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Leaders Make It Look Easy

The greatest issue facing professional partnerships is individual accountability: doing what we say we will do. Steve advocates customized compensation plans, where the managing partner or compensation committee members negotiate with each partner before the start of the year. The approach is to determine what will be of value to the firm and what the partner’s expectations for compensation are, and how those two issues intersect. Some partners are better at bringing in the work, others at doing the work and others with management. The idea is to go beyond the standard questions of “How many hours will you bill?” and “How much new business will you bring in?” when you are setting compensation. According to Steve, progressive firms are moving in this direction.

Seems as though everybody is busy these days serving clients, managing employees, developing business. It’s interesting to see how different partners in different firms handle being busy.

I have noticed that some partners spend a lot of time talking about being busy, which is very time consuming in itself. Of course, they also have to do the work. This approach creates an environment where partners distance themselves from their colleagues, employees and maybe even their clients. They are either behind closed doors or scurrying down the hallway on their cell phones. These behaviors create the impression (or, sadly, the reality) of unavailability. Even if they would gladly stop what they are doing to answer a question or solve a problem, only a few brave souls would venture to knock on their door or interrupt a hallway phone conversation. I wonder if clients perceive the same sense of hurriedness.

The conclusion I have reached is that leaders make their jobs look easy. No matter how busy they are, no matter how packed their calendars may be, they always have time for clients and employees. Their doors are almost always open. When they are asked “Do you have a minute?”, the answer is generally yes. If the answer has to be no, it is followed by “Why not drop back by around 2:00?”, or something similar. They are no less busy than anyone else; in fact, they probably have more to do. But somehow they make time to fit it all in, and it’s all done without obvious effort.

It could be that leaders are in control of themselves. They exude a self-discipline the rest of us have yet to develop. They are graceful and gracious under pressure. They praise publicly. They criticize privately. They give the impression of being absolutely engaged in the moment, regardless of other demands. And for the most part, they seem to be able to enjoy a good laugh now and then.

Are leaders different from the rest of us? Sure. That’s why they are leaders. It is prudent business to study the characteristics of your up-and-coming partners to ascertain whether they are leaders or just plain old production partners who would enjoy the title.

© Melinda Guillemette 2009