I recently had a week or so when many of my clients were ruing their decision, whether conscious or not, to neglect their internal PR. Not doing your own internal PR can be, as one of my clients found, incredibly costly to your career progression in a firm. In fact, get it wrong and you may find yourself out of a job.
What do I mean by your internal PR?
A partnership is a collegiate environment, often with a very loose matrix structure. The lines of reporting are normally dotted, and anyone in the firm can find themselves working in a client team with anyone else. As a result of this, your ability to progress your career and get assigned to the best clients, or delegate effectively down to your team, is driven by your reputation and profile in your firm, i.e. how well you do your own internal PR.
When I talk about internal PR I am not talking about sucking up or schmoozing your way around a firm. I’m talking about making sure your internal market value is as high as it can be.
How can you generate good internal PR?
Play the team game
In my experience firms are always stressing, either because they have too much client work, or not enough client work. As a consequence, everyone always maintains that they are really busy (and this is normally the case). People who ‘don’t take one for the team’, or are seen to not be ‘mucking in’, can start to get peoples’ backs up. No one is asking you to become a doormat, but do make sure that you are seen to be playing the team game.
Look after your team
As you get more and more senior in a firm, you need to have people willing to work for you. I have heard cases where people have been turned down for partner because of their poor relationships with the level below them. Remember you need the juniors on your side, just as much as they need you on their side. Regularly schedule in some 1:2:1 time with the people you have working on your clients. These conversations are not just about client work, expand the conversation to see how you can help them with their agenda.
In Chapter 19 of How to make partner and still have a life, we examine how to motivate your team, as well as leading it to success.
Pick an influential mentor
I can not emphasise this one more highly. Having someone in the partnership who is rooting for you at the partnership table and watching your back is essential for you and your career.
Get feedback little and often – and then ACT on it
Far too many people have throttled their career progression by not getting regular feedback from all their key stakeholders. Having poor self-awareness will hold your career back. Having been around the professions for 10 years now, everyone knows that each person has different strengths, weakness and particular eccentricities. In fact, people are fairly forgiving of most eccentricities, as long as it doesn’t impact client service. What people don’t forgive is when you receive feedback about your performance and you don’t act on this feedback.
Let the partners know when you get positive feedback
When you do get positive feedback, especially from clients, do forward it to your assignment manager or appraising partner. One of the worst career crimes you can do in a partnership is hide your light under a bushel.