Maximising potential in professional services firms is about being great at something not good at everything.
The brilliant thing about working with a wide variety of clients and with people from all ‘levels’ of professional services firms is the opportunity to discover the different challenges, cultures, working styles, ambitions and personalities of firms and their people.
A very common theme that comes out of Partner pathway, Leadership and Management development programmes is the sense that ‘good’ performance means that individuals need to be good at everything. This doesn’t just relate to the key aspects of the modern fee earners roles and responsibilities – ‘to progress I need you to be doing excellent client work, and bringing in business, and building a wide network, and building your profile, and being technically strong…..oh and being a people leader’.
We are talking more about being ‘good’ with all the core skills and behaviours required in the role. To be able to perform well across all of the stages of work and task delivery from goal setting, through idea creation, planning, risk evaluation, implementation and execution and completion.
And this is possible of course. We have worked with countless lawyers, accountants and other professionals who are ‘independently’ capable of picking something up and delivering on it. And on this basis, most firms will create job descriptions and look to recruit groups of these people who can deliver ‘independently’.
Yet we believe there is a far better way of utilising people to achieve better individual and collective performance.
Let’s take a step back. We often talk about the strengths / weaknesses paradox. Imagine a coin and replace heads and tails with strengths and weaknesses. If an individual has a natural strength, then the flip side will be a directly opposite weakness. Take someone who is naturally decisive, who has that great ability to make quick and proactive decisions. I would imagine that the individual has received a lot of ‘developmental’ feedback aimed at addressing the flip side of this strength – in order to be ‘better’ in role.
‘You need to be more patient and make sure you spend more time weighing up the options’
Or someone who has a natural ability for innovative thinking and idea generation is likely to be ‘encouraged’ to be more practical and rational as this would mean improved performance.
This makes sense of course. We want people to be able to manage well in their roles and to be capable of delivering quality. But, if people focus on addressing these natural ‘weaknesses’, as a consequence they will dilute the natural strength on the other side of the coin. The individual who now consciously slows down and weighs up the options will obviously no longer be as decisive.
By striving to encourage people to be effective ‘independent’ all-rounders then we are creating a workforce of at best ‘good’, but often ‘average’ performers. Because…
‘trying to be good at everything means we are not great at anything’
We often hear about the importance of playing to peoples’ strengths, but much of the time we are doing the exact opposite.
We believe there is a far better approach; quite simply…
Taking the last point, the simplest way to manage ‘weak’ areas is to create opportunities for people to work with polar opposites. If someone is great at the big picture, then find a detail focused person to work closely with them. This is what we term ‘interdependence’ which is the basis of building effective teams. Whilst ‘independent’ working can create silo’s and selfish behaviours, ‘interdependent’ working encourages collaboration and knowledge share. And it will help you to fulfil your business potential.
If you would like to discuss how your firm could take steps to maximise its potential, please contact Kate on 01892 610060 to arrange a free meeting with one of our consultants.
theGrogroup is a specialist consultancy that helps Professional Services Firms win in a competitive marketplace. Our bespoke solutions are designed to align people with an effective strategy. This ensures key areas such as business development, client advisory, commerciality, leadership and practice succession effectively support business goals in an environment where people are empowered to drive results and create a winning firm.