The Changing Role of the Rainmaker

“Toss “lousy colleagues” [bad teammates] out on their derrieres (asses). We will not tolerate less than class-A supportiveness; we will toss out top “rainmakers” who do not subscribe to our teamwork ethic.”

Tom Peters

I wish I had the chutzpah of Tom Peters to lay this at your door, but, even with my sometimes ill-tempered rants, I don’t think I am ready (yet) to besmirch the whole of the rainmaker cadre. That said, they are a breed apart: aloof, arrogant, selfish, opinionated and high-and-mighty in their outlook.

As I have mentioned before, if you want to shield yourself from the internal trouble and strife, then you need to build bridges with the outside world. But not at the expense of everyone or anything. In other words, you are not looking for a leg up that puts you on a collision course with all those who are working their proverbial asses off to make sure you have the freedom to go ply your client-generation trade.

In my experience rainmakers feel that the firm owes them something. They tend to operate on the basis that you are lucky to have them. Without being too sweeping with my sentiment (broad brush or otherwise), you often feel that you being held to ransom.

Rainmakers have skills that others would die for but are often derided in public. It is a bit like the snake oil salesperson, it is easy to criticize them but in truth firms have come to rely upon them for not only bringing home the bacon but, in some cases, keeping the firm solvent.

The more enlightened firms have worked out that too few people wielding too much power is never a good thing, and without trying to wrestle the whole client relationship away from Mr/Mrs/Miss Wonderful, they have made a point of appointing a few point players who can pick up the slack and, more particularly, make sure that there are no secrets. Rainmakers tend to think that there is no such thing as a firm client. After all they brought the client with them or developed the relationship, and trying to extract any meaningful information about the lie of the land is next to impossible. Integration with the firm’s ethos and culture is extremely difficult.

Perhaps it is too whimsical to suggest a rainmakers Handbook but, as you can sense from this post, there are a number of perennial issues that need licking into shape, not least the fact that rainmakers need to get with the team programme.

Perhaps it is time to consider:

  1. A mandatory sharing of information;
  2. A mentor programme for all those who aspire to work within a chosen practice area;
  3. A no secrets policy;
  4. A creed that champions the firm client as opposed to the rainmakers “they are mine” mantra. If you ever hear a lawyer talk about a major organisation as their client, then ask them to explain their position;
  5. There needs to be inculcated a team ethic and not ‘them’ and ‘us’. The sporting field is the clearest example of where this works;
  6. The rainmaker should aspire to seeing the firm reach the heights of magnificence not some ego based trip that shouts “look at me”;
  7. And finally, if your rainmaker is unbending in their refusal to change then be prepared for a knock down fight to preserve the firm’s integrity. You cannot have one person holding you and everyone else to ransom.

At this stage you may think I have lost the plot: “As if [name] is going to listen to me. They will leave.”

My retort: so be it.

In the long run the only place for rainmakers is on their own. If, as is likely the case, they are so bloody demanding that they create chaos at every step of the way, then notwithstanding the £/$, you can do without them. Every great team manager will tell you that no one is indispensable.

Team – yes.

Me – No.

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