Firm Leadership

Rants, Raves, Rebuttals, Reflections, Revelations & Ruminations

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Post #753 – Sunday, May 1, 2016

Don’t Forget Your Star Performers

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 responsibility;
- is constantly disruptive, uncommunicative or disrespectful of colleagues;
- 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 team. 

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 Leadership Webinars

As an honorary member with Leaders Excellence ( I am pleased to have been chosen as a presenter in their Live Webinar Leadership Series:

You 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.

At this time we have scheduled five leadership webinars:

Topic: Eight Insights to Help You Lead Like it Matters … Because it does!
Lecturer: Roxana Bahar Hewertson, President & CEO at Highland Consulting Group and Former Adjunct Faculty Member at Cornell University

Topic: Presentation Styles & Extemporaneous Delivery
Lecturer: Barbara Mink, Sr. Lecturer in Management Communication at Cornell University

Topic: How Great Leaders Turn Rejection into Opportunity
Lecturer: Brett Berhoff, Founder at 17LXB and Top Contributor at Harvard Business Review

Topic: How To Get Your Group Firing On All Cylinders
Lecturer: Patrick McKenna, Principal at McKenna Associates and Internationally Recognized Author

Topic: The Development of Leadership Capability in Modern Organizations
Lecturer: 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 times.

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 afterglow."

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 emotional aftermath.

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 - 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 contacted. 

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 suggestions:
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.


With all of this, one should not miss the small print at the bottom of this awards announcement:
“This 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 Ltd.”

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 clients?

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 1, 2016

Effective Leadership Requires Critical Reflection

Drawing 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 their colleagues.

Moliere, 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?

At 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 purpose.

Get 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.

How would others candidly respond to these questions about your behavior?

No 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.

Post #747 – Monday, January 4, 2016

An Unprecedented 75-Year Harvard Study

Happy New Year!  I’m pleased to direct your attention to a TED Talk that one of my friends shared with me.

What keeps us happy and healthy as we go through life?  If you think it's fame and money, you're not alone – but, according to psychiatrist Robert Waldinger, you're mistaken.  As the director of a 75-year-old study on adult development, Waldinger has unprecedented access to data on true happiness and satisfaction.  In an unprecedented study that tracked boys from their early teens through the last years of their lives, from all socio-economic categories, we learn the true secrets to happiness.  It’s not that complicated, and it is attainable for everyone.

In this talk, he shares three important lessons learned from his research, as well as some practical, old-as-the-hills wisdom on how to build a fulfilling, long life.

Here is the link: What Makes a Good Life

Post #746 – Sunday, December 13, 2015

2015 Year End Review

I’m often asked about my consulting practice, what kinds of assignments I get called in on, for what sized firms; what I’m currently researching and writing about, and just generally how I spend my professional time.  As always, at this time of the year, I looked back over my various activities.  With some of these items (like clients served) activity is not a sufficient measure; results and the client’s satisfaction are really what counts (and to that end, you can find over 100 client testimonials and endorsements throughout this web site).  But for purposes of looking at where one’s time is invested, here is what my 2015 looked like:


 • Geographic Locations:
84% U.S. Based
16% International (Europe & Asia)

• Nature of Assignments:
36% developing / implementing strategic plans
52% governance and leadership issues
12% client relations and marketing counsel

• Firm Size Range:
17% firms of over 500 attorneys
24% firms of 300 to 500 attorneys
51% firms of 100 to 300 attorneys
  8% corporate legal departments



• Participated in presenting at 2 Webinars
Practice Group Leadership 2.0 (June)
Strategies For Overcoming Obstacles To Change (December)

• Participated in 5 Conferences, Workshops & MasterClasses
Co-facilitator – First 100 Days Masterclass (Atlanta in January)
Chaired Managing Partners Panel Discussion – Compensation Think Tank (San Francisco in February)
Chaired Managing Partners Panel Discussion – ALA Conference (Nashville in May)
Facilitator – Practice Group Leaders Workshop (Chicago in August)
Presenter – Growth Strategies Conference (Chicago in November)


• Contributed to 2 New Books:     
The Changing of The Guard: Selecting Your Next Firm Leader     
2020 Vision:  The Future of Legal Services (contributed two chapters)

• Authored or Contributed to 40 Articles in Publications including:
American Bar Association Journal
American Lawyer Magazine
Association of Corporate Executive Coaches [Australia]
Bloomberg BigLaw Business (
CBA Law Firm Leaders Newsletter
Harvard Business Review Magazine
Legal Executive Institute
Managing Partner Magazine [UK]
Of Counsel – Legal Practice and Management Report
Thomson Reuters Managing Partner Newsletter

• Two new issues (Spring & Fall) of my INTERNATIONAL REVIEW 24-page glossy magazine were produced and distributed to 1800 firm leaders.

• Wrote and posted 22 different articles covering leadership and strategy issues on my LinkedIn site with 10 generating over 500 reads and 5 over 1000 readers.


• Appointed as a Special Advisor to the Board of Jackson Lewis (the first quasi-NED in an AmLaw 100 law firm).
According to Firm Chairman, Vincent A. Cino, “Patrick’s addition will introduce an external business voice to our Board’s discussions, and is aligned with Jackson Lewis’ mission to provide best in class legal services in the most efficient, strategic manner.”
Jackson Lewis represents management exclusively in workplace law and related litigation with over 800 attorneys in 55 offices throughout the United States and is ranked as a Global 100 law firm.

• Appointed as Honorary Fellow: Leaders Excellence of Harvard Square
The honorary fellowship designation recognizes exceptional achievement and contributions within an individual’s professional field. Leaders Excellence is a community of leading academics and practitioners who specialize in leadership and collaborate to share their thinking, research and experiences. To preserve the integrity and exclusivity of the network, membership is offered on an invitation-or qualification-only basis.

• Appointed to the Advisory Board of Premonition Analytics.
Premonition is a powerful, proprietary AI technology that both sources and mines legal big data, such as court records domestically and internationally allowing consumers of legal services to answer commercially critical questions, such as which lawyers usually win before which judges (read: likely case outcome).

• I was invited to become a regular Thought Leadership Columnist & Contributor to the Legal Executive Institute  -
The Thomson Reuters Legal Executive Institute brings together people from across the legal industry to ignite conversation and debate, make sense of the latest events and trends, and provide guidance as you confront the opportunities and challenges that these changes present.

• Increased the size of my Linkedin site – Law Firm Leaders – to more than 320 members.
Law Firm Leaders is the ONLY social networking site exclusively for the chairs and managing partners of firms of over 100 lawyers in size - with 62% representing leaders from firms of 100 to 300 lawyers; 16% from firms of 300 to 500 lawyers and another 19% coming from firms of over 500 attorneys.

• Have now received over 140 “UNSOLICITED” LinkedIn Endorsements for my strategic expertise from firm leaders and senior professionals in major firms
Including: Allen & Overy (Europe); Baker & McKenzie (Asia); Barnes & Thornburg; Dickinson Wright; Faegre Baker Daniels; Fasken Martineau (Canada); Fragomen Del Ray; Gordon & Rees; Gowlings (Canada); Jackson Lewis; Kutak Rock; Linklaters (Europe); Mayer Brown; Miller Canfield; NautaDutilh (Europe); Nelson Mullins; Shook Hardy & Bacon; Skadden Arps; Thompson & Knight; and Wyatt Tarrant 

To all of my valued clients, colleagues and friends, I want to say thank you for allowing me to spend time with you; for your confidence, your commitment and your fellowship.  I wish you and your families the very best in 2016.

Post #745 – Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Strategies For Overcoming Obstacles To Change

Join me at my upcoming Webinar where we will be discussing how to effectively promote change within your firm—transforming best intentions into best practices.  I will be joined by three distinguished presenters:

David Morley, Senior Partner, Allen & Overy LLP.  David is Allen & Overy's worldwide Senior Partner, a role akin to Executive Chairman.  He was elected worldwide Managing Partner, a role akin to CEO, in May 2003, elected worldwide Senior Partner in 2008 and re-elected for a further four year term in 2012. 

David J. Parnell, Legal Search & Placement, ABA Author, Speaker, and Forbes and American Lawyer Media Columnist.  Prior to founding his own lateral placement firm, David worked in-house with the likes of Intel, Xircom, and DreamWorks SKG.

Maurice A. Watson, Chairman, Husch Blackwell LLP.  Maurice became Chairman of Husch Blackwell in 2012. In this role, he is responsible for developing and communicating the firm’s strategic direction and ensuring that its policies and culture align with this direction.

This one-hour web-based discussion is designed to help you refine your change leadership approach – so when the need for a change is acknowledged, and everyone's running around wondering how best to approach it, you can guide your partners around the pitfalls and transform your best intentions into best practices.

This webinar is focused on how to instigate change in a law firm setting and is designed to focus your attention on specific change or renewal issues, like:
• why many lawyers find change to be so difficult;
• understanding the hurdles to bringing about change;
• what definitely does not work in introducing change;
• developing a sense of urgency that gets partner’s attention;
• some approaches that firm leaders have found to be effective; and
• fitting your leadership style to the challenge.

Click HERE for more information and to register 

Post #744 - Thursday, October 15, 2015

First quasi-NED of a U.S. Law Firm

Jackson Lewis P.C., one of the country's preeminent workplace law firms, is pleased to announce internationally renowned legal strategist Patrick J. McKenna has been appointed Advisor to the Board, where he will meet regularly with Jackson Lewis' Board of Directors to provide confidential counsel and advice.

"Jackson Lewis is thriving, in part due to our role in introducing business of law innovations such as alternative fee arrangements and our move away from the billable hour as an evaluative measure for associates," said Firm Chairman Vincent A. Cino.  "We want to make sure we continue to thrive.  For many years I have been a proponent of operating a law firm in the most client-centric and business-like manner.  Patrick's addition will introduce an external business voice to our Board's discussions, and is aligned with Jackson Lewis's mission to provide best in class legal services in the most efficient, strategic manner."

"The old methods of managing a law firm are no longer sufficient to address the magnitude of changes the legal community must regularly address," added Cino.  "We have watched as law firms in Europe and Australia have brought outside expertise to their boards by way of Non-Executive Directors (NEDs) and while we are not yet able to follow that precise model in the U.S., we are pleased to again stay ahead of the curve by adding this outside voice to our governing body."

Mr. McKenna, who brings with him over thirty years of extensive experience consulting to law firms on an international scale, is an author, lecturer, strategist and seasoned advisor to the leaders of premier professional service firms, having served at least one of the largest law firms in over a dozen different countries.  He has authored eight books - most notably the international business best seller, First Among Equals.  Mr. McKenna has been recognized by Lawdragon as "one of the most trusted names in legal consulting," and his three decades of experience led to being the subject of a Harvard Law School Case Study entitled: "Innovations In Legal Consulting."

"Law firms today are experiencing intense competitive pressure, encouraging those with vision to seek meaningful ways to differentiate themselves from the pack," said Mr. McKenna.  "My research suggests adding outside expertise to a law firm's governing body brings wider business experience and thinking to the firm, and contributes to clients viewing the law firm as more likely to operate with a greater awareness of prudent business practices than its peers.  Jackson Lewis is saying 'we are different and we are going to manage differently' and I am extremely proud to be a part of their innovative initiative."

About Jackson Lewis

Founded in 1958, Jackson Lewis is dedicated to representing management exclusively in workplace law.  With 800 attorneys practicing in major locations throughout the U.S. and Puerto Rico, Jackson Lewis is included in the AmLaw 100 and Global 100 rankings of law firms.  The firm's wide range of specialized areas of practice provides the resources to address every aspect of the employer/employee relationship.  Jackson Lewis is a leader in educating employers about the laws of equal opportunity and, as a firm, understands the importance of having a workforce that reflects the various communities it serves.  Jackson Lewis is a founding member of L&E Global Employers' Counsel Worldwide, an alliance of premier employment law firms and practices in Europe, North America and the Asia Pacific Region.

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