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The Boomer Bulletin - 2013
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Improve Communication In Your Firm

Posted By Sandra Wiley, Tuesday, March 12, 2013

As we survey firm team members and ask them what leaders could do to improve culture and engagement in their firm, the overwhelming #1 response we hear is "we need better communication”.  The response I get from leaders is "we have been working on that every year, will it ever be good enough?”  My answer is "No, you will be working on this for as long as you are building relationships and growing your firm”.  So, what are some ideas for improving communication in your firm and continue building on past initiatives:

Develop An On-Line Bulletin Board

In the old days we had a central bulletin board where we posted important information and since everyone worked on site, they developed the habit to look at the board to insure they were catching up on all the news.  Today, we need that same kind of space and place to put information, but with remote work spaces and flex hours the bulletin board of the past is not effective.  An on-line intranet is a great solution today.  New habits will be formed for both the people posting items and also for the team members who need to remember to look at it on a consistent basis.   

Develop A Firm Blog

Innovative firm leaders are developing blogs where they are providing information to their team, making announcements about changes, sharing good news and even news from the profession.  They are learning that while having a team meeting is optimal, the blog will help keep communication flowing between the face to face meetings, and as we know, you can’t over communicate.  

Use Your Words and Watch Body Language

Nothing is more uplifting than face to face word exchange, better known as talking.  Talking with your staff daily about their projects, their clients, their fellow team members and new initiatives is better than anything else you can do to communicate effectively.  The one caution is to watch your body language.  If you are trying to fake the fact that you are interested in the person they will see it by the way you are standing, slumping, looking at your watch,  or looking at your computer screen.  When you give them your time, give them your total attention.

Listen and Don’t Judge 

When you enter into a conversation with your team member, the one thing that is most important is to allow them to talk to you and share their thoughts.  Insure that you listen with intention and don’t place any judgment on what they are thinking.  You are there to listen, to clarify and to hold a conversation.  Nothing will build a trusting relationship more than to really listening.   

Practice Being Open and Honest 

Human nature and life experiences can lead us to be closed in our communication. While we are not openly dishonest, we don’t let go of much information until we have too.  I encourage firm leaders to practice being open and honest in their communication with the team.  Share the overall firm goals.  Share the vision for the future.  Share the challenges the firm is facing.  Share the expectations you have for the team.  You get the picture, so start sharing! 

Insure Awesome Meetings 

If we did a survey on what people are frustrated with in the firm, the answer would be meetings that drone on forever with no apparent purpose.  As a leader in your firm, insure that you are holding meetings that have a purpose, a specific time beginning and ending, an agenda, a leader/facilitator, a note taker and action items.

Know Your Audience and Put Them First 

As you consider the person you will be meeting with, think about how they will receive information best.  Do they like details, do they prefer a process or agenda, do they like bottom lines and quick pieces of information?  Know your audience and deliver the message in the way that they will best receive it!    

Open Your Door – Really 

We hear the cry that firms have an open door policy by their leadership group and then when we talk to the rest of the firm they roll their eyes and tell us that while their door is physically open, that does not mean that the leader is available.  It is impossible to have an open door with availability all of the time, but a great way to develop a true open door policy is to put times on your calendar that you are free for communication with the team.    

Practice Performance Coaching

Performance coaching is more than a once a year conversation about the number of hours that someone has billed.  It is an ongoing conversation with individuals that report to you about their professional skills.  Conversations should include technical skills, core skills and technology skills.  Performance coaching should focus on developing the staff member and helping them to be the best that they can possibly be.

Go through the list.  Find areas that you and your firm can improve and then commit to making 2013 the best communication year ever in your firm!

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