A curse or a blessing: Grinders, Minders and Finders?

I have written previously about the stereotypical behaviour associated with Grinders, Minders and Finders (“GMF”). You may recall I expressed my DISDAIN for the self-limiting label associated with Grinders.

My thing: for each of us to challenge our behaviour: are we the most of anything (see the book Practically Radical by William Taylor).

I would like to see every firm worldwide have in place an EXCELLENCE programme so that in conscience to the people in their charge they could honestly say: “We helped each of them reach their full potential.”

I have been banging the drum this week about the need to work on your career, or, more particularly, your persona (BrandYou – even if you hate this label).

Too often lawyers think the way to get on is to be technically superior. But, in truth, the best lawyers are not the best technicians. In fact, technical wizardy is merely the entry point for client engagement – real success requires personality, kindness, thoughtfulness and trust. And more than anything else, a clear idea about where you see yourself heading in the next few years.

The problem is that most firms encourage their lawyers to focus their beam of excellence on a narrow compass. There is ‘form’ for doing well in a firm, and it is based on squeezing the (client) lemon dry. These rules are hard to escape: time recording, billable hours, bills delivered and meeting targets. This perspective eventually leads to a thin scope of expertise – and far too inhibited – and confined to the work being done.

The business of law is reduced to steps that fail to take the lawyer anywhere other to the next month’s billing, which is a replica of the month before. Is it in any wonder therefore that the preponderance of behaviour is crafted in the image of the previous partners?

What I am driving at is that those in charge cannot have it both ways. On the one hand, particularly in these challenging times, you cannot expect the people you have become dependent upon to bill to also break free and start business developing or even getting close to that. If nothing else you are scared to death that if they are not sat at their desk with a technician’s mindset that the firm will not meet its targets. This has to be set off against the potential that these individuals may be able to build more work for you with similar clients.

I wonder how many firms have thought about the possibility of there being a Tipping Point, which is closer in time than they might have conceived? Can it be measured in weeks as opposed to months (or years!)? Well, of course, much depends on the market, but the more you go out of your way to reinforce the label – at whichever end of the spectrum but most likely focused on Grinder – the less likely it is that you will see a change in your business model.

Ask yourself: when was the last time that every person was challenged to break out of their comfort zone? I mean cut the BS and close your ears to the usual “What if” excuses.

I am a fervent believed in the maxim:

“Whatever the mind of man can conceive he can achieve.” 

Napoleon Hill, Think and Grow Rich

Of course, you may not be brave enough to wave that sign or upset the sensitive, prima donna who is inclined to throw his/her toys out at the pram as soon as things don’t go their way, but the alternative is what….?

Hire in a lateral.

A Rainmaker?

I have seen this happen time after time. Yes, there are occasions where it works, but very often the ripples of discord tend to resonate for a lot longer than most firms would accept. If it isn’t the up and coming associate whose nose is booted out of kilter, it is the rest of the staff who just look at the expense in contrast to their parlous position.

I am not suggesting that you carry out some puerile and possibly discriminatory audit to indentify your GMF – you have, as likely, already assigned them to the appropriate cubicle – but you need to look yourself hard in the mirror and accept some of the blame for the fact that these individuals have ended up where they are.

No one is born anything.

If someone had told me that my fate was sealed depending on which side of the (thin) line I fell, then, in all honesty, I would never have joined the profession.

Whilst this post is posited for those with people responsibility, it has equal weight when it comes to those amongst the legions of lawyers who have given up. I don’t mean on doing the work, but rather on GROWING.

As Benjamin Barber, an eminent sociologist said:

“I don’t divide the world into the weak and the strong, or the successes and the failures …I divide the world into the learners and non-learners.

Too many people in the legal profession have given up learning.

It is, of course, a choice but I have rarely come across someone who was fulfilled emotionally or otherwise who was not looking for the next challenge: career progression, growing a team, winning new clients or helping others to succeed.

You may decide to adopt the factory worker mentality. You hamster wheel may be the safest place you know. But surely now, with all the changes afoot in the profession, is the time to stop complying with the system and persuade your inner voice that there is an opportunity available to you that will change your life for the better. Not by doing something that is predictable but challenges the status quo that you have built up.

Job growth needn’t be flat.

The ball is in play.

It’s your choice whether you are going to catch it and run with it or let it fall to the ground, losing you the one and only chance you have to make a difference.

One final point: the more you allow the GMF labels to be reinforced the more you will find that the firm is rooted to its history, never to break free – laterals or no laterals.

~ Julian Summerhayes ~