After an amazing 4-city tour of the East Coast Association of Legal Administrators (ALA) Chapters and enjoying great people, great conversation, and great debate, I got to thinking… What was the number one challenge that affected all these amazing and caring law firm administrators?
Well, it didn’t take long to see a pattern. Very quickly, I saw the challenges these administrators have to balance. On one side, the administrators have their partners coming to them asking (1) how do I deal with whiny millennials, how do I not repeat the same instruction over and over again, how can I teach people that don’t seem to care, and how do I teach motivation and work ethic; while on the other side the millennials see their administrators struggles and ask (2) how do I explain to senior partners the world is different, we are more than individual contributors, no you cannot keep your own assistant on a 1 to 1 ratio, and yes you need to shift your mindset too.
What I learned is that all of these great minds desire the same thing, a positive change to create a better place to work (culture), increase engagement, and be provided with respect and assistance to create a great firm capable of achieving so much more! And the administrators $100,0000 question… how do I create “respect” for my opinion and “buy-in” on how to connect the different generations of employees and clients? I wanted to take time to address this question and share with you the five hacks you can use to win with the boss.
Your opinion matters a lot! Mostly, you are the lifeblood of the organization and most partners rely on you more and trust you more than they do each other. You solve all of their relationship challenges internally and sometimes externally. Be confident in that fact. They need you. The best employees respectfully challenge their bosses with great questions, alternative suggestions, and pragmatic approaches. If it’s a challenge for you to be bold, then politely ask for permission to share your opinion and share with the partners why you think it is critical for the business that they listen to your opinion. It’s possible the news is about an employee, or even worse, a client who wants to leave the firm and it’s in the best interest for the partners to hear the news from you first so they can take action before the consequences become more severe. If they still don’t want to listen and you’ve exhausted all of your options to do so, then maybe it’s time you move on. You’re a valuable part of the firm! Be somewhere where you have the ability to positively impact the firm and make a difference every single day.
MAKE IT ABOUT THE MONEY:
Use the universal language, $$$$$. Most senior managers and partners can be convinced of almost anything if it makes economic sense. Teach yourself how to speak in terms of ROI (return on investment). Be able to communicate the value of how your idea can potentially make the firm money, save it money, reduce a risk, or create a new opportunity. Or maybe you want to get more training, learn how to better bridge the generational gap, understand different organizational models, or have more work flexibility. If so, remember to share how your ideas affect the “dough”. You can also try to obtain metrics and statistics as support that can put a hard number to your idea to demonstrate how much money your idea will make/save by increasing retention, increasing engagement, and providing training on client service and client development. And finally, when you’re teaching your partners the need to change their perspective with different generations, refer to the ROI measures we just talked about and how the shift in mindset will provide real financial value for everyone in the firm. Happy employees = happy clients = more profitability!
PRACTICE THE PLATINUM RULE:
The platinum rule is to treat everyone the way THEY want to be treated. Senior Partners need to understand that the world is different and that the next generation wants different things. And that’s not a good or a bad thing, it’s just different. So speak to them the way they want to be spoken to and teach the next generation how to speak to seniors the way the seniors want to be treated, and vice versa. We need to adopt the platinum rule as a society. It seems like the problem is that we treat everyone how we want to be treated, not how THEY want to be treated. Additionally, and most importantly, everyone needs to understand that this is about the others they serve, not themselves. We call that the WIFThem (What’s In It For Them?) Mindset. To build better relationships, you have to communicate in a way that is relevant to your employee or client. If done well internally and externally, you can go back and reference rule two above and show how your opinion impacts the client and creates “mo’ money for them! By practicing the platinum rule, you can create a real legacy through everyone you touch… Are you game to try it?
BECOME THE COACH; MASTER THE QUESTION:
In society and in the workplace, especially law firms, we need to learn how to communicate better. And here’s a big tip… We learn differently now! Technology has made information a lot more accessible but it has also given all of us the attention span of a group of gnats. There’s a lot out there that competes for our attention. As a result, a new methodology for learning new concepts has emerged and it’s call micro learning. Essentially, you learn a little, put it into practice, assess, learn from the results, and repeat the process again with either a new concept or adjusting the one you just learned. We like to call it something else… Coaching! Coaching is high performance, on-demand training for on-the-spot learning. Micro learning through coaching is how we teach new concepts best at launchbox. Also, coaching can be taught to anyone and it’s equally important that coaching is applied up the corporate ladder, as well as down it. If you can master coaching as a tool for your personal and professional life you’ll be much better off, I promise. Teach or share a new concept with anyone, such as your kids, spouses, partners, friends, etc. and see how powerful of a tool it can be to not only improve engagement but improve relationships. In addition to teaching a concept, you must first master the power of the question. Before you can share a new concept you need to understand what it is the person you’re coaching truly needs. If you ask great questions you will win with coaching in any direction, up, down, peer to peer. After all, it’s attorneys that make a living from asking great questions and they should be super familiar with how to do so!
BE REAL & POSITIVE:
Being real, authentic and genuine is necessary with the next generation employee and client, and quite frankly, with all of us. Truth and honesty have been underutilized in our society. If we are honest and authentic in the right way we will win! As my Dad told me early on, “honesty that kills is still murder.” So don’t murder, but rather show care and provide value with your words. Communication that is given with the real deal perspective of providing value will always win. Most of all, remember the story you’re telling cannot just be about you, you have to make your audience the hero of the story. And when possible, apply the platinum rule we talked about earlier. Also, try gratitude and humility. Any statement where you preface it with what you’re grateful for makes others hear you better. I will end with my favorite tool: positivity! I do not advocate Pollyannaish behavior but how about a good old-fashioned dose of opportunity and positivity. Anyone who is artful enough to frame communication in a way that demonstrates a growth versus a fixed mindset will always win.
With all of that said, take another look at the above tools and see if you can coach by framing issues, with permission, great question asking, and the platinum rule. You will win 100% of the time, I promise! Teach these tools universally at your firm and ensure your culture rewards the behavior you want and not the opposite nonsense you don’t.
So go do it! Teach and train both sides how to practice these 5 rules if you want a kick ass culture. If you need help along the way, call or text me 858-344-5811. I dare you to care that much. I want to help you create impact for you, your firm, and the practice of law. I believe in you and I know you have the potential to make a real deal change!