Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Selling Common Sense

I work with business leaders and managing boards, mostly in the areas of leadership and communication. Both of these areas are difficult to describe and much of what makes a good leader and good communicator (and I don't think you can be a good leader if you are not a good communicator) comes down to common sense.

It's not rocket science to treat staff well and it's not a complicated concept that people - lawyers too - who are treated fairly and well by their employers/partners/colleagues work better. It can, however, be a difficult concept to someone who doesn't see the benefit. Telling people what is going on is - obviously - a good thing to do. Everyone in the firm or chambers needs to know what the plan is and who is is charge. Obvious...

I've had two meetings recently with law firms, both of which ended with the partner I was chatting with saying "But that's all common sense! You don't seriously expect to charge us for this stuff, do you?".

At that point, I usually give a deep sigh, stand up and shake hands - someone who says that sort of thing is never going to work with me.

I agree, too. It is common sense - but it is usually something that firms and chambers are not doing. I see so many firms and chambers where the boss - the Managing Partner or Head of Chambers or the Chief Executive - is not leading well and is not communicating. I was present, a few months ago, at the first address to the firm by a newly elected Managing Partner. It was held in the lobby outside the 'executive offices' (and it's not a good start to have the firm's leadership isolated) and at the end of the speech in which the new MP had said "I want to know what you think so my door is always open", and after the required applause, the MP turned, walked into his office and shut the door. Message received.

The road to good leadership is a difficult one. It usually has to start with someone who thinks they have something to learn. The potential leader needs to realise that - just with litigation or advocacy - leadership and management are learnt skills. The next step is to work on communication skills - mostly listening. From there we can start to look at leadership skills and to begin to build strength as a leader.

It is common sense - well much of it is - but it is equally common sense to realise that new skills need to be learnt and practised.

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