Happy Friday, knowledge seekers! Many of you are aware that your Girl Friday (that’s me) has taken on a new role here at the Academy. In my new role as Academy Practice Building Consultant, I have been given the opportunity to work with some of the greatest minds in the Academy on a daily basis – our Members. I am constantly impressed at the level of dedication these attorneys and their teams have to changing the lives of those in their community.
As a coach to our Members, I have embarked on a journey of discovery and development of my leadership “muscle”. One that I am innately gifted with (excuse me while I pat myself on the back…), but am humbly on the path toward honing to be the best coach I can possibly be for the Members who serve as a daily inspiration to me.
Through my travels (on the internet, of course), I came across an article that truly caused me to pause and think about the impact we have as leaders. And by we, yes I mean those of us at the Academy who work to lead our Members to success, but also YOU – you who lead your law firm in one way or another, on a regular basis.
After reading, re reading, and then reading again, I set about the task of attempting to put the article into my own words. To apply it specifically to my situation or to the situation of those attorneys who might read it. And try as I might, it occurred to me that I didn’t even want to attempt it. This article, found on Forbes.com, written by a former Navy SEAL, is so perfectly worded and directed that I just want to share it with you – exactly as I found it. And leave you with one thought to carry you into your weekend: Change is everywhere, always. Have you prepared your team to face it? And succeed?
Oh, and I found this nifty quote that really just serves as a nice little bow on this word-gift from author Jeff Boss:
“Longevity means we have to evolve, that we have to change and be able to change.”
The rate of change in business today is astronomic—and only increasing in speed. Moreover, the degrees of change that any single team or company experiences have a systemic impact upon the supporting and functional areas of that organization. In other words, as change happens, teams, companies and businesses must adapt to the new demands of their customers if they want to stay relevant in the marketplace, which means teams—and therefore individuals—must adapt, as well.
In the SEAL Teams (which was my “former life” of 13 years) there was a wide variety of people and backgrounds, which offered a number of advantages. First, such diversity allowed for greater idea flow since the perspective of a stockbroker was—and is—different from that of an English literary teacher (yes, we had both). Additionally, each member attended specialized schools relative to the “market demand” to build expertise in a particular job function, such as becoming a sniper, locksmith or language expert.
However, not everybody’s skills were used. Depending on the mission, one capability—locksmith, for example—may be more needed than another, which meant the team leader would defer to that teammate with locksmith know-how for key (no pun intended) insights and decision-making. In other words, training and mission execution followed more of a project focus rather than a hierarchical, command and control structure.
While the skill and creativity may have helped us find solutions in complex situations, it was because of the team leader’s willingness to adapt to the dynamics of each situation and defer to the best-suited team member that determined team flexibility, and therefore mission success.
To help your team flex to its next “target,” try these four practices:
Explore competencies. Have each team member identify his or her strengths as well as any intentions to turn weaknesses into strong suits. This way, you not only learn each person’s skill set but also gain insight into the will—the motivation and volition—that drives them to improve.
Match talent to task. As the unwanted change imposed by Murphy’s Law grows, so too do the demands and skills needed to satisfy that change. The demand for a locksmith may be high today but tomorrow may shift to something completely different, which means the functional expertise of the team will shift, as well. If, for instance, customer demand changes from buying laptops to tablets overnight and you’ve been selling laptops your whole career, guess who won’t be in the running as the tablet team leader? In other words, when the definition of “success” changes, so too must your strategy for achieving it. If that means reallocating personnel to fit the new demand, do it. There’s no place in the winner’s circle for ego.
Eliminate rank. During selection for another unit in the Navy, the first thing instructors did was remove the officers and senior enlisted from leadership positions, and they did so for two reasons. First, to show that rank and status had no bearing on character and competence . I’m willing to bet that everyone knows of somebody in a leadership role who just shouldn’t be there. Second, it demonstrated that it’s okay to go against the norm and do what makes sense rather than what has always been done. Leadership effectiveness is based off who you are as a person (i.e. trustworthy, integrity, willingness to assume risk) and what you can do for the team, rather than how many years you have in service.
Become project based. Contrary to popular belief, expecting one person to know and do everything is not ideal. To maximize a team’s output, it is critical to identify the right person with the right contextual knowledge of the subject at hand so that he or she can take that project and run with it. However, doing so creates a shift in the balance of power as the team’s focus morphs from being leader-centric to performance-centric—a paradigm not welcomed by all.
Whether it’s apparent or not, teamwork is how business gets done. Without the collective interests and efforts to execute corporate strategy, progress—and therefore, performance—becomes limited. Even if you work solely in data and metrics and your best friend seems to be the computer, you must still report to somebody out of a common objective that binds the company: long-term success.
Practice Building Consultant
American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys, Inc.
9444 Balboa Avenue, Suite 300
San Diego, California 92123
Phone: (800) 846-1555