Tag Archives: The Happy Lawyer

Employee Recognition: Let us give thanks

you-are-more-than-awesome-you-re-amazing

Employee Recognition is only just beginning to, um, get the recognition it deserves.

It is particularly important for law firms as research on lawyer’s personality profiles (including MBTI research and brain imaging data and studies by Carol Gilligan) all show that lawyers are great at critical analysis but less so at the touchy-feely stuff, or in fact any of the feeling stuff. In plain English, it is far easier for a lawyer colleague or boss to point out the 3 things a junior did wrong than it i for them to pay a tribute to something someone did right. Because lawyers are trained and paid to criticize and see flaws and ways of improving things.  And because this way of viewing the world the default setting, most lawyers are not even aware of this.

It would also be helpful for lawyers to understand the 3 basic types of Employee recognition that I have just read about in some fascinating research entitled:  Employee Recognition: a Lynchpin Value for Cultural Transformation by Judith Mills and Joan Shafer. Here they are:

PAST Accomplishments i.e.: work done goals achieved contributions

PRESENT Acknowledgement of the importance of particular talents, current contributions or character

FUTURE Promise of potential: promotions, positions, projects

Which type do you think would be the hardest for lawyers? Yip, the middle one: Acknowledging WHO someone really is, their character does not come naturally to lawyers – it’s far too right brain.  Law firms tend to recognise employees more often than not, on accomplishment – while sometimes what people most need is recognition of who they are and what they bring to the workplace aside from the obvious accomplishments of winning a case or bringing in a new client.

A firm called Sullivan & Cromwell held a training session in 2006 for its partners on associate appreciation. This presentation encouraged partners to give associates feedback, to say “thank you” and “good job” and to return associates’ calls as quickly as you would a partner’s or clients’. The firm also arranged periodic associate lunches with the chairman of the firm and implemented a 360 degree review process – to give associates feedback from subordinates and peers as well as supervisors. In 2007 the firm’s attrition rate dropped from 30 plus percent to 22 percent. (The Happy Lawyer p.195)

Still not convinced?

Here’s another interesting piece of research mentioned by Mills and Shafer:

Employee Recognition affects the bottom line. In their book “The Carrot Principle”, Gostick and Elton demonstrate this. In response to the question ‘My organisation recognises excellence’, the results show that organisations that scored in the lower fourth quartile had an average return on equity (ROE) of 2.4%, whereas those that scored in the top fourth had an average ROE of 8.7%. In other words, companies that most effectively recognise excellence enjoy a return that is more than triple the return of those that are least effective.”

How people are lead and managed is important. People who report the highest morale at work, 94.4% agree that their managers are effective at recognition. In contrast, 56% of employees who report low morale give their manager a failing grade on recognition and only 2.4% of people who have low morale say they have a boss who is great at recognition.

Two final pieces of advice that I’ve gleaned from Mills & Shafer

The people delivering the recognition need to:

Match what and how they deliver recognition to what is meaningful to the employee. To do this they need to strengthen their powers of observation, feedback systems and articulation skills.

And importantly:

When acknowledgement is needed, it has a more powerful punch if it is delivered by someone high up in the organisation.

For recognition to be effective, the recipient needs to:

  • Trust that the recognition is true.
  • Respect the source of the recognition.
  • Believe that there is no hidden motive behind the appreciation.

People are not aware of all the gifts they have to offer. It is a transformative act to tell people how they have affected others’ lives. This not only increases their self-awareness, but empowers them to express themselves more freely to others. It reduces the fear belief of ‘Am I good enough’? Do not assume that other people know how effective, good or talented they are.

CVA data (CULTURAL VALUE ASSESSMENTS) are a powerful tool for gathering data on the issue of employee recognition.

An analysis of 106 CVA’s show that it is not just lower level employees that want to be recognised but people at all levels “including the CEO, senior leadership, middle management, and staff. People at the top have just as strong a need to be appreciated as staff, possibly because it can be lonely at the top. This is evidenced by the response senior leaders demonstrate during Leadership Values Assessment (LVA) debriefs where their strengths and contributions are acknowledged by their colleagues. They are almost always touched and surprised by how highly regarded they are and the extent and richness of their strengths. This feedback from others enhances their confidence and belief about themselves in all they have to offer.”

Mills & Shafer have also developed a great model showing 7 levels of Employee Recognition, that aligns with the 7 Levels of Organisational Consciousness.

I am SO excited to be taking this cutting edge work being done in corporates around the world, and bringing it to my niche market of South African law firms. The Barrett Cultural Transformation Tools mentioned here – the CVA and LVA – are such brilliantly simple yet powerful ways to deepen an organisation’s understanding of dynamics which have a huge effect on the firm, but aren’t readily visible.

I am finalising the LEARNS product: (Lawyer Engagement & Recognition Nexus Survey) designed specifically to assist law firms in understanding the nexus, or connection between:

  • Employee recognition patterns
  • Employee engagement patterns
  • Attrition rates
  • Firm profitablity

It is early days but the Centre for Integrative Law gets closer every day to its vision To be South Africa’s leading  consultancy for emergent thinking in integrative ways to practise and teach law.

Click here for more details.

Advertisements

I wanna be like you hoo hoo…I wanna walk like you

Baloo and Mowgli

 

“Oh, oobee doo

I wanna be like you

I wanna walk like you

Talk like you, too

You’ll see it’s true”  From the Jungle Book: I wanna Be Like You

But is it true? 

“One of the largest national studies on associate attrition found that the availability or lack of mentoring and feedback frequently affected associates’ decision to stay with their firm or to leave”.  (US Study – NALP Foundation for Research and Education. Keeping the Keepers: Strategies for Associate Retention in a time of Attrition, 1998)

The buzzword in many South African law firms right now is “mentoring programme”. These programmes are being introduced to combat a number of issues facing law firms in today’s climate:

  • High attorney turn-over rates
  • Lack of collegial atmosphere – (workplace cultures focused solely on profit and pleasing clients don’t build staff relationships)
  • Young attorneys ill-equipped to withstand the pressures of the legal profession as their university training focused on academic training only

Firms are realising that “Associate happiness is also likely to be increased if you encourage development of each lawyer’s specific strengths and skill sets”. (from The Happy Lawyer, Nancy Levit and Douglas O Linder). But many of the firms are not entirely sure how to do this and are placing the success or failure of such programmes at the door of already over-burdened HR managers.

If you are implementing or designing a mentoring programme in a law firm right now, here are 5 things to bear in mind,  based on global research.

  1. Most lawyers don’t naturally make good mentors. Mentoring is a different skill to lawyering. The first example: lawyers don’t like to listen! They are trained to give advice! The very opposite is required in a mentor who needs to listen and help the mentee find their own solution.  It’s likely that most young associates if given the choice will choose the same partner or group of partners as mentors.  However, mentoring skills can be taught, to an extent, if mentors are willing to put in the time necessary to learn them and are incentivised to do so.*
  2.  Forward thinking firms are including in their compensation plans “an upward evaluation of partners by associates in categories of supervision availability, respect for associate work-load…openness to questions,…career guidance”. In other words, partners who are good mentors and managers are rewarded.
  3. Most young attorneys have not been encouraged to consider their vision for their careers or to assess what areas of law best match their personality, values and skills. If they’re academically strong, they end up in large firms by default, based on a fairly swift hiring process before they’ve graduated. The complex process of helping someone with personal discovery and insights, learning what one’s values are and being familiar with one’s strengths, is not really part of the senior attorney’s job description.  Bring in professionals.
  4. Low levels of trust can be an issue: for example, will a senior partner be willing to hold an honest conversation with a junior about the downsides of her job, if the conversation might get back to her superiors and affect her own career trajectory?
  5. Generational differences: “Lawyers from Generation X (born between 1965 and 1979) and Generation Y (born between 1980 to 2000) often work in law firms where the senior partners are Baby Boomers (born between 1946-1964) – The Happy Lawyer.  These are not arbitrary distinctions but crucial to understanding each other. Some examples:  Boomers want the corner office, Gen X’ers see freedom as the ultimate reward, while Gen Y’ers seek work that is meaningful to them. Gen X’ers want to work smarter rather than harder and they tend to like flexibility. Gen Y’ers want to be judged on their productivity and the quality of their work, not their seniority. 

The best mentoring programme is one that recognises the limitations of its attorneys as mentors, and supplements associate training with professional coaching.

A professional coach can design a far-reaching programme that can be transformational for both the mentors and mentees. In the next few posts I will lay out some of what a Professionally Designed Law Firm Mentorship Programme might contain.