The Hardest Call

September 16, 2013

iStock_000011999211XSmall-1Have you ever had any staffing or personnel problems in your firm? If you’re like most attorneys, the answer is a resounding “yes.” Who hasn’t had to deal with personnel issues in their practice? Nobody. And if you’re like many attorneys, you’d rather be grilled before the Supreme Court than address personnel issues in your own office.

Well, I have good news and bad news for you. First, the bad news. Ignoring personnel issues won’t make them go away. Sticking your fingers in your ears and saying, “Nah, nah, nah. I can’t hear you,” didn’t really work when you were a kid. And its professional cousin, simply ignoring personnel issues in your office, makes them even worse.

Here’s the good news. You can learn to lead your firm and build a truly high-performance team. There are three simple steps. Caveat: Simple doesn’t mean easy.

  1. Get very clear about what you expect from your people – both with respect to performance and values.  Put your expectations in writing, and talk to your team about what you expect.
  2. Evaluate people not only with respect to their performance; measure how well their values (i.e. how they behave) fit with your firm’s values.
  3. Get rid of anyone on your team whose values are inconsistent with your firm’s.

The hardest call for a leader to make is to let someone go who is a stellar performer, but who violates your firm’s values. – Someone who churns out the work and generates revenue for the firm, but is consistently late. – Someone who is great with your clients, but rotten to other staff members. – Someone who is “very experienced,” but who creates a miserable experience for everyone else in the office.

“We made our leap forward when we began removing the people who hit the numbers but violated our values and making it clear to the entire company why they were asked to leave – not for the usual “personal reasons” or to “pursue other opportunities” but for not sharing our values. Until an organization develops the courage to do this people never have full confidence that these values are real.”

– Jack Welch

For a great read on making the hard calls in your firm, check out Up Your Business, by Dave Anderson.

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