It is possible to make partner just by your own merits. However, if you want to successfully take the step up to a full equity partner, then you will need to have built a team behind you. Even if you are in a law firm! With this team, there is one thing, above all, that you must do with them. You must work to help your team get the work done.

What are the important things a team leader needs to do?

When you ask a range of different people, they will all come up with different answers based on where they are in their career. Their answers may even change over time given a different set of circumstances.

I’d argue that none of these are the one most important thing you can do with your team.

The single most important thing you must do for your team

I often talk about the ‘bus scenario’. This is not the why when you are waiting for a bus do two always come at once. No, this is the ‘what happened if you were hit by a bus?’. Luckily that is often a very slim possibility. However, there will be times when you need you team to do things for you, and you will not be able to closely supervise them. This isn’t a far-fetched scenario. Think about it, how many times have you been on a deadline and not be able to micro manage your team?

This means, as a Leader, you need to help your team interpret any given situation and act in the right way. In that case clearly communicating your priorities, helping them to understand what’s most important to you and your firm might be the most important thing. What do you think?

So that was obvious, so what?

Bear with me, for just a bit longer. The key in the sentence above was clearly communicate. Suppose I said looking after clients was really important, but something else was more important; would you act differently? Are there unwritten rules in your firm about what is REALLY important? For example, how many times do you find yourself listening to a partner extolling the virtues of extraordinary client service, but in their day-to-day dealings being more concerned about the firm’s internally facing KPIs to the detriment of extraordinary client service?

The picture below is a real picture from a real office, with a real team – who were very confused, weren’t as effective as they might have been and there was also a massive staff turnover.

Can you spot the problem? To me saying customers first, means customers first – putting something else at the top of the list is saying don’t put customers first. So, hand on heart can you say all your team communications don’t suffer this lack of clarity? If you’re really sure that your priorities are clear, why not ask your team?

Using team meetings to find out what your team believe are the priorities

One great use for a team meeting might be to find out what your team thinks the priorities are and get feedback. It doesn’t matter what you’ve said to them, it only matters what they’ve heard and do as a result.

In summary,

A strong and high performing team will be able to achieve excellent results and the RIGHT results even if their team leader is not around to manage them or watch over them. How are you setting the priorities and expectations of your team, so that they can still deliver regardless of your whereabouts?

[sc:Jon] [sc:PPP]
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