to be to find speakers who do both well. I am afraid that with fewer hours being filled, the odds are greater that one or two speakers who lack that special quality to teach and convey leadership content have a greater likelihood of affecting the overall impact and effectiveness of the event; the kind of impact that causes an attendee to say: “I can’t wait for next year”.

Having said the above, two regular speakers, Andy Stanley and Dr. Henry Cloud, as well as new (non-regular) speaker Dan Pink, provided excellent content. Though I am not sure I would have encouraged all of my law firm attorneys to attend the whole day, I wish that they had been there to hear these three excellent speakers, discussing their insights on leadership, and specifically on the topic of “Purpose”. Here is some of what learned:

Andy Stanley – His session was titled “Powered by Purpose”. As usual he started the day off with a practical and informative overview of the topic for the day. His view is that purpose is a means to an end. Folks tend to ask themselves: Why am I here? And, what is my purpose? He believes that until we are willing to be a means to an end, we will not have true purpose. He pointed out that he believes that those who simply devote themselves to themselves will have nothing but themselves to show for themselves. The point of purpose is to determine how you will serve others, and if your plan does not include service of others, it does not have true purpose. He left us with three action points:

  1. Look at everything we do through the lens of “means”.
  2. Pay attention to what stirs your heart in struggling to discover purpose.
  3. Surround yourself with “on purpose” people

Dan Pink went on to discuss the two types of purpose. The first is with a big “P”. It is that big, transcendent thing that an organization strives for to make a difference in the world. The second type is with a little “p”. It is all about making a contribution on a daily basis. Leaders should want their people to have both of these questions answered:

  1. Am I making a difference?
  2. Am I making a contribution?

Dan left us with two action points:

  1. As we go about what we do, ask the people who we work with more questions about why, instead of how? Be more informative to them about the why of what they are doing, instead of just the how.
  2. Dan made the point that great leaders are a sentence. He used examples such as Lincoln and Roosevelt, and described what sentence probably defined each of them. He challenged us with: What is your sentence?

Dr. Henry Cloud gave his usual excellent Leadercast presentation. The conference started with defining purpose and discussing how it is cultivated in an organization. Dr. Cloud spoke about accountability. He discussed what works when it comes to accountability, what does not, and why it does not.

He said that Purpose requires:

  1. Vision
  2. Engaged Talent
  3. Strategy
  4. Measurements and Accountability
  5. Fixing or Adapting to what is discovered in the process

The problem is that we are not all “10’s” as leaders in all of these things, and unless we have folks strong in all areas and hold them accountable, our organizations tend to look like the leader, and have the same strengths and weaknesses as the Leader has.

He stated that accountability in an organization is going to have certain characteristics:

  1. Clear agreed upon expectations
  2. When those expectations must be met (timing)
  3. How living up to expectations will be inspected
  4. Communication throughout the process

“Lead Through Change” a Big Hit in Asheville, NC

Former Senators Tom Daschle and Bill Frist debate health care leadership issues

Former Senators Tom Daschle and Bill Frist debate health care leadership issues

John Maxwell receives the Mother Teresa Prize for Global Peace and Leadership at Lead Through Change in Asheville, NC

John Maxwell receives the Mother Teresa Prize for Global Peace and Leadership at Lead Through Change in Asheville, NC

Last month several members of my law firm had the opportunity to attend a new leadership program, “Lead Through Change” held in my hometown of Asheville, North Carolina. The focus of the program was leadership during the present time of enormous change affecting the health care industry. As a law firm that has many medical profession clients, we felt that we needed to be on the cutting edge of what the medical field is facing today. The speakers included two former Senators (Tom Daschle and Bill Frist), leadership expert John Maxwell, leaders of the American Medical Association and the American Dental Association, and local Mission Hospitals CEO, Dr. Ron Paulus. The event was a production of the Luminary Leadership Network, led by Bill Murdock, founder of our local Eblen Charities. I was so impressed with the content, and learned so much, that I thought I would share some of what I learned about leadership in this one day event focused on the health care industry.

Senator Daschle had some really interesting thoughts about the issues facing the healthcare industry, and why we continue to have such difficulties. He said that there are four key factors to future leadership in that industry: 1) Resiliency, 2) Innovation, 3) Collaboration and 4) Engagement. As he explained what these four factors meant to health care leadership, I thought that perhaps they also applied to the legal industry, which is also experiencing massive change.

Mission Hospitals CEO Ron Paulus gave a phenomenal talk on the difficulties he has experienced in times of change and how his leadership has developed as he has struggled through challenging times. He suggested two book resources for folks who are entrusted with the leadership of an organization; 1) Organizational Culture and Leadership by Edgar Schein, and 2) The Art of Possibility by Rosamund Stone Zander. I immediately bought both of them online, and am currently reading the first.

The final speaker of the day was leadership guru John C. Maxwell. His basic laws of leadership apply to every discipline and industry.   He focused on the attitude of a leader while being challenged with change and uncertainty in the organization being led.

I believe the intent is to repeat his event in the future. I definitely recommend that you visit this site for further information: http://leadthroughchange.com/

Essential Qualities of an Effective Leader Part 2: Trust

Trust is a critical quality of effective leadership.  I recently wrote a column for the LP Magazine Managing Column, titled: “Old Fashioned CRM: The Importance of Trust”.  The column discusses three critical factors in gaining, keeping and even rebuilding trust: 1. Living a consistent life, including both being truthful and keeping promises you make, 2. Being transparent in your relationships, and 3. Being generous.  These three factors are critical in relationships with those you work for, those who work for you, those who you work with, and those who hire you to work for them.  You can read my recent column at the following link:

http://www.americanbar.org/publications/law_practice_magazine/2014/july-august/managing.html

 

Essential Qualities of an Effective Leader Part 1: Servanthood

I am often asked the question: What are the qualities of an effective leader?  I’ve heard many leaders speak to this question, most with different answers; usually different qualities and differing views on the importance of each.

I believe that there are three basic qualities that are found in the most effective leaders, whether they are leaders with position, or simply persons of influence without a title. I believe these qualities are important whether you are a leader in a law firm or a participant in any other endeavor in life. These three qualities are: 1) Mission, 2) Trust and 3) Servanthood. Over the next three blog posts, I will explain in details my thoughts regarding each of these policies, in reverse order. So first, let’s take a look at the concept of “Servanthood”.

Early on in my study of leadership I was exposed to a view of leadership known as “Servant Leadership”.  Through my study of this concept, I discovered that event though you have a title, and even if you do not, your effectiveness as a leader to those who you desire to follow is directly tied to your willingness to both serve and empower them.

Leadership speaker Ken Blanchard explains servant leadership as being composed of four personal attributes.  Here’s my summary of those four, applied to law firm and lawyer leadership:

Heart – This first attribute is about the motivation of the leader.  Is the leader more interested in serving others or serving himself or herself?  Is your desire to lead the firm, or other lawyers in the firm, related to a desire to control others or maintain personal autonomy in your practice?

If you desire to truly understand your motives ask yourself a few of these basic inquiries:

How do you feel when others offer you correction or constructive criticism?  Truly inside, how do you feel? A servant leader is not afraid of constructive criticism. If service is the goal, constructive criticism is always accepted as profitable to not only the leader, but the law firm.

How do you feel when others excel or gain success? When someone else who is a peer or subordinate is recognized?  Are your really happy for them on the inside?  The leader with a heart for service rejoices when those who are being led experience recognition and success.

So, the bottom line is to first examine your heart.

Head – The second attribute is about knowing what you are doing, and why you are doing it. Leaders of law firms need to understand the mission, vision and values of the organization. They must be able to describe them to not only those being led, but also those who might be led, such as prospective clients. You might ask yourself a few questions to see how you doing:

Do those in the law firm, or the group that I lead, share the same vision and values?

Is the actual brand that my law firm has in the communities we serve consistent with the brand that our firm says it has, or desires to have?

Hands – This third attribute is about what you do.  Your motives can be pure, and you can express why you do what you do, but your actions speak louder than those words.

The inquiry here is: What are you doing, and are your actions consistent with what you say?

Habits – You can have a good heart, and all the plans you need, and even start performing, but unless you have discipline you will fail.  Leaders need to have a plan to stay on course; otherwise the emergencies of today crowd out your opportunities to expand service to, and empowerment of, others. Ask yourself the following questions:

Even though I desire to lead others, how am I doing on leading myself?

Do I study leadership on a daily basis?

Just like the practice of law, do I practice leadership on a daily basis?

To the extent possible, have I surrounded myself with a leadership growth environment?

It is important to understand that this principle of servant leadership does not only apply to staff or lawyers within your firm, but equally to leadership of clients.  With regard to clients, it’s not only about the results of the work that you are doing for them.  They have certain basic requirements or expectations that they anticipate in that regard. The servant leader, however, is not only going to simply meet a client’s needs, but exceed them. The successful client leader of the future is not only going to be about results, but results and relationship. Results and relationship is the only way leaders are truly able to both serve and empower clients, which is what servant leadership of clients is all about.

Five Things I Learned at Managing Partner Forum 2014

I had the opportunity to attend the Managing Partner Forum in Atlanta Georgia on Thursday May 8, 2014.  This event is the one event that I know of, held each year, where law firm managing and executive committee partners from all over the country come together and primarily learn from each other, and from experts, about leading and managing law firms.  The day starts with a keynote speaker, followed by a panel of experts who respond to real time electronic voting by attendees (who are responding to questions on issues of firm management, leadership and finance such as “What is your Firm’s revenue per lawyer compared to a year ago?” and “Do you think law firms should have a firm-wide strategic plan?”) . The remaining 3/4ths of the day is broken into segments referred to as MPIE’s (“Managing Partner Idea Exchanges”) – 20 to 25 managing members of firms sit around a table and discuss topics of interest and importance in management and leadership of law firms, facilitated by two or three law firm leadership experts. Kudos to my friend, and founder of Managing Partner Forum, John Remsen, for coming up with such a great learning experience for law firm leaders, and sustaining it over so many years. 

Given the high value of content during this one day of programming, I decided that this blog post should give you a tidbit of what I learned:

1.       Keynote speaker Tim Corcoran, President of the Legal Marketing Association began the day by discussing 5 obstacles to law firm success, indicating that the greatest obstacle is our own reluctance to embrace proven business principles.  He stated his belief that the reason for this is that lawyers continue to see the law as solely a profession, and not a business.

Tim discussed 5 more specific obstacles to law firm success. A comprehensive review of his whole keynote is beyond the scope of this blog post, but here is a short list:

     a.       Governance is an obstacle, where law firms allow all lawyers to be involved in management.  Leaders need to be allowed to lead!

     b.      Law firms do not understand clients and their needs.  Lawyers need to deliver what client’s want, at what they are willing to pay.

     c.        Law firm pricing needs to be rethought.  Discounting without rhyme or reason is a problem.  If you discount all the time, you send the signal that either you do not value your own work, or you know your client does not value your work.

     d.      Compensation plans continue to be a huge obstacle.  Most encourage turf building, as opposed to collaboration.

     e.      The typical formula for deriving profit simply encourages more time keepers and actually less profit.

Tim did not leave us hanging with just the bad news, but had a numerous suggestions as well – here are a few:

     a.       Adopt new operating models to law firm structure – there are other ways to succeed than what we currently use.  We need to look at what works in other businesses and professions and innovate.

     b.      Make client satisfaction your primary focus – make sure that all clients are “Firm” clients

     c.       Compensate for retention and long term profit – quit encouraging folks in the firm to focus merely on their own short term personal gain

2.       Firms need to do be more strategic in their hiring practices.  Cultural compatibility needs to be a priority, including: 1) structured hiring process and 2) psychological testing /personality testing. It makes sense that each party, employer and new hire, should be interested in assuring that they are a good match for each other.

3.       Succession planning, in all areas of law firm future planning is of utmost importance.  As a leader your job is to reduce uncertainty, and succession planning is all about reducing uncertainty of the future.

4.       The key to successfully adopting alternative fee arrangements in a law firm is client trust – including a belief by the client that the relationship is of utmost importance to the lawyer.

5.       Dr. Larry Richard, another expert helping in facilitation of the conference, pointed out that we should change the name of the position of a leader of a law firm to “Leading Partner” instead of “Managing Partner”.  Leaders need to delegate management tasks to managers instead of giving in to the temptation to micromanage. This is difficult because lawyer skill sets are more conducive to management than leadership.

For anyone in law firm leadership, I recommend that you make time for this annual event.

Use of Handheld Devices in Meetings

Moving Beyond the Charge of Rudeness to an Environment of Cooperation and Understanding

A few weeks ago, during the NCAA Basketball tournament, I heard an XM Radio interview (I cannot recall if it was on ESPN or some other station) of Rick Pitino, coach of Louisville Cardinals.  He was discussing his leadership style, specifically answering questions regarding the prevalence of use of handheld devices by young athletes, and the difficulty with discipline that is caused by constant use. Basically, he has a “no device” rule whenever one of his college basketball players is in his presence. No devices are allowed in the locker room, no devices are allowed during practice, no devices are allowed during team meetings, and no devices are allowed when the team has meals together.

I have to admit that until recently I was in agreement with Mr. Pitino when it came to my view on the use of hand held or portable devices during meetings , whether with clients, partners or other professionals.  For some time now, however, I have been making a concerted effort to observe the use of portable electronic devices by others in public settings. Though I hate to disagree with a basketball coach with such a great win loss record  (and I dread his entry into the ACC next year because of his great success ), my observation has led me to the conclusion that communication expectations in society have changed, and nowhere is this more true than in the practice of law. In the past, law firm leaders seem to have opted for solutions which appease those lawyers who are most averse to the use of personal devices in meetings. I propose that tendency should change.  

Client meetings and communications

As the leader of a law firm, your recommendations regarding use of technology should always focus on quality service when it comes to clients. Some clients come to meetings with tablet in hand, and would not expect anything different of legal counsel. These clients understand the importance of being connected, and expect you to be as well. They also appreciate that having a device with you does not mean you’re necessarily not paying attention, playing a game or checking personal emails every time you glance away. True, they want your attention at meetings they are paying for you to attend, but are not offended by your technology. In fact, a lack of personal technology availability can work to the detriment of a lawyer in a client meeting, since the presence of handheld devices is a sign of the availability of information.  In other cases however, some clients may be less technologically savvy.  The bottom line is that in order to meet and exceed client expectations it is important that lawyers know their clients well. It is incumbent upon law firm leaders that to include in firm training, sessions which  encourage firm members to know and understand their clients; their needs, expectations and desires when it comes to communication, which is an integral part of quality service.

Colleagues and firm meetings

Whether the use of technology is a help or hindrance comes up as an issue most often when considering the use of handheld devices, or their presence, at meetings; meetings of partners, firm attorneys, executive committee, Bar Association Meetings, etc. It was not so long ago that I was known to simply “flat out” prohibit handheld devices at partner meetings and retreats. I’ve come a long way in my thinking however. Even 10 years ago, very few professionals regularly brought handheld devices to meetings. I now do not only believe that it is only a majority of folks who do, but truly the exception is actually when someone does not have their handheld device at a meeting.

It is true that some folks may be using these devices to “goof off” instead of pay attention. My observation however is that the world has changed, and handheld devices now provide access, response and security. Regardless of where an attendee stands on the technology spectrum, all should understand that clients have expectations, and with changing lifestyle demands, productive firm members need the security of “connectedness” with their family at all times (especially those with young children).

Given the potential for distraction due to misuse, but considering the demands of a rapidly changing world, law firm leaders need to find solutions that work for all firm members. Members need to be open to have discussions about proper use during meetings, and the need to use discretion in only answering or responding to emails when it is a true client or family emergency or demand. Those with negative attitudes about the use of handheld devices during meetings (which usually includes at least a few dinosaurs who have held on as non-adapters) need to be involved in the discussion, and led to understand that limited/controlled use during meetings is not only acceptable, but encouraged when safety, security or client satisfaction is the concern.

The days of exclusive mandatory rules, procedures and penalties are over. Both the means and mode of communication have changed. Young and old alike are demanding and expecting collaborative, inclusive and understanding leadership. Firm leaders must find solutions that meet the needs of all stakeholders if they expect to retain valuable firm clients, as well as the best and brightest legal talent.

 

As a Leader of Clients and Lawyers – Do you Know How and When to Say No and Yes?

just_say_no[1]It might be one of the first words that most of learn to say as a child.  But for some reason it becomes so difficult to say…….. a simple NO.

As Lawyers, we like to tell people Yes.  We like to say yes to helping others in dealing with their legal issues, we like to say yes to providing aid to our local community, especially when non-lawyers need our special legal expertise to do good works.  We like to not make waves at the office, and say yes to our colleagues.

Saying “Yes” at the wrong time, and to the wrong opportunities may cause problems to your legal practice, leadership effectiveness and personal and business relationships.  It might also make it impossible, or very difficult to say yes to the right opportunities that come along.  Saying “No” is a skill.  Developing that skill is a key to the future of every leader/lawyer.

To learn more, see my recent article in Law Practice Magazine: The Power of “No”,  Volume 40, Number 2 (March /April 2014) at the following link:  http://bit.do/jGNM