As a law firm’s CEO, a Managing Partner knows the adage “It’s lonely at the top.” That’s because it is.
And for many, it’s become even lonelier during the pandemic.
Cut off from day-to-day interfacing with other lawyers and administrators, many Managing Partners have lost regular interactions with colleagues who inspire, energize, give you the propulsion to keep going and, yes, simply brighten your day.
Even before Covid erupted, being a law firm Managing Partner came with more responsibility and stress than any other position in your firm. Not only did you, as Managing Partner, need to lead, manage and inspire others, you had to be involved with the law firm’s finances. Finally, you likely had clients to represent.
Managing Partners need to be effective, dynamic leaders for their law firms.
This often has been the most difficult challenge for a Managing Partner, especially when he or she has what seems like a million other responsibilities lodged on their shoulders while floating over their heads.
Complicating the situation is the belief many law firm Managing Partners have that they need to be able to handle everything on their plate completely alone, without any guidance from outside sources.
However, this siloed approach sometimes just doesn’t work.
A third of all Fortune 500 companies provide Executive Coaching for their CEO’s and other top executives. This is because they recognize the need for their top executives to have outside mentors, experienced in their type of business, who can provide objective, independent advice. Indeed, many successful law firm Managing Partners have outside mentors because they, too, recognize the need to hear advice and outside opinions from an unbiased third party.
This article discusses why a law firm Managing Partner should consider Executive Coaching and why it will make him or her a more effective leader, especially as the uncertainty, disruption and loneliness of the pandemic drags on.
The IMPORTANCE of Executive Coaching
Quality of management can make or break a law firm, whether it is a small, medium, large or global firm. At the head of that management is a Managing Partner, the law firm’s leader.
If a Managing Partner is not the most effective CEO he or she can be, the law firm can teeter on the edge.
Executive Coaching is designed to help a Managing Partner fulfill his or her potential as the law firm’s leader, to the benefit of the firm and all those who it employs.
The IMPACT of Executive Coaching
Coaches consider both short and long-term consequences of executive decision-making and help Managing Partners better understand the implications of their decisions, often in ways that are not apparent.
Coaching helps equip a Managing Partner to know the best approaches to issues in the firm. These may include financial issues, practice management issues, personnel problems, partnership elevation and succession, public and community relations issues, employee turnover, competitive standing and a myriad of other challenges.
To maximize effectiveness, Executive Coaches first gather data about the law firm and its history, its current position in the market and challenges, its finances generally, and its plans for the future. In addition, the Coach will want to know exactly how effective a Managing Partner already is, his or her strengths and weaknesses, successes and failures, and leadership styles.
Executive coaching generally lasts six months to one year, but many Managing Partners may opt to keep an Executive Coach on hand at all times.
The IMPLICATIONS of Executive Coaching
Executive coaches are hired for different reasons, but the overall main reason is to make sure that a law firm’s leader is the most effective he or she can be.
For this reason, Executive Coaching has become extremely popular with Managing Partners just as it has with corporate CEO’s and other C-Suite executives.
There are a ton of issues that can make a firm’s Managing Partner less effective, which the Executive Coach will consider and help resolve so the law firm can be as successful as possible. A good coach focuses on helping a Managing Partner operate at her or his highest level of value.
The Power of INTROSPECTION
Most law firm Managing Partners are extremely involved with both the day-to-day operations and the company’s big picture. In many firms a Managing Partner must also participate in important client pitches and provide legal services to clients. This is akin to having multiple full-time jobs.
They are constantly living and breathing their work, which can lead to skewed perceptions of issues.
It’s highly important for a Managing Partner to be able to discuss the operations and issues of the law firm with someone who has no direct connection to the organization. It has also proven effective to use an Executive Coach who has had significant experience as a law firm Managing Partner before becoming an Executive Coach.
Coaching by a former Managing Partner, who has dealt with a vast array of challenges during a career, enables the coachee to really see everything objectively and get a clearer picture of what’s going on. And it will equip a Managing Partner to devise and execute a plan to meet the challenges and solve the problems that sit on his desk.
Equally important is that Executive Coaching empowers a Managing Partner to look inward with a mentor – the coach – to help guide him or her on the often difficult journey of honest introspection.
Oftentimes, Managing Partners will need to speak their thoughts out loud to an outsider without fear of recrimination or disclosure. This may lead to insights about the business that they wouldn’t have had without speaking to a coach.
IMPROVED Decision Making
Having an unbiased individual, who is experienced in law firm management, listen to your ongoing issues is important. It allows you to get valuable objective advice when making big decisions.
A Managing Partner will need to know all the factors that go into the decision so he or she can properly explain it to the coach. Through skilled questioning, an experienced coach can help a Managing Partner dig deep for that important information. That alone can help a Managing Partner make a better decision than if he or she were just deciding on their own.
For example, if a Managing Partner is unsure whether a certain practice area is benefitting the law firm, a session with an Executive Coach can help sharpen the analysis and lead to a better resolution. Coaching encourages a Managing Partner to see the full picture, resulting in the best decision.
Frequently law firm Managing Partners are not held accountable because they don’t have someone constantly coaching them and evaluating their work and decisions. “Command influence” often discourages others from questioning a Managing Partner’s actions, policies or decisions.
This can make it easy for Managing Partners to lose sight of whether they are effective leaders, keeping their lawyers, administrative staff and others motivated to work for the law firm and vested in the firm’s success.
Executive coaches will hold the Managing Partner accountable because they won’t be afraid to tell them when they think they are doing something wrong. And if a Managing Partner commits to a certain course of action, an Executive Coach will help to ensure that the course of action is followed.
Even a Managing Partner needs to be accountable at times. An Executive Coach is there to hold the Managing Partner accountable for insufficient leadership, inadequate decision-making, ineffective management and the failure to follow through.
When Managing Partners know they can talk about their decisions, leadership styles, challenges they are facing, shortcomings and failures, and any other issues they may be having, it gives them more confidence in their abilities and usually inspires them going forward.
This is because they’re going to an alternative source for help, instead of simply relying on themselves for every single decision being made.
Oftentimes, Managing Partners will constantly second guess their decisions because they don’t have anyone keeping them in check with whom they can speak honestly. This void can lead to a decrease in confidence and effective leadership.
Even if they still make the same decisions they would have made without the assistance of a coach, they will have increased their confidence. If your coach agrees with your decision, you’ll feel more validated.
Coaching is a well-deserved reward for a hard-working law firm Managing Partner. And, you might just feel a little less lonely!
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