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The five cardinal sins of leaders in professional firms
17th August 2017 by
Fiona Hotston Moore
" ....this is how we have always done it"
I have lost count of how many times I have heard this said in professional firms of all sizes. Professional firms often work on an apprenticeship basis where experienced professionals recruit and hire trainees who will work their way up the greasy ladder. Inevitably, the future of these trainees is largely in the hands of the old timers who have been in the firm "man and boy". Sadly, this culture tends to discourage new ideas and innovation; even experienced and proven hires from outside will struggle to promote change without critical mass. Firms who hire externally should encourage those recruited to critically review the processes of the firm and then make sure they listen to their views.
"...why change? We are doing okay?"
It’s all too easy when profits are okay for leaders to stay in their comfort zone rather than address the apparently small issues that hold the firm back from greatness. The comfort zone is probably the greatest barrier to success for all professional firms. Unfortunately, for todays professional firms, "doing okay" can quickly slide into poor performance which then leads to the drift of the best professionals which in itself accelerates the slide in performance.
"...first things first, we need a committee..."
Committees kill innovation. Successful entrepreneurial firms are able to make small changes quickly, give professionals sufficient autonomy to try new things, share ideas and celebrate success.
"...its just the way he is" or " but he is our best business winner" or "he is a maverick" or 'he is just driven"
Unfortunately partnerships can be like marriage and all too often poor behaviour by employees or even partners has been tolerated by the leaders of the firm for many years. In such cases it is very hard to summon up the enthusiasm to tackle the behaviour even when it is raised in staff surveys, exit interviews etc. Unfortunately inaction, or the perception of inaction, is tantamount to condoning unacceptable behaviour and will impact the performance of a team and the retention and recruitment of future stars. I have myself been told that the behaviour of an individual is tolerated because of the danger of losing their financial contribution to the firm and yet, if they were to leave, you often find that quite the opposite is true.
"they are too good for us and we won't be able to retain them"
Too often professional firms recruit for competence rather than excellence. The aspirations of those recruiting staff are set low. There is a dearth of talent in the professional sector today and firms should be willing to create opportunities for strong candidates who will drive innovation and demonstrate commitment to client lead services.
Fiona Hotston Moore
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