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Is Your Law Firm One Bus Hit Away from Chaos? The Urgency of Succession Planning

By:  Natalie Loeb, Gordon Loeb & David B. Sarnoff, Esq.

Succession planning in the corporate world is vital to the survival of the entity beyond the involvement of its founders – does your firm have a plan for future leadership? For companies that sell products, proprietary programs and services, succession of leadership typically doesn’t affect the quality of the product or service.  However, law firms and other professional service companies can be greatly impacted by the death or departure of a highly skilled practitioner or rainmaker.   Many law firms are created by individuals who either have an expertise in a specific practice area and/or have established relationships that produce revenues to sustain the ongoing operation of the firm.  A significant challenge facing law firms of all sizes, is how to establish a stable business model that can survive and withstand changes in key personnel.

First, let’s start with the definition of “succession planning:”

“Identification and development of potential successors for key positions in an organization, through a systematic evaluation process and training. Unlike replacement planning (which grades an individual solely on the basis of his or her past performance) succession planning is largely predictive in judging an individual for a position he or she might never have been in.”[1] 

The goal of any succession plan should be to elevate the most qualified individuals who can maintain and improve the firm’s production, culture and leadership.  Succession planning is not an easy undertaking and requires strong leadership, a supportive culture, humility, objectivity and the absence of outsized egos.  Given the fact that many law firms are controlled by the individuals who produce the most revenue, or their closely associated allies, succession planning can present difficult challenges to initiating the planning process.

According to David Robert, a leading Organizational Development Professional who has substantial experience working with law firms, “Effective succession planning is guided by three factors: (1) What role(s) are you focusing on, (2) how will you objectively evaluate successor readiness, and (3) how will you engage and develop your successors prior to their transition into the new role?”  In addressing the first question, the management of a law firm must identify the leadership positions of the firm that need to be staffed and sustained in order to successfully run the business of the firm.  Succession planning does not only apply to the attorney side of the firm, it also applies to business services positions such as the firm’s COO and CHRO.

“Successor readiness,” is a key element to planning for the future.  To properly evaluate an individual’s practical legal skills, leadership abilities and assess intangibles such as emotional intelligence (“EI”) requires an objective eye.  Often, rivalries, firm politics and a toxic culture can derail the succession planning process.  In many cases, firms will engage external consultants such as OD professionals and executive coaches to assist with the design and implementation of the planning process. These professionals are generally certified in personality, leadership and values assessments, to assist in designing and outlining the necessary training to prepare future leadership.

Once you have the right pieces in place to enact a plan, it is critical to have a fair process established to encourage participation from firm stakeholders.  As the succession planning team identifies possible successors, they must agree on how to approach that individual about being considered for a leadership role and whether that person is interested in being considered for this future role.  Assuming they are, the planning team should explain the purpose of the succession plan, what the firm’s process would be and the time frame in which it will be carried out.  There should be complete transparency about the process so that there are no misunderstandings or unintended surprises during the process.  This is not an easy undertaking, especially when multiple people are being considered for the position.  Obviously, personal feelings, professional relationships, egos and competition impact the process.

It is likely that a law firm management team that initiates a succession planning program has a supportive firm culture.  However, a crucial question that David Robert raises is, “How does a firm’s culture influence the likelihood of a successful succession planning process?”  He continues, “for succession planning to ignite engagement and motivation across a firm, the process must be transparent, fair and objective. As soon as a partner bypasses the formal process and goes all in to advocate for a sacred cow, the process immediately loses credibility and could adversely impact engagement.”

Many law firms have stood the test of time and have existed and thrived for decades.  However, there are law firms, including several that were once ranked in the AmLaw 200 that no longer exist because of significant lateral departures, planned retirements or turmoil that ultimately brought an end to the firm.

There are many factors that can contribute to the demise of a law firm.  However, with a transparent, authentic and thoughtful succession planning process, a firm can harness significant buy-in from its stakeholders and rally support for the leaders that are selected to assume a higher-level role at an agreed upon time.  The process also allows for the individuals up for consideration to receive high caliber coaching, training and development to be equipped for the challenge.  The succession planning process positions new leaders to establish themselves and works to ensure the survival and vitality of the firm.

 

INFORMATION ON THE AUTHORS:

NATALIE LOEB is the Founder of Loeb Leadership

Development Group and an Executive Coach.

She can be contacted at natalie@loebleadership.com,

866-987-4111, or www.loebleadership.com.

 

GORDON LOEB is the COO of Loeb Leadership Development

Group and an Executive Coach.

He can be contacted at gordon@loebleadership.com,

866-987-4111, or www.loebleadership.com.

 

DAVID B. SARNOFF, ESQ., is the Principal of Sarnoff Group

LLC, an Executive Coach and a consultant to Loeb

Leadership Development Group.

He can be contacted at david@sarnoffgroup.com,

646-665-4899 or www.sarnoffgroup.com, and

dsarnoff@loebleadership.com, 866-987-4111, or

www.loebleadership.com.

 

[1] Business Dictionary, www.businessdictionary.com

Recognizing the Symptoms of Burnout

As a leader, one of the most important things you can do for your team is provide them with a work environment where burnout is taken seriously—and where appropriate, preemptive measures are in place to avoid it.

A good starting point is to simply recognize the signs of burnout. Burnout is not just a feeling of overwhelming stress; that’s just the new norm. Burnout is something more pervasive and longer lasting.

Do You Know the Signs of Burnout?

It manifests in different ways for different people—but there are a few signs and symptoms of burnout that are fairly common.

  1. Exhaustion. Again, it’s important to make a distinction: Everyone experiences fatigue at some time during their work week. It is when you observe continued physical, mental, or emotional exhaustion, that there may be a sign of burnout.
  2. Lack of motivation. The employee who’s struggling with burnout probably won’t have much pep in their step; they may have a hard time summoning the enthusiasm to do anything more than the bare minimum. When employees are simply coasting through their work, it’s often burnout-related.
  3. Irritability.Burnout makes every little problem or inconvenience seem more frustrating. Those with irritability can be categorized as bitter or intolerant and may sometimes have a short fuse – they may even snap at the people around them.
  4. Cognitive problems. Burnout saps mental ability and can manifest as a slip in work performance—poor quality, missed deadlines, or more frequent mistakes are clear signs there is an issue.
  5. Unhealthy coping methods. Those who are dealing with burnout may try to self-medicate, which can look like smoking, drinking, eating too much junk food, or staying up late watching TV or playing games instead of getting sufficient rest.
  6. Preoccupation. Finally, an insidious form of burnout is being preoccupied with work—even when you’re not at work. Employees who descend into a “workaholic” mindset, neglecting work-life balance, may have burnout to blame for it.

Avoid Burnout. It Starts with Awareness

Typically, burnout isn’t something that affects just one employee. It’s usually cultural and systemic—so if you have one employee exhibiting these signs, it’s worth gauging whether others might be struggling in similar ways.

Be ready to recognize what burnout looks like—and if you have employees who struggle with it, help them seek the assistance they need. Consider evaluating your workplace culture, as burnout can be associated with organizational dysfunction!

There are many effective methods to alleviate the symptoms of burnout and provide a productive work culture. Reach out to Loeb Leadership Development Group to learn more.

How to Make Your Meetings More Effective

The phrase “necessary evil” is overused, but for many of us, there is no better way to describe workplace meetings. Although intended to produce results, poorly structured or misguided meetings can be ineffective and a waste of precious time.

With “Collaboration” at the top of mind at many firms, it is more important than ever to structure meetings and provide the ground rules to be more productive. Effective meetings can produce results and positive takeaways, encouraging further collaboration amongst team members.

How to Keep Your Meetings Productive

Your allocation of time and resources may vary, depending on the size and nature of your team, but some general guidelines are as follows:

  1. Clarify who’s directing the meeting. It’s always best to have one person who is leading the meeting and who can clarify for the rest of the group what the focus of the meeting is. Be clear from the outset who’s directing, and what he or she hopes to achieve.
  2. Set clear start and end times. When the meeting is first scheduled, always be clear about when it starts and when it ends and stick with it! If there is still unfinished business at the meeting’s end, either schedule a follow-up or encourage participants to work things out privately.
  3. Distribute materials in advance. You don’t want to waste valuable meeting time reviewing data together, so instead distribute stats and reports in advance—allowing participants to get up to speed and arrive at the meeting ready for discussion.
  4. Leave devices outside. This one is tough to implement, and at some companies may be impossible—but if you can encourage participants to leave their phones and tablets in their offices, you can maximize mindful engagement and get rid of needless distractions.
  5. Stick to the meeting agenda. Have a written structure to your meeting—a list of topics and decisions that need to be addressed —and stick with them. If talks drift into unrelated matters, the meeting leader’s job is to refocus the group.
  6. Abide by the two-minute rule. A good way to ensure everyone has their say: Allow each participant to have a full two minutes to share their thoughts—without anyone else jumping in with interruptions.
  7. Review action items. At the end of the meeting, clarify the next steps meeting participants need to take—including the action plan for all decisions made together as a group.

Meetings, if not structured effectively, can be wasteful—but by applying these strategies, you are more likely to have a productive meeting.

Learn more about the best ways of running efficient, effective meetings by reaching out to the executive coaching team at Loeb Leadership Development Group.

Develop the Right Morning Routines

Being productive means making every minute count. One of the best ways you can do that is to start each morning right, laying the foundation for energy, focus, and savvy time management all day long.

That’s why many of the most productive leaders have morning routines in place—structures and rituals that allow them to get things accomplished before other people even get out of bed!

There’s no one “right” routine, but there are some basic guidelines and suggestions you can consider.

Formulating Your Morning Routine

Manage your creative energy. One of the first things you should do is take a self-inventory: When are you most energized? When are you most focused and creative? If you tend to be more creative in the morning (as many of us are), be intentional about blocking off that time on your schedule, using it to get creative work done. Schedule meetings, phone calls, and administrative tasks for later in the day, when that creative energy starts to wane.

Prepare for the next day. Another important step is to take the last 10 minutes of each work day to prepare for the next morning. Draft a to-do list, and lay out any papers or materials you’ll need. Be ready to hit the ground running as soon as you get into work.

Give yourself a break from email. This one is hard to do, but it’s worth it. Emails (and social media messages) can drain your energy, overwhelm you, or simply distract you—so put them off for a few hours until you get some work done. Turn off your notifications. Save email until noon if at all possible.

Take care of your body and mind. Always leave room in the morning for the basics of good health—eating a nutritious breakfast and taking a few minutes for physical activity. Yes, this may mean waking up a little earlier, or getting to work a little later—but it will pay off in the form of energy throughout the day, allowing you to get a lot more accomplished.

Be positive. Another thing to consider is spending a few minutes each morning on something that brings you joy—allowing you to start the day with a positive outlook. This can yield more patience, more focus, and heightened problem-solving abilities. Consider just a few minutes each morning meditating, doing yoga, reading a good book, or listening to music that you like—whatever gets you into your “happy place.”

Good Mornings Yield Good Days

Of course, not every morning is going to go smoothly. Things happen, and fires need to be put out. But it’s worth having a basic routine in place so that you know what a productive morning looks like, and can aim for it whenever possible. Ultimately, building these disciplines can help you get a lot more done, all day long.

Another way to get more accomplished? Work with an executive coach. We’d love to consult with you and help you reach your professional goals more efficiently. Contact Loeb Leadership Development Group to learn more.

Advancing Your Career for Attorneys

It is important to distinguish yourself among colleagues in your firm, especially for attorneys seeking to advance their careers.  Given the competitive nature of the industry, building networks and collaborating is part of the recipe to advance within your organization, but is there more?

As the legal industry continues to transform at a rapid rate, now more than ever, attorneys need to stretch themselves to advance in their career. Here are a few suggestions to help establish your path to success.

Make Plans

First and foremost, it is important to have a master plan. Create a timeline for career benchmarks and set realistic timelines to monitor your progress. Your plan may include:

  • Short-term goals (one to two years)
  • Medium-term goals (three to five years)
  • Long-term goals (10+ years)

Some short-term goals may include establishing relationships with at least three to five senior associates or partners within your firm. Reach outside your firm by participating in industry networking opportunities.  Take initiative to learn new skills and programs; asking questions is a good thing. Small steps of engagement can provide the confidence and familiarity to build the required skills for higher level assignments.

Medium-term goals can include client development and networking, building leadership skills by mentoring a junior associate, or take initiative and discuss with the partners opportunities to engage in higher level work within your practice area.

When designing your long-term goals, the seminal question that needs to be asked is what is the path to partnership, and is that a path I want to travel? It is not uncommon during the course of your career to consider lateral opportunities, in house positions or alternative career paths within your firm.

Planning your career requires ongoing monitoring of your progress and reevaluating your goals. It is not meant to be a blueprint you create and set aside. You can and should revise it as needed, consulting it frequently but tweaking it as your interests change. It is not meant to be prescriptive, rather it should provide you with some basic sense of purpose.

Get a Mentor

Having a mentor who can guide you along your career path is an invaluable relationship. Someone who has been through similar challenges, and who has experienced the highs and lows of practicing law can provide relevant career advice.

It’s important to find someone who can help you develop your legal skills, and help you navigate political and institutional hurdles. It may take some effort in identifying the ideal mentor, but don’t settle for someone who may not be the right fit. A good mentor can provide good insight and perspective on the internal dynamics within a firm and can anticipate potential blind spots.

Seek Opportunities

Ultimately, promotions aren’t going to be given to you; they must be earned. That may require volunteering for additional responsibilities and seeking leadership opportunities within and outside your firm.

Meet People

The way to stand out and brand yourself is by meeting people. Get to know the individuals in your office. Take them up on invitations to socialize during non-working hours. Sign up for professional conferences and networking events, and become involved in local legal organizations—often, that’s the best way to build out your professional network.

Hire a Coach

Coaching is a great way to raise your self-awareness, focus on emotional intelligence, prioritize goals and challenges, and elevate your leadership skills. With the guidance of an executive coach, you can develop your interpersonal strengths to complement your already established intellectual expertise.  At Loeb Leadership Development Group, our coaching services are designed for attorneys and legal industry professionals who are ready to be the best they can be. Let’s talk today about your goals; reach out to Loeb now!

 

Handling Coworkers Who Don’t Pull Their Weight

In a perfect workplace, every team member is equally committed to collaborating, achieving shared goals, and moving the company forward. But how many firms attain that level of excellence? Does the perfect workplace exist?

In many work environments, there are individuals who don’t pull their weight, lack knowledge of processes and/or procedures, or who are just not as industrious as the rest of the team. This can cause tension, especially among those who are dedicated and feel like they are going above and beyond. The question is, how can you positively engage with those coworkers who aren’t pulling their weight, and encourage them to be more productive?

What Not to Do

Before we get to our recommendations, let’s focus on the things you shouldn’t do.

First, don’t vent your frustrations to other coworkers. While it’s only natural to want to express how you feel to someone who understands your predicament, venting to colleagues is simply not productive. It may lead to further anger or frustration, may create a divide amongst your team, and may peg you as the office gossiper.

Second, don’t go directly to your boss without trying to work the matter out with your co-worker or team. Most bosses prefer that you are part of the solution, and try to work things out on your own whenever possible. Skipping this step, and jumping straight to “tattling,” can be counterproductive, as it may make you seem unable to work through a difficult matter.

Third, don’t feel like you always have to pick up the slack. Doing someone else’s job for them doesn’t help your co-worker, may foster further anger and resentment, and may alienate you from your colleagues. Assuming additional responsibilities may negatively impact your ability to do your job.

Positive Ways to Help Your Coworker

When a coworker isn’t pulling their weight, there may be a good reason. Addressing this head on, and in a positive manner, can be the most effective way to understand your coworkers perspective.

First, gently mention to your co-worker that they seem distracted. Being a “friend” can create a bond with your coworker, and can provide the opportunity for healthy conversation.

Second, ask if there is any assistance they need with processes or procedures. It could be that their training was not as robust, and that their unfamiliarity of the firm’s resources are holding them back.  Sometimes “jumpstarting” your coworker’s productivity can have a positive impact on performance and acknowledgement that they weren’t reaching their potential.

Third, be forthright with your coworker. Share you goals and ask what theirs are.  Perhaps the lack of productivity stems from gaps or blind spots that they need to be coached through.

When engaging your coworker, it’s best to keep track of all your interactions. Make a note of any offers to help them, but also how they reacted. If their lack of engagement or production persists, there may come a time when you do need to refer the matter to your manager, or to HR.  Maintaining thorough documentation can provide a baseline of fact as you seek a possible solution.

The truth is that it’s always frustrating to have a coworker who doesn’t put in their fair share—and yet it’s vital to address the matter without losing your cool. Hopefully, these simple, pragmatic steps can provide you a positive way to handle the issue.

To learn more about how to work well even with challenging colleagues, reach out to us at Loeb Leadership Development.

 

Managing Up (And Earning Your Boss’s Trust)

Does your direct supervisor really trust you? If not, that could be a hindrance to your career momentum. It’s vital for your boss to trust you so that you can receive more responsibilities and be involved in higher-level decision-making. But how do you actually earn that trust? The answer lies in a process called managing up.

Managing up is all about learning how to work more effectively with your boss—ensuring two-way respect and mutual trust. It’s a valuable professional skill, and one you can develop by focusing on some of the following strategies.

Best Practices for Managing Up

Have a clear sense of mission. Rather than bringing in your own agenda, talk with your boss about his or her big-picture goals. Remember that your boss is ultimately looking for you to support that mission, and frankly to make him or her look good. That starts with understanding the goals and objectives.

Don’t let your boss be blindsided. Unhappy customers? A client who’s considering severing their relationship with you? Those are unwelcome developments, but the last thing you want is for your boss to be caught off guard by them. Take the initiative to break bad news to your boss.

Know how your boss prefers to communicate. Does your boss do better with face-to-face? Does he or she really hate taking phone calls? Is texting your boss’s favorite way to interact, or is it email? Know how your boss prefers to engage and do your best to be accommodating.

Determine how your manager likes to receive information. Along the same lines, figure out the manner in which your boss prefers to receive information—with a lot of lead-up? With supporting data and reports? Just the facts? Adapt your reporting style accordingly.

Keep up with your to-do list. The last thing your boss wants to do is have to assign you work. Keep up with your own list of tasks and add to it as needed. Show your boss that you can be trusted to stay on top of the work load.

Know your strengths. Managing up is about knowing your boss, but it’s also about knowing yourself. Be aware of your greatest strengths and seek opportunities to volunteer them. In particular, look for opportunities to remove time-consuming tasks from your boss’s plate, taking them on yourself.

Ultimately, managing up can facilitate a more positive and productive relationship between you and your direct supervisor—and, it can open the doors to career advancement.

As such, it’s a skillset worth developing—and we’d love to coach you through it. To learn more about working with an executive coach, reach out to the Loeb Leadership Development team at your next convenience.

Get More Out of Executive Coaching

Working with an executive coach can help you identify and achieve key professional goals—whether that means cultivating certain skills, building your confidence, clarifying your management style, or climbing the corporate ladder.

But while an executive coach can be an invaluable guide, the coaching process is ultimately a two-way street. Passive participants can’t expect to get much out of the process; on the contrary, you’ll get out of it as much as you’re willing to put in.

How, then, can you invest in the coaching process and ensure you’re reaping its benefits? Here are a few ways you can prepare for a fruitful executive coaching experience.

Investing in Executive Coaching

Establish trust. In any new relationship, it’s important to get to know one another, and to establish a baseline of trust. Sit down with your coach and share some of your goals and your drivers; your likes and your dislikes; where you’d like to be in five or 10 years; and what you ultimately hope to get out of the coaching process. Candor is key for building trust between you and your coach, so simply take time to talk with each other in an authentic way.

Embrace routine. Executive coaching doesn’t work very well when it happens irregularly or infrequently. Be ready to commit to regular sessions with your coach. You can work out the ideal schedule together, but once you do, stick with it; make coaching a non-negotiable within your weekly and monthly routine.

Be open. You hired a coach to provide you with feedback and with perspectives you may not have considered—so be prepared to accept some constructive criticism and to engage with some ideas that might be new or even a little uncomfortable to you. Open-mindedness is invaluable to the coaching process.

Be goal- and action-oriented. With your coach, lay out some achievable goals that you can work toward. This will lend some structure to your coaching sessions. Also, make sure each session ends with an action item or two. Reiterate those action steps to your coach, ensuring you’re both on the same page.

Do the homework. Your coach might give you some things to work on between sessions. Follow through with this and show up at the next meet-up ready to discuss your experience. This isn’t busy work! It’s something your coach thinks is important for you to progress toward your goals.

Coaching Involves Give and Take

To conclude, simply note that executive coaching is not a prescription. It’s not something you do unthinkingly. It’s a process you engage with, and that can involve some give and take with your coach. That makes it doubly critical to find a coach you feel really comfortable with.

We’d love to talk with you more about the executive coaching services we offer through Loeb Leadership Development, and to walk you through the best ways for you to truly engage with our coaches and our processes. To talk about executive coaching with us, reach out to Loeb Leadership Development today.

Getting the Most Out of a Mentorship Program

Starting a formal mentorship program can be a real boon to your employee engagement. Among other benefits, it shows your team members that you have a serious investment in their professional development; you’re eager for them to grow in skill and in confidence.

Yet not every workplace mentorship program achieves this end. As you design a formal mentoring structure, it’s important to do so thoughtfully and strategically. Here are some ways to do that.

Tips for Designing an Effective Mentorship Program

Look at the big picture. What are you actually trying to achieve through your mentorship program? And, what metrics will you use to evaluate your success? If you don’t answer these questions from the outset, it can be hard to maintain enthusiasm for your mentorship program—or to see it as a success. Some good, bottom-line business goals you might pursue: Increase employee engagement numbers; improve retention; or see an uptick in women and people of color advancing into leadership roles.

Focus on relationships. You’ll need positive mentor/mentee matches for your program to get results; that’s because having a trust-based relationship is central to the mentoring process. So how will you determine these matches? There are different schools of thought here, including self-matching (employees choose these relationships) and administrative matching (a manager or HR leader picks the groupings). There is no one right answer. It’s simply about picking the model that best fits your business. For instance, if your employees show a real interest in the program but want mentors who align with certain career goals, you’ll likely want to give them a say in the matching.

Provide training. Your mentors will need direction—some practical tools they can use to ensure they’re imparting value and knowledge. And, mentees will benefit from training, too, ensuring they know how to get the most out of the process. Make training one of the bedrocks of your mentorship program.

Market it. You can’t assume that people will line up for your mentorship program just because it’s there. You’ve got to pitch it to them. Market the program internally, clarifying what the program is and what you hope to achieve through it. Really play up the benefits of being a mentor or a mentee.  Additionally, the mentorship program can be used as a recruiting tool to attract high caliber candidates.

Set Yourself Up for Successful Mentoring

There’s a lot to think about—but taking a strategic approach can ultimately be rewarding. And it’s not something you have to do alone; at Loeb Leadership Development Group, we’re advocates for mentorship programs, and would love to talk with you more about your program’s design needs. Reach out to us today to set up a consultation.

An Executive’s Dilemma: The Challenge of Supporting A Work/Life Balance While Holding Employees Accountable

by Gordon Loeb, Natalie Loeb, & David B. Sarnoff, Esq.

Anyone who has recently engaged in hiring has found out that it is a fairly tight labor market and quality candidates are in short supply.  While a focus on recruiting is important, equally so is to retain and inspire current employees.  This has proven more challenging than many executives, law firm partners, and managers expect.  What seems to be a constant theme of discussion in management circles is, how do we provide a culture where work/life balance is encouraged while still holding employees accountable for performance, meeting deadlines, and fulfilling responsibilities?  Due to the sensitivities around this topic, the interviewees preferred that they and their companies not be identified.

A senior-level executive at a media company states, “Work/life balance has to be part of the organization’s culture and that is set from the top down.”  This executive continues, “It’s about managing the whole person for success, not just the ‘work’ person.”  He says many employees are derailed when experiencing personal matters such as marital issues, substance abuse, depression, or an illness with a family member.  Executives and managers should show empathy for employees who are experiencing tough times.  This also sends a message to other employees that they matter, and the firm has their best interests at heart.

In the media world, there is constant pressure and deadlines and it can be a high stress environment.  This executive tells his colleagues and employees, “Take all your vacation time and don’t leave any on the table.  You need time to recharge your batteries.”  He is not saying that employees shouldn’t work hard.  However, he does believe that “managers need to take time and learn about their employees and what they need.  Leadership and managing is complicated and hard.  The easiest thing is to tell an employee ‘no’.”  However, each employee is different, and managers need to engage employees and find out about the “whole” employee; this helps establish culture and leadership.

With respect to “accountability,” the media executive states, “Executives and managers must establish a clear expectation concerning accountability.”  Is this a firm where you are expected to respond to emails on weekends?  Are employees allowed to leave for their child’s school play?  Are managers approachable when employees need to discuss personal matters that are affecting performance?  Are executives and partners willing to coach employees for career development or make accommodations that will make employees more productive?  This executive sums up that “millennials have made it clear that work/life balance is a priority for them and they want a full life.  It should not be a tough issue, but it is for many companies.”  Executives and partners will learn that disgruntled employees are not productive, and it is costly and disrupting to lose and replace high performers and high potentials.

Another CEO in a consumer goods company has a different problem.  “To be honest, a big part of the conversation revolves around the problem that some employees work too much instead of not enough.  This is a particular problem with people who work from home.  They often work way more than 40 hours and seem to never be far from work and never really leave it, so burnout is an issue.”  He continued, “I used to worry about remote workers goofing off all day but that has seldom been a real problem. Once in a while, but not much. I have more problems with my office staff texting and checking Facebook or doing online shopping.”

He adds, “Culture plays a big role. For us, the culture starts with how we try to foster a supportive atmosphere where it’s okay to make mistakes.”  He sums up by noting, “At the end of the day we have to balance the company’s needs to stay afloat and achieve our goals and objectives.  I have found that in general it is better to trust people and deal with the occasional abuser than to tighten the screws on everyone and have an uptight culture.  Most people are good and want to do the right thing.  The few bad apples end up self-selecting out of the system.”

Professional service companies such as law firms and accounting firms provide for other work/life issues.  As one law firm partner relayed, “When you bill by the hour, profitability depends on meeting and/or exceeding targeted billing requirements.  However, sometimes it feels as if you are only as good as your last monthly revenue generation.”  Law firm partners face many challenges in providing for work/life balance because of the nature of the profession.  At times, litigation can require significant time demands in engaging in motion practice, depositions, discovery, and preparing for trial.  Likewise, transactional practices require significant due diligence, document review, extensive negotiations, and document drafting.  Law firm partners seem to be confronting, more and more, a generational disconnect with associates that impacts a balance in work/life culture, policies, and how they are communicated and modeled to employees.  We hear from many partners that when they were associates, they “worked grueling hours on a regular basis and that was just an accepted part of the job description.”  One law firm partner stated, “I am still waiting to find a junior ‘me’ as an associate, someone dedicated, hardworking, and does what is required.”

The question that needs to be asked is: What is work/life balance? Is it leaders who model this culture for associates and staff to see?  For instance, leaving the office at a reasonable hour, not emailing late at night, and taking vacation days?  Conversely, is it leaving at a reasonable hour for whatever reason, but working late at night and on weekends to get the work done on time?  This is the challenge that companies face.  What culture does your organization support?  And how does it reinforce this culture?

Law firm associates, in many cases, have voiced concern over working excessive hours and spending time on routine or mundane assignments.  Associates want challenging and stimulating assignments, mentoring, and skills development to advance their career potential.  Additionally, they want their hours kept in a reasonable range.  Some law firms have raised compensation to attract and retain top talent.  However, increasing compensation alone doesn’t always lower attrition.  Research shows that when compensation is tied to other measures, there is a likelihood of greater job satisfaction.

Specifically, these measures can include the following: 1) Providing stimulating work; 2) Recognizing employees for work done well; 3) Nurturing a culture so that employees believe they are part of something bigger than themselves; and 4) Leaders should explore the goals and aspirations of employees and support the attainment of those goals. Research and studies, including work by B.F. Skinner, bolster the notion that money alone will not inspire and motivate employees in the long term. However, a positive and meaningful culture, paired with professional and personal development will have greater impact.

A company’s work/life balance should be firmly ingrained in the organization’s culture.  Culture is established and reinforced by executives and this behavior should be modeled by managers and group leaders.  Just remember, leadership and managing employees is hard work, if it is done right.

 

INFORMATION ON THE AUTHORS:

 

NATALIE LOEB is the Founder of Loeb Leadership

Development Group and an Executive Coach.

She can be contacted at natalie@loebleadership.com,

866-987-4111, or www.loebleadership.com.

 

GORDON LOEB is the COO of Loeb Leadership Development

Group and an Executive Coach.

He can be contacted at gordon@loebleadership.com,

866-987-4111, or www.loebleadership.com.

 

DAVID B. SARNOFF, ESQ., is the Principal of Sarnoff Group

LLC, an Executive Coach and a consultant to Loeb

Leadership Development Group.

He can be contacted at david@sarnoffgroup.com,

646-665-4899 or www.sarnoffgroup.com, and

dsarnoff@loebleadership.com, 866-987-4111, or

www.loebleadership.com.