Set your people up to succeed – every last one of them

  • September 21, 2017
  • Sandra Bekhor

SuccessHave you ever wondered how far the people at your law firm could go if they were set up to reach their highest potential? Is it even feasible to consider doing this for every single person at the firm?

Law firm leaders know it takes more than great legal skills to run a successful firm.  But what about everyone else? Do they realize that this principle applies to them too? If they did, would they even be able to step up to the challenge?

So consider what might happen if your staff were given proper guidance and support. Think about what that might translate into for your people as individuals and for your firm as a whole. It could mean greater engagement and motivation from each staff member, which could extrapolate to greater efficiency and sustainability for the firm. Imagine the office running like a well-oiled (and profitable!) machine, with all the parts moving along in harmony.

So if you’re ready to empower your people – all the way up, down and across the organizational chart – here are nine things you can do to facilitate that agenda.

And they’re all feasible. Every last one of them.

1. Give everyone something to care about

From the lawyers, clerks, students and administrative staff to the partners, everyone wants their work to matter. They want to understand what the firm is trying to achieve (beyond “value for our clients”) and how their individual role makes a real impact toward that end.

Tell them. And show them.

Don't wait for them to ask. They may not wish, or be able to articulate this need.

2. Bring clarity

Organizational charts, job descriptions and performance reviews aren’t just MBA buzzwords tossed around in an attempt to impress others. When implemented properly, they are tools essential to helping people understand what’s expected of them (and equally essential to helping supervisors communicate and uphold such expectations with their teams).

The resulting clarity translates into accountability, which helps everyone, including the firm itself, move toward their goals.

3. Communicate skilfully

Being a skilful orator as a litigator does not necessarily predict one’s ability to communicate about less litigious topics. And many might not even be aware of the gaps in the firm's communication strategy.

From knowing whom to go to for what, and how, to really listening and delivering insightful messages, make an intentional decision about everyone in the firm should communicate with each other. And then give everyone the tools to follow through.  

4. Train and mentor

Leverage the organization's structure to access each and every individual by way of their formal supervisors, in order to learn more about their unique professional aspirations, not just at the performance review but throughout the year. Work with them to develop a career plan that meets their individual needs, while also aligning with the firm's vision.

Not every lawyer, law clerk and administrator has the same view of their future.

5. Institutionalize business coaching

Business coaching can take professional development beyond the legal curriculum, helping everyone reach their own next level of competence within the organization. It can help staff improve their abilities to:

•  Manage a team

• Motivate people

• Leverage diversity

• Address personality conflicts

• Overcome obstacles

• See past blind spots

• Become aware of their own biases

The more management skill you put in the hands of your supervisors, the more everyone has the opportunity to stretch beyond their current limitations.

6. Measure what matters

If you are measuring analytics because you feel you ought to, you run the risk of getting mired in detail and confusion. Instead, having the discipline to narrow the list to just those metrics instrumental to the firm's future can enable clarity and alignment, not to mention save precious resources.

7. Share information

Information is power. If you want to empower others, share appropriately, so they can better align their performance with the firm's ultimate goals. Ask yourself what can be distilled down from the firm's vision so that everyone can work towards the same goals, armed with details about where they stand and how their efforts are tracking.

8. Give credit where it's due

Grandma was right. Please and thank you go a long way. That doesn’t change when you pay someone to work for you. But beyond thank you, you can bring day-to-day recognition into the very culture of the firm, with the training and tools to do so in a manner that will deliver maximum impact.

9. Foster a positive culture

There isn’t just one version of a positive culture. It could be anything you're united on, from performance to service, fun, teamwork or process. Wherever culture you land on, make sure it’s a positive one, so people can look forward to coming to work and feel supported in their professional endeavours. 

A final word

This isn’t a menu from which to pick one or two favourites. These actions work together, and become self-reinforcing. The firm that seriously commits to business coaching, as one example, can take its people pretty far. But the firm that seriously commits to business coaching, after it develops a vision that everyone will care about and, furthermore, skilfully communicates it all the way down the organizational chart gives its people the opportunity to go farther still.

The bottom line? Do what you can to set your people up for success.

Then get out of their way!

Sandra Bekhor, MBA, president of Bekhor Management, helps lawyers and other professionals build and enhance their practices, through marketing and management programs aligned with core strengths. Sandra has extensive experience helping small to mid-sized firms succeed in the modern marketplace. She can be reached at, 416-969-9600 and

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