I’ll let you into a little secret of mine. I’ve always been slightly afraid of talking with people in a position of authority. I’ve never known what to say and always been blinded by their position (and worried about their influence) rather than seeing them as a normal human being.

I know I always put artificial barriers up, such as….

  • They wouldn’t want to talk with me
  • They wouldn’t have time to talk with me
  • They wouldn’t be interested in what I have to say

I’d also, in a slightly bizarre twist, be jealous of those people who did have the gumption to go and talk with powerful people in the firm.

So, why have I encouraged one of my clients to start up a conversation with the managing partner of the US arm of her law firm?

Having a strong personal brand and visibility is essential in a partnership to get the best assignments and attract the right opportunities. Too many of us, (myself included when I was employed), put up artificial barriers which prevents us from talking with or gaining a profile with the key decision makers in a partnership.

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It’s only when you start to think about the managing partner as a human being, who is probably very interested in what you have got to say, that you start to strip away many of your false assumptions.

As an ex-HR director of mine once said, “don’t put me on a pedestal”. Most managing partners want to be seen as approachable and will make the time to talk with a member of the firm who has had the balls to request an audience.

My client has an amazing vision and plan for a project. But, if this project has any hope of getting off the ground, she ultimately needs a profile and presence with the top brass in the US part of her firm. In my view, she is only going to get that profile efficiently, if she swallows her fears and is brave, and starts a dialogue with the managing partner.

Here are some thoughts on ‘safer’ ways to start a dialogue with the managing partner (or person in position of influence) How about:

  1. Asking a question in a road show or managing partner presentation to the firm
  2. Dropping them an e-mail when you know they are due to visit your site with a request to have a coffee with them, to talk about a subject you know to be near to their heart
  3. Replying personally to the all staff e-mails they send out
  4. Sending them an e-mail to congratulate them on a piece of firm success
  5. Make a point of saying hello and having a chat with the most senior person in your office
  6. Find a mentor who is happy to talk with your managing partner about why they need to speak to you…

Go on, be brave, the rewards of having friends in high places are massive…

What’s holding you back from building relationships with people in influential positions in your firm?  (If you would like some practical help to think about your career vision, how about downloading our FREE guide to writing your career action plan?)

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