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Why are you ignoring your single biggest asset ~ your PEOPLE?

Yes … yes … yes … I know you have heard it a gazillion and +1 times before, but the issue just won’t go away.

At my core, as manager, leader or just a person, I always wanted for those who I had responsibility for to achieve their very best. To serve in other words.

For fear of making this a (long) diatribe, let me make my point swiftly:

Law firms (and business in general – those that I have worked for or been exposed to) treat their people as a resource at best and expendable at worst. They do nothing or the de minimus to develop every single one of them to reach their full potential either as ‘workers’ or human beings. It has to be the single biggest tragedy that so much talent, passion, desire, skill, intellect, brilliance, love and emotion goes untapped, unfilled or ignored.

For me this is serious, serious stuff.

Sounds over the top [damn right] but how many of us can honestly say that we give all of ourselves to our work [when working for someone else]?

The truth is that very few of us go to work and feel that every ounce of us has been asked for and given and, in the process, the pact that has been created delivers an equal bargain.

The sense now, whether it is legal practice of otherwise, is that it is just take, take, take without enough or in some cases any regard to giving back.

I would like to see a charter, new employment contract or Challenge that requires every employer (and particularly partnerships – oh how they don’t get It), to swear an Oath to their staff that each and every one of them will achieve their full potential in every respect. As I have said ad nauseum “to be the most of anything” (see William Taylor’s excellent book Radically Thrilling).

Can you imagine that?

You get an employment contract and right next door is this beautiful document with the words:

“We Swear by the Oath of Excellence [or whatever your credo is] to ensure without fail that we will do our utmost to ensure you reach your full potential as an employee of XYZ firm”.

OK, I know the pigs have just started their engines for a quick fly past, but wouldn’t it be amazing if firms asked a few simple questions at the start of your employment and kept coming back to them to make sure that everyone was on track:

  1. How can the firm help you achieve your potential?
  2. What do you think you will have to do differently, and with our help and support, to achieve that?
  3. What is your biggest strength?
  4. How can we utilise that for the benefit of others?
  5. [Later on in the role] Are you happy?

If firms not only started listening to the answers but ACTING on the response then I am 100% sure that they would see their businesses change. Not overnight perhaps but in time the business would start to feel more humanising and people would not only want to give of their best but they would also want to support everyone else to do so.

At a more basic level you could cut through all this if PEOPLE JUST CARED MORE. Old school values have never gone out of fashion for me and that doesn’t mean not being hugely profitable or going soft on Why you are in business. But if everyone just took the time to understand what was really going on with their staff then things would be so different.

Now we are all human, have annoyingly frustrating personalities and are prone to spells of melancholy but that is no reason to give up on people.

Human Resources (HR) and me never really saw things through the same lens. It wasn’t that I didn’t see the need for them but I viewed them as trying to shepherd people down an ever smaller tunnel of compliance and conformity, whereas I saw their role in a much broader context.

Here’s a challenge to everyone in HR: go and spend 10 minutes every day talking to one person about them and their family. Don’t read a file just wing it.

There I said it … now I feel better.

No, but in all seriousness, the appraisal is not the place to start asking those daft questions like “How’s the family?”

If firms really want to head off the looming challenges of the market then start with your biggest, most precious (and prized) resource: YOUR PEOPLE. Whoever is in charge start practising M.B.W.A. [Managing by Wandering About] NOW. You shouldn’t need to appoint any one person with a fancy title. Just be human.

The aim of all this cajoling?

Getting the best out of your people so that you and your business reaches its full potential. Oh and you may just find along the way that you learn something that you have been missing all along. If you have happy, fulfilled and motivated people then you are very likely to have happy, fulfilled and contented clients.

People success = Firm Success = Profit.

Now there’s a rule of three that may just stick.

~ JS ~