How do you prepare new managers to be effective leaders?
Many corporations have comprehensive training programs for new managers, but law firms have typically not offered specialized training for new staff managers or lawyers who transition from sole contributors to managers of staff, deal or matter teams. This is beginning to change, with more firms dedicating training and professional development resources for new managers.
New managers face a number of leadership challenges when they take responsibility for leading a team, including:
– Managing relationships on the team when transitioning from an individual contributor role to team leader role,
– Giving effective feedback on performance issues,
– Creating, sustaining and developing a high performing and resilient team,
– Dealing with cross-generational, geographic, culture and gender differences, and,
– Identifying ways to improve processes and leading change to find new and efficient ways to manage team work.
Ideas for New Manager Professional Development
Here are a few ideas to consider as you develop a new manager professional development program:
1. Self-Awareness: Leadership development begins with understanding yourself and how you interact with others, especially those who are different than you. Integrate a personality assessment like DiSC or Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) into your training and use the tool for communication training.
2. Specialized Communications Training: Such as giving and receiving feedback, managing difficult conversations, and dealing with conflict.
3. The Role of Leader and Manager: Be specific as to what the expectations are of leaders and managers of the firm. Show how the manager’s role supports the firm’s mission and vision, and how her/his actions contribute to the firm’s success.
4. Leading a High Performing Team: Team dynamics, delegation, accountability, building team enthusiasm and commitment, making decisions, project management skills, and measuring progress. Mindsets such as recognizing effort and accomplishments, developing an ownership mindset, and creating a learning culture.
5. Navigating The Law Firm Power Matrix: Training and discussion on issues of power, persuasion and influence work in a law firm environment. Practical tips and persuasion strategies that help managers get things done and avoid political pitfalls.
6. Collaboration: Understanding how to motivate and manage team members from different generations, backgrounds, experiences, cultures and time zones. Collaboration across firm groups and departments, as well as with clients and outside team members.
7. Innovation and Improvement: Tools for improving how we get things done, including process improvement, client service enhancement and design thinking. Consider holding a “hackathon” to encourage creative ideas on how to tackle a particularly wicked managerial problem.
8. Grit and Resiliency: Taking care of oneself and recognizing signs of stress in others. Developing team resiliency and adaptability. Creative problem solving.
9. Diversity and Inclusion from a Leader’s Perspective: Being a champion for D&I, “walking the talk”, mentorship and sponsorship. Implicit bias and how it presents itself in management decisions.
Training at this level, for these types of skills, should be as experiential as possible, integrating role playing, games with a purpose, simulations and reflection. Try to avoid “partner panels” and “this is how I did it 20 years ago” talking-head sessions. Give your new managers proven management and leadership models, processes, checklists and practical advice. By providing coaching to new managers, firms can increase the effectiveness of training and help new managers with specific and unique challenges.
Finally, make sure to provide time and activities for new managers to develop trusting friendships, and stronger working relationships that last beyond the workshop. Consider a group cooking class, city scavenger hunt or some other fun group activity during the training. Good luck!
Mark is President of Leadership for Lawyers, LLC, a consultancy focused on helping lawyers and other professionals become better leaders and business developers. He provides training, coaching and consultation to firms in the areas of leadership development, innovation, business development and marketing. His clients range from small, single office firms to global Amlaw 100 firms. He is a frequent speaker on the topic of leadership to law firms, professional associations and law firm networks.