Those who are embarking on an exciting new business, owner or not, have an owner mentality. Chances are you will know someone like this who is passionate and exceptionally dedicated to what they do. They feel empowered and ready to take on any challenge. The first cohort of company employees can feel just as strong, demonstrating an almost palpable sense of purpose and commitment to company goals.
Could a practice group generate an ownership mindset? Some members of your practice group naturally think this way. But does each partner? After all, they already own it. So what’s the problem around the property?
While many associates feel a sense of belonging to their individual practice, this may not extend to the practice group or firm. This is why it is so important to create an environment in which the ownership mentality grows.
In Part 1, we discussed the talent war and how it underscores the importance of involving members of your practice group. Practice group meetings are a great way to both engage your members and promote a sense of belonging. In Part 2, we’ll talk more about the ownership mindset and how to create it in your practice group.
What is property?
What does the ownership mindset look like when you apply it to a practice group? It is above all a state of mind that generates energy and esprit de corps among the members of the group. They share closely aligned values and principles and they work for the common good. It’s that sense of sustainability and resilience with a secondary dose of aggression against your competition or anything that might threaten the group that reverberates from the top to the bottom of your organization.
That’s not all. The owners are not resigning. They are there for the duration. When you can generate that sense of ownership, it is almost impossible for a competitor to attract your lawyers and professionals.
Ownership is a difficult feeling to fake, and neither can it be delegated. If you want to create an ownership mindset in your practice group, start here.
Share common goals
Highly effective practice groups share common goals. These goals define direction and direction and are essential in creating a sense of belonging. Develop an annual or semi-annual group practice plan. There are no more than three goals in the plan that group members wholeheartedly support.
To create ownership, remember that the process of developing the plan is as important as the content of the plan itself. In addition to setting goals, the planning process consists of a market assessment of the competitive position and opportunities of the group.
I shared the best practices last summer, which you can read here.
Roles and responsibilities
Over the past 60 years, research on successful teams has shown that they: (1) have common and shared goals; and (2) have clear roles and responsibilities. When members of your group believe their talents and contributions are valued, it helps create a sense of belonging.
As a practice group leader, delegating meaningful roles to your colleagues is essential to keep them engaged. Otherwise, it is too easy for group members to come to meetings and participate passively while letting others do the heavy lifting. When they have a role with significant responsibility for critical results, they are more likely to do the things that make the group successful.
Building the right team
It is easier to hire professionals with an ownership mindset than to instill it in them. So when recruiting new talent, prioritize this trait. Those who are naturally inclined to make things their own will often pursue additional tasks for the good of the group. They proactively seek ways to contribute beyond the expectations of their lead role.
There is a caveat, however. As mentioned, the owners usually don’t leave. So when a lawyer leaves one firm for another, does that mean they don’t have the owner mentality? You may find that there are valid reasons why someone would not take possession of it. For example, they may not have adhered to the values of the company.
Be open to further displays of initiative and ownership and seek alignment of values with your own business.
We create an ownership mentality not by controlling it but by influencing it. To get the best result from your professionals on an assignment, explain what the project or group needs. Then ask:
- Are you clear on the results of this mission?
- What do you need to get this result?
- How can I help you?
When you invest in your colleagues, those who are more modest than you and your peers, you help foster loyalty which builds ownership. It is also essential to provide a safe environment for providing feedback and comments. Plus, the best leaders set goals and let knowledgeable professionals choose how best to achieve them.
Be a servant leader
In the best-selling book “Good to Great,” author Jim Collins explains what he calls Level 5 leadership. Level 5 leaders display a powerful blend of personal humility and indomitable willpower. This humility is frequently manifested in the behavior of servant leaders. While these leaders are ambitious and driven, their ambition is primarily focused on the needs of others rather than their own personal success.
When we value the abilities and expertise of the people we hire, we let go of the ego and reject notions of top-down control. Members of your practice group should believe that you are invested in their success and not just focused on making the group – and yourself – look good. This belief contributes to loyalty and an ownership mentality.
Intrapreneurs are the entrepreneurs within any business. They regularly come up with new ideas and approaches to doing things. When they are not allowed to create, they tend to lose interest.
Over the past decade, Big Law has lost countless talented lawyers who felt stifled by the inability to innovate. Therefore, some of the major legal and technology companies were founded by these people.
What are you doing in your practice group to retain such talented professionals, especially during the Great Resignation? You probably know that 3M and Google have made insane profits by encouraging side projects. You can allocate part of the hours per week, month or year for an interesting side project. You can also, for example, gamify a project the practice group is working on (more on this in a future blog).
There are other ways to create the ownership mindset, but these are some of the best. Start taking the necessary steps now and you will notice a measurable difference in the performance and attitude of your practice group.
The Practice Group Leader’s Handbook for Success, a bestseller and considered a classic by many PGLs who have read it over the years, includes some of the topics mentioned above. It will be updated next year, but much of the content is timeless and applies to every PGL that is new to its role or learning new approaches.