If you were to ask your colleagues in your firm for the name of a company which had attained success not only in the current time but had also successfully prepared its structure, employees and its leaders for building future leadership and growth, what company would they name? Did your firm make the top three list?
More than likely, they would name a large corporation that is a household name, but ask yourself, why didn’t they name our firm? Is our firm ready to grow and go successfully? Do we have a system and a plan for growing our future leaders in each of the key areas necessary to ensure the firm’s smooth succession for the future?
The truth is that most professional firms do have some type of succession plan in place, but more often than not, that plan is missing key elements in critical areas for a cohesive, functional and effective succession plan. As leaders and professionals, part of our job is to become comfortable being uncomfortable in order to prevent future failings and cause future growth for our firm.
The five critical areas where professional firms must have a strong foundation now and for the future of the firm are: Technical Skills, Client Relations & Business Development, Project Management, People Development and the glue that often binds it all together is the fifth, Communication. In how many of these areas does your firm excel? Do you see an area where you can identify a glaring weakness in your current operations? What exactly does each of these elements entail and how do we strengthen each area and cause synergy among the five?
Let’s define each of these 5 aspects involved in Building for the Future of your firm.
- Technical Skills: The ability to master a craft through specific technical and technological skills. Accounting firms apply their technical expertise differently than a law firm or an engineering firm. You now your industry and business best, and once you have core technical knowledge, how are using it to actually craft strategies for your clients to improve or customize the service or product they requested.
- Project Management: Do the leaders in your firm take the initiative to be responsive to clients’ needs? How are we establishing teams for projects? What is the Team Process? Do our teams stay focused in order to complee the project successfully? How do we train and prepare the project leaders and the team leaders? Do we take into consideration the impact of effective time management for Productivity and Performance? Do we consider how effective our team will be? And the question that many firms miss when it comes to managing projects, how does this project and its process connect with the overall process that our firm uses? Does it reflect the core values of our firm? Or does each project team “go rogue” in its attempts to successfully complete its mission?
- Client Relations & Business Development: Don’t be too quick to assume that your firm has this one under control. The fact that your firm is growing may or may not be directly a result of strong client relations and business development system. Here the key is responsiveness and the ability to meet client needs and to build relationships that exceed expectations. You may be saying yes, our firm is very strong in this area, but many fall short in the next part of this element, how effectively do you cross-‐sell and refer new business?
- People Development: Quite often leaders focus on developing their client relationships, but may overlook or miss completely developing the very people who work in the firm. Mentoring and developing the people around you while recruiting, identifying and motivating future leaders is a key element missing in many firms. This one component has the potential to make or break your company’s longevity in the marketplace. We all can think of a large, successful firm that trains their future competition by providing great technical training, but ignoring the element of developing these employees as your future leaders.
- Communication: In the end, communication is the glue that binds each of these areas together into a whole. If your firm is strong in other areas, but weak or ineffective when it comes to speaking, listening or writing. Think about an executive who cannot effectively communicate persuasively, or a leader who refuses to listen or seek out feedback. Communication is critical for conflict resolution and solving problems in a team dynamic. Communicating often is the catalyst in motivating your staff and teams to work better, cohesively and to feel that they are part of the team, not just working near it. Leaders who have an understanding of the power of communication and how it varies in the styles of its leaders are always more successful. Go back to the question about what company would you name as being strong in these areas and then ask yourself were they strong in communicating? Finally, communication involves digging deeper and knowing what motivates and drives each employee. Using key assessment tools that help you understand that many of your leaders may function differently than you will only give you insight that helps you develop your people for the long run.
Don’t Leave Out the “Triple Threat” from Your Strategic Plan
Your firm is on task. Your numbers look good and your team is managing client projects; the usual business cycle seems to be going well.
But, there is a sense that your team could do better. Within your success there is stagnation and your future leaders lack consistency or balance in selling key solutions and taking the initiative to bolster a relationship with clients beyond the transaction. While experts in their field, your key leaders are missing opportunities to solidify and cross-sell clients on beneficial services and solutions. They may even echo your concern and know that we “should” stay in touch with past clients, cross- sell services and products they need anyway and be more relational. But “I don’t have time to follow up or I’m not good at sales, or I tried and they didn’t want it” are all indicators you have a “People Problem.”
When you experience this type of feedback or notice client retention and returns are weak, it’s time to take a good look not at your team’s expertise, but their behavior. Experts in key professional services companies tend to prefer to do what they do well: accounting, architecture, financial services, etc. They may be uncomfortable or just unsure of how to build client loyalty. Regardless of the reason, you must solve the “People Problem” to ensure exponential growth in your business and in your leaders. Assessing behavioral styles and understanding what motivates your team is a critical component of developing your leaders. That development will directly make an impact on your business numbers. Knowing their leadership style and understanding their behavior will give you insight and therefore solutions on how to develop each team member to be the most effective and motivated. Knowing yourself and your team is the egg in the cake batter: it helps your team grow and go more effectively.
You know this. You’ve even had your team assessed and your team member was given their results. Most firms stop here. Unless an assessment can spotlight on key behaviors and what motivates them, identifying their “style” or “personality type” may be useless alone.
You need an assessment tool mix to reveal a 3-dimensional picture of your key people. When you go 3D or from shallow to deep, you then have the right “tools” to assist them in being the best leader/professional they can. Use tools to understand behavior, functionality and their motivators, then use their unique results to empower them.
Robinson Performance Group administers, interprets and trains client teams using three assessment tools. We call it the shallow to deep assessment package. One assessment tool does not a “rock star” professional make. Putting someone in sales because they scored high in a sales personality profile will be disastrous if one doesn’t understand what motivates them. Not all sales types are motivated just by the commission incentive. Unless you dive deeper and understand what drives that person, and fine tune your training and approach for that, you may never see the expected results from those key employees.
A strong assessment combination that I use includes: The DISC Profile – starting wide with behavior
The Rainmaker Efficiency Profile – which looks at seven competencies for an Effective Sales Profile
The Motivators Assessment – helps in recognizing situations where they will succeed by understating seven dimensions of motivational drivers.
By assessing the whole person, behavior, personality and motivation and then adjusting your approach in mentoring and developing your team, you will be addressing the “People Problem” in a customized manner which will provide your firm with the results you had planned more effectively, consistently and for the long-term.