Leadership and Management Development Programmes
How I help your firm
Partners are shouldering too much routine work. They need associates to be more self-directed, to be more commercial and to operate at a higher level. The partners I speak to estimate that this is costing them nearly an hour a day on average – a billing equivalent in the order of five or six figures per partner per year.
The challenge is: how to help associates become highly productive? More and more firms are introducing skills ladders or competency frameworks to augment their appraisal systems. But often these tools are only tolerated – or even distrusted.
I offer smart programmes which inspire your associates to take responsibility for their own careers, so that other HR initiatives like appraisals and skills ladders are welcomed. I tailor them extensively to support and strengthen your firm’s strategy and culture. And on the day, I address the specific needs of the participants.
How I help your people
Everyone assumes that professionals are extensively trained. In reality, they’re only trained for half the job, the professional expertise. Later they have to pick up all the other essential skills: handling clients, leading teams, managing projects, winning business, running the firm…
That would be fine, but associates seldom take responsibility for their own careers. They come into the profession assuming that it’s a bit like school. They expect someone else to create a career path, point them in the right direction, and help their progress.
I help them to develop a sense of personal leadership. I work with them on three areas: developing themselves, working with others, and managing the firm. I help them to raise their game by working out what the firm needs, what they themselves can contribute, and how to go about making it happen.
In short, I turn professionals into leaders.
Outline approaches to development programmes
By this stage of their careers, associates are operating at full speed and may be considering a bid for partnership. They will have the respect of clients for their technical expertise. They need to show that they can move to the next level in terms of commerciality and leadership of the firm.
My senior programme concentrates mainly on how to win business and how to become a fully-trusted commercial advisor in the eyes of clients. This includes negotiating and delivering tough messages. I also help associates with a game plan to win the support of a wide range of partners. Finally, in their desire to impress partners and clients, seniors can sometimes develop an impatient management style; I work with them to develop mentoring and leadership skills.
A senior associate on one programme was highly ambitious, and worked his team very hard; one had left as a result, others refused to work with him. He had been told in his appraisal that he needed to adapt his management style if he was to make partner. I rehearsed some team meetings with him, gave him immediate feedback, and then ran the meetings again. We also swapped roles so that he experienced his own behaviours. This gave him a deep understanding of the impact he was having and he changed his approach completely as a result.
By this time, associates have matured and have begun to take more responsibility for managing simple projects. They can respond well to the tasks they are given, and manage willing juniors. But they are facing more and more tricky inter-personal situations which they are expected to handle without help.
My mid-level programme is focused on taking more control particularly over challenging conversations and meetings. I help associates to become aware of how they come across to others, and how to flex their style according to circumstances. I also help them to build their network inside and outside the firm, to dig deeper into the world of their clients, and to build their reputation by considering their personal brand.
An associate was highly capable technically but had trouble persuading clients, partners and others to pay attention to her suggestions and advice. One observation was that she talked too fast and too much. I helped her to have much more impact by slowing her down: focusing on a single message; speaking clearly; asking simple open questions; not being afraid of silence. The next month she chaired a potentially confrontational shareholders’ meeting. She handled it brilliantly, and diplomatically persuaded the various institutional shareholders to agree to all the motions.
At this stage, associates are still coming to grips with the reality of life in a professional services firm. They often feel overwhelmed by the workload. They miss the structure and guidance which was inherent in their school and university life. They tend to cope by diving into tasks rather than stepping back and learning to manage their new reality.
My junior programme helps associates to move beyond just ‘fitting in’ and to explore how to stand out. I help them to learn to ask good questions, prioritise their workload, influence other people, and work as part of a team. I also equip them with delegation and feedback skills so that they can start to manage other people.
An associate told me a great story about how he’d been on a ski trip with his team. He found himself sitting in a ski-lift next to his partner, slowly travelling up the mountain. The trip was perhaps seven or eight minutes. But his mind went blank; he couldn’t think of anything to say. A unique opportunity to bond with the partner turned into a long embarrassing silence. Like many junior associates, he was intimidated in the presence of senior people. I helped him to become more confident, and taught him how to use his storytelling skills to build a reputation in the firm.