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
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
Listen and Don’t
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
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
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
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 –
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.
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!