The Role of the Managing Partner

Most managing partners that I have met describe their role as like herding cats.

You know the score: two lawyers can’t agree the time of day. And you magnify that up to include the plethora of issues, including the big one – PEP – and is it any wonder that poor old managing partner feels like s/he is dealing with a swarm of angry bees?

What do you think is the role of your firm’s managing partner? 

  • Leader?
  • Visionary?
  • Communicator?
  • Motivator?
  • Political strategist?
  • Tough negotiator?

I’ll give you my view:

CHIEF LISTENING OFFICER (CLO).

Or

LISTENER IN CHIEF (LIC).

And not the sort of listening you normally observe which, at best, skims the surface and never really understands the issue. No, someone who is so intensely focused on listening to You that it is scary.

Scary in what sense?

Scary in the sense that you know they deeply care about you and your needs. They are not constantly scoping the conversation to make their point, or talk in firm speak or make you feel (like a lot do) that you are inferior to them (or at least your ideas).

People skills, being human and wanting you to succeed should be the only selection criteria for managing partners.

The problem for a lot of managing partners is that they take on too much.  Their focus is ameliorated to such an extent that they never get time to address the fundamental people issue.

Of course most large firms will have a Human Resources department but my experience of such departments is that they are more focused on making sure the correct procedure is followed than listening to people. In fairness they don’t really have the power to make a difference – they know that any major decision will be deferred to one of the partners.

Without wanting to name any of the managing partners that I worked under, the one that stands out was the one who took time to stop by whenever he was in the office, put his head around the door and simply say “Hello Julian. How are you?”

There was no agenda. He seemed genuinely interested, and didn’t automatically jump the fence and ask “Are you busy?” As if I was going to confess to surfing the Net all day because I was bored out of my mind doing crap work!

No, this managing partner made me feel, dare I say, special.

Listening is a strategic skill.

It should be taught at every level from undergraduate to senior partner.

As a skill set it is matchless.

How many courses have you attended on it? I have been on loads where you are taught the art of speaking but not listening.

Isn’t it wonderful when you come across someone who intensely listens? Someone who focuses their attention on you.

As I mentioned in yesterday’s post the people we find most interesting are the people who are most interested in us.

Try it for yourself. Next time you meet with someone just listen.

Don’t do anything else.

Try not to focus on what you think they are about to say.

Don’t steer the conversation in any one way.

Let one question follow on from the next.

Be humble.

Be patient.

And don’t finish the conversation until the other person has finished what they have to say.

Summary

If you still want a managing partner then fine but how about changing the job specification to include CLO/LIC?

Slow down and listen.

Find out something new about your staff and remember it. Better still act on it, if there is something to act on.

It is the small detail (if you can call listening ‘small’) that can often make the biggest difference.

~ Julian Summerhayes ~

Related posts

Servant Leadership ~ The Key to Success

Too Much Management, Not Enough Leadership

The Challenge: Embrace *Radical* Change ~ NOW

Lawyers and Management (Nature vs. Nurture?)

Change, Urgency and Leadership

 

 

4 Responses to “The Role of the Managing Partner”

  1. Mark Deakin says:

    Hi Jools

    I like the article, interesting how and I include myself in this how many people don’t or just can’t listen during a simple conversation with the other person. Kids do it and nothing seems to change as we grow older! However when we are telling them off we want them to listen and give us their undivided attention. It is only the threat of punishment that they/people listen because it concerns them…….sounds familiar. People are more interested in listening to themselves or when it affects or touches their life.

    Image a course on listening…..what an unusual concept :-)

    • cheers Mark. It’s amazing how many people you come across in legal practice who look at you but you know they haven’t heard a word you have said. They have their own agenda. Nice to see you chip in.
      Ju.

  2. Mark Deakin says:

    Hi Jools

    I like the article, interesting how and I include myself in this how many people don’t or just can’t listen during a simple conversation with the other person. Kids do it and nothing seems to change as we grow older! However when we are telling them off we want them to listen and give us their undivided attention. It is only the threat of punishment that they/people listen because it concerns them…….sounds familiar. People are more interested in listening to themselves or when it affects or touches their life.

    Image a course on listening…..what an unusual concept :-)

    • cheers Mark. It’s amazing how many people you come across in legal practice who look at you but you know they haven’t heard a word you have said. They have their own agenda. Nice to see you chip in.
      Ju.

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