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Post #757 – Monday, July 11, 2016
Involving Law Firm Leaders In
Selecting Their Successors
I had a partner, on the
executive committee of an AmLaw 200 law firm, pose the following question to
“Our managing partner has
confirmed that he will be stepping down at the conclusion of his current term.
He is now recommending to us on the executive committee that it would be
expedient for him to select his successor. He informs us that that is a common
and expected practice within the business community (e.g. Jack Welch at GE) and
there are a number of large AmLaw firms (Jones Day,
for example) where this is the accepted leadership succession practice. From
your work with managing partners, what is your experience?”
My response? Read this article
Post #756 – Monday, July 11,
Developing and Retaining
I am delighted to be a
contributing author to a new Book entitled: Recruiting and Retaining Lawyers : Innovative
Strategies to Attract, Develop and Retain Legal Talent published by Global
Law and Business.
competition for talent that leading experts started to describe in the 1990s
has now become a reality in the legal profession. Like most industries across
the globe, the legal industry is facing a shortage of exceptional people.
Although in some jurisdictions there are more lawyers than the market can
absorb, the reality is that the number of lawyers with the right skills is
limited and that organizations are fighting to attract and retain the best
professionals in a legal market that has become globalized and where mobility
is now the norm.
practical handbook, coordinated by Rebecca Normand-Hochman on behalf of the International Bar Association (IBA),
explores the opportunities and challenges for adopting effective recruitment,
development and retention strategies. Featuring chapters by leading experts in
the field, I am honored to have contributed a chapter on the subject of “When Leaders Need To Confront
may expect this text to be released in September.
For more information - http://www.globelawandbusiness.com/RRL
You may also participate in a Webinar
on Addressing Performance Issues in Law Firms scheduled for Wednesday, July
For more information – Click here
Post #755 - Tuesday, June 7,
Is The Slump In Legal Demand
Here To Stay?
Last month in a survey of US
law firms, the majority of partners reported that there were now too many
lawyers, too little work, and that the slump is here to stay.
As if to endorse that view, the newest list of Fortune 500
companies was published this week (http://fortune.com/fortune500/?xid=nl_powersheet). America’s 500 largest companies by revenue,
took in about a half-trillion dollars LESS revenue in 2015 than they did in
2014. Profits were LESS by about $100
billion, even though the U.S. and global economies were bigger. The Fortune 500’s profit margin has averaged
5.7% over the past 20 years, and many see no reason to expect higher margins –
and if anything, maintaining margins may grow even more challenging.
Ironically, even though the 2016 Fortune 500 are smaller and
less profitable, they are employing about a million more people. A welcome sign of job growth? It is a question not easily answered, as it is
not known where those people are.
Companies report employment worldwide, so the net additions could be
anywhere. Meanwhile, the Fortune 500’s
revenue per employee was $430,000, the lowest since 2011.
A useful reminder of how company fortunes wax and wane energy
companies were the No. 1 contributor to the Fortune 500’s profits just four
years ago, but now they’re in last place, after reporting combined losses of
$44 billion. By contrast, financial
companies were near the bottom in 2009, but this year they are No. 1, and three
of the four most profitable companies in the 500 are financial firms – J.P.
Morgan Chase, Berkshire Hathaway, and Wells Fargo. But even the demand for many of their
services are under extreme threat – from the growth of FinTech to the shrinking
Statistics seem to indicate that we can add publicly traded
companies to the endangered species list.
The number of publicly traded companies is shrinking down to about 5300
at present, from about 8800 in the late 1990s.
This drop isn’t a blip explained by a recent economic downturn. It is an entrenched, structural trend that
has seen the number of listed companies shrink at a fairly steady rate of about
1.6% per year. A reason frequently
mentioned for the decline in public companies is the rise in litigation risks
and the cost and hassle of regulatory compliance.
This incredibly shrinking equity market has massive implications
for entrepreneurs, as well as for investment bankers, accountants, and . . .
Rant #754 – Wednesday, May 3,
The 2016 Spring-Summer Issue of
International Review Is Now Available
REVIEW is my 24-page glossy, printed magazine distributed to over 1600 law firm
chairs and managing partners throughout North America.
trust that this latest issue of my International Review magazine
will contribute to your personal productivity and leadership efforts.
We start with seven
prescriptive ingredients for Bringing
Your Strategy Process Back To Life given
the challenges of a flat or declining demand for legal services.
I was delighted to have
joined David Morley,
Senior Partner, Allen & Overy LLP; David J. Parnell, ABA Author, Speaker, and
Forbes and American Lawyer Media Columnist; and Maurice A. Watson, Chairman, Husch Blackwell
LLP in conducting a Webinar a few months ago.
Strategies For Overcoming
Obstacles To Change is a transcript of some of my comments in response to
the questions posed.
Disruption In Transitioning A New Law Firm Leader is intended
to provide some guidance toward understanding how your firm can be disrupted
during the transition from an outgoing leader to a new one; while Analyzing
A Leadership Candidate’s Strengths is an excerpt from my latest work:
The Changing Of The Guard: Selecting Your Next Firm Leader, and suggests how
the selection of any leader can benefit from utilizing psychometric testing.
final selection, The Distorted View That Some May Offer, is a rather unusual
article in that it was penned by a managing partner who took issue with how
some consultants can be less than truthful in their representations to
potential clients . . . firms like yours.
Knowing the author I thought the article worthy of reprinting.
As always, I sincerely hope
that you find some practical ideas, tips and techniques here that you can put
to use immediately. Please send me your
observations, critiques, comments and suggestions with respect to any of these
Click HERE to download your complimentary PDF copy of the magazine.
Post #753 – Sunday, May 1, 2016
Don’t Forget Your
There is an interesting phenomenon that I’ve noticed about where leaders
tend to direct their one-on-one coaching efforts.
Leaders often spend an inordinate amount of time focusing on the bottom
20% of their professionals, those I have crassly come to label your ‘energy
vampires.’ These are the members of your
team who seem to exhibit a consistent propensity to demand continual attention. These are also the colleagues who may never
prove to be able or willing to meet firm standards or ever accomplish what you
know they are capable of producing.
How do you detect an energy vampire? Posing that question to a group of leaders we
developed the following list. An energy
vampire is some professional who . . .
- blames others or uncontrollable circumstances for their
unacceptable performance or behavior;
- rarely executes on those promises made to the group;
- is usually defensive and never accepts personal
- is constantly disruptive, uncommunicative or disrespectful of
- is combative and creates conflict and tension within the team;
- may ask for yours and others’ opinions but regularly rejects
those views when given; and
- acts as though he or she were a victim.
Meanwhile, these same leaders will devote minimal coaching time or attention
to their best performers – that 20% at the top end who are contributing the
most to your group or your firm’s success.
Why does this pattern occur?
Your star performers appear, most often, to be self-sufficient so there
is this sense that you should just leave them well enough alone and let them
get things done. However you are missing
a couple of opportunities to contribute significant added-value to your
One, while you may assume that your stars are self-sufficient, we all
encounter frustrations and hurdles in our day to day work and efforts to
complete important projects. The degree
to which you can inquire, acknowledge and remove some of those frustrations can
make for a huge contribution.
Second, you may be failing to recognize that these diligent colleagues
welcome your deliberate feedback and appreciate being recognized. Time spent staying in contact with your stars
and helping them serve as a role model to others can serve to amplify their
performance and practices throughout your group.
Post #752 – Sunday, April 17, 2016
A Series of
As an honorary member with Leaders Excellence (leadersexcellence.com)
I am pleased to have been chosen as a presenter in their Live Webinar
can participate in our live video chat webinar leadership series which take
place in April, August, and December every year. After each live webinar session, a follow-up
reflection session will take place on the following day. After you have completed three sessions
(webinar + reflection), you will receive a certificate of completion issued by
Leaders Excellence at Harvard Square.
this time we have scheduled five leadership webinars:
Eight Insights to Help You Lead Like it Matters … Because it does!
Roxana Bahar Hewertson, President
& CEO at Highland Consulting Group and Former Adjunct Faculty Member at
Presentation Styles & Extemporaneous Delivery
Barbara Mink, Sr. Lecturer in
Management Communication at Cornell University
How Great Leaders Turn Rejection into Opportunity
Brett Berhoff, Founder at 17LXB and
Top Contributor at Harvard Business Review
How To Get Your Group Firing On All Cylinders
Patrick McKenna, Principal at
McKenna Associates and Internationally Recognized Author
The Development of Leadership Capability in Modern Organizations
David Lewin, Professor Emeritus of
UCLA Anderson School of Management at University of California, Los Angeles
If you are interested, kindly shoot me a note for dates and
Post #751 – Friday, April 1, 2016
Is Your Leadership
Style Emotionally Attractive?
Once in a while, I note a catchy phrase that
resonates and makes me reflect on my own experiences. For me, "Emotional Wake" is one such
phrase. In the book, Fierce Conversations, "emotional wake" is
defined as ". . . what you remember after I'm gone (perhaps when I’ve left
the room). What you feel. The aftermath, the aftertaste, the
We all know people who seem to be in a
constant state of grumpiness and irritability. As a leader, especially under stressful
circumstances, you may make an off-handed, somewhat negative comment, perhaps
unintentional, but capable of devastating someone who works with you. You may not even be cognizant of the impact
that your words have had. You quickly
forget the incident, but as is all too often the case, the recipient can recall
your precise words, verbatim. And long
after he or she has left your presence, they will still remember the negative
psychological experience that was created.
The converse is the ability to create
positive psychological experiences, or positive feelings; to bring out the best
in others, to inspire them, and to have them feel engaged. Think back of some
leader who consistently made you feel good about yourself, a leader who
inspired you to do your best work, a leader who motivated you to go the extra
mile . . . every day. Chances are, that
leader was an individual who left you with an emotional afterglow, not an
Effective leaders know that their emotions,
both negative and positive – are contagious. They know that what they say and
do can affect the people on their team and within the entire firm, for better
or for worse. So for example, how much
energy do you give off? In most instances your colleagues want to be around a
leader who emits a high level of energy. Energy is the intensity with which you
approach every idea, project and individual that you come into contact with. Every single thing you and I do has energy –
so it will either be vibrant or muted.
Take a moment to reflect on your leadership
style. Are you emotionally attractive?
Do you drive others' emotions in your
firm in the right direction? Are people
eager to give you their discretionary effort?
The answer to these questions can have a
profound impact on the quality of your working relationships and, ultimately,
on your group’s productivity and results.
Post #750 – March 21, 2016
An Innovative Approach To Innovation?
The other day I received
this message by way of email:
“Good day Patrick; I am
getting in touch on behalf of AI Magazine (Acquisition International - www.acquisition-intl.com)
to advise you that, following months of research
by our in-house awards team, Patrick McKenna has been named one of the Most
Innovative Accountancy Firms of 2016 - Canada.”
Now I’ll bet you didn’t know
I was an accounting firm, did you? And
neither did I! But do note that the
author of this communiqué articulates quite clearly “named one of” so there are probably many more innovators being
That said, the publication
representative goes on to assure me that:
“Here at AI we have
spent recent months assessing some of the most competitive, cutting-edge and
inventive accountancy firms from across the globe to establish those most
deserving of one of our prestigious awards.
Only 1 firm from Canada will be featured, ensuring that you stand out
from the crowd for services to clients.”
WOW! Am I impressed. So what do I do now? My new-found Fan Club Chairman has some
You are welcome to
announce this news publicly, however if you would like this news to reach our
108,500+ subscribers and our 40,000+ per month website visitors, we offer the
following packages for your consideration.
And what are these packages? Well, for £300 I get a “simple listing” within the
publication, plus a trophy and a logo for use in my marketing; or for £800 I
can upgrade my simple listing to a full-page in the magazine; or for £1400 I
can get a double-page spread and a front cover headline.
NOW THAT IS INNOVATIVE.
With all of this, one should
not miss the small print at the bottom of this awards announcement:
email and any attachments to it may be confidential and are intended solely for
the use of the individual to whom it is addressed. Any views or opinions expressed are solely
those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of AI Global Media
Now could this by but one
example of why so many of the “PAY-TO-PLAY” type listings, certificates,
credentials, and awards are (and should be) highly suspect by clear thinking
Post #749 – March 1, 2016
Where Do You Spend Your Leadership Time?
I have often asked of leaders a couple of questions that usually
serves to illuminate precisely where they spend their time. The first question
I ask is: “What proportion of your time is spent solving problems versus
what proportion is spent on exploring new opportunities?” After what can
often be a rather awkward reflection period, the answer I will usually elicit
is about 80% on solving problems and 20% on exploring opportunities.
From knowing and spending time with many of them, I suspect that
it is really more like 95% on problems and 5% on opportunities, but let’s
analyze what this division of time infers. This means that as a leader, you are
spending 80% of your time and energy looking backwards and fixing things, while
only 20% looking forward and creating things. Firms operating in this mode may
be constrained in attempting to take the lead in their competitive marketplace.
So why does this happen? Well, it should be obvious that most
professionals are veteran problem solvers. We are trained to resolve the
issues, put out the fires, correct the underperformance, and generally “fix”
the problem. There is a powerful gravitational pull that unconsciously moves us
toward fixing things instead of innovating, toward restoring instead of
increasing, and toward reacting rather than being proactive.
The truth is, we secretly love the urgency of problems to be
addressed. The urgent makes us feel valued. We get an adrenalin rush from
urgent matters. With problems to be fixed we can be the hero that saves the
day. Some of us are even pros at waiting until the last minute to do something.
If we’re honest we feel more secure when we are busy doing something, even if
it isn’t the most important. That urgent little problem can sometimes actually
become a convenient excuse to ignore or put off the important. But we need to
focus our energies on where we will have the greatest impact.
We need to understand that fixing things, while however noble,
simply restores the prior performance or condition; which is comfortable, but
limits value. However, if your focus is on improving the condition, on
inspiring entrepreneurial endeavors, on being innovative; then your intent is
not on restoring the status quo, but on developing a level of performance that
exceeds any previous standards.
Now there is another question, a follow-up inquiry I tend to
pose which goes like this: “Of the time you spend on exploring
opportunities, (remember it was reported to be 20% of the total) how
much of that time is directed toward pursuing billable production, winning the
next big transaction or responding to a competitor, (the present) versus
pursuing the development of entirely new skills, new technologies, or new niche
services (the future)?
Again, if I were generous in reporting what I have learned, the
average firm leader spends about 60% of their time exploring present
opportunities and 40% on future opportunities. This, albeit unscientific
research does drive a point worth scrutiny: What kind of a future is likely to
be created by someone spending only about 8% of his or her total
leadership/management time and energy focused on the future?
Post #748 – Monday, February
Effective Leadership Requires Critical Reflection
from some meetings I’ve had these past weeks, I think every leader should
consider taking time to reflect on how their leadership actions are viewed by
the 17th century French dramatist, once said: It is not only what we do, but
also what we do not do, for which we are accountable. Is there anything that you are avoiding doing
that needs to be done? For example, are
you putting off a difficult conversation? Are you delaying any important
decisions? Are you delegating away
responsibilities that should stay in your court?
the end of each day, before you head home, take a few minutes to mentally go
over your day. Think about significant
conversations you’ve held, meetings you attended, emails you sent and other
actions you undertook. Did all of your
various interactions enhance your relationships? Could you have handled anything a touch
better? This should inspire you to plan your next day around your highest
hold of a leadership assessment form and use it to reflect on how others in
your team might critically rate you on each dimension. For example, did
you . . .
- put the interests of the team before own interests;
- share credit for successes;
- readily share relevant information;
- ask how others were doing;
- treat others with respect regardless of their position;
- foster teamwork across all groups;
- stand behind decisions made by the team;
- provide honest feedback on a timely basis.
would others candidly respond to these questions about your behavior?
one can be responsible for your state of mind. We are totally responsible for the impact that
others have on us. Understand the
disruptive effect that emotions can have on your behavior and resolve to do
something about it.
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