Leadership & Money Making – A Delicate Balancing Act


Little value comes out of the belief that people will respond progressively better by treating them progressively worse.- Eric Harvey

Recently, I received correspondence from a young attorney friend of mine who was just given notice by his employer that “it is not a good fit” for his current firm.  This attorney had only been at the firm for a short time (9 weeks). He had been given positive feedback by his “mentor” and had no negative comments. Then without notice he was called into the conference room to be told that he was not needed.

I was particularly troubled by this handling of my friend. What was this firm doing? Was he not productive? If so, shouldn’t they have told him that he was not productive?

I did some investigating by calling some of the associates at the firm that I knew.  It turns out that this particular firm had also gotten rid of three other attorneys in similar fashion in the past year.  All of the young associates are particularly aware of this treatment and are on the edge at all times because of it. It causes them to dart in and out of each other’s offices secretly meeting to whisper about the latest happenings in the office.

The morale is low among those that are not the “Chosen Ones”.  A few of them even admitted that they are constantly on the look for other employment in case they are called in for such a meeting.  None of them have families but a few are married. They get to work by 8 am and leave no earlier than 6 pm because they are afraid of being seen leaving the office.          

 The firm has been wildly successful since its inception just six short years ago and has grown from a firm of 7 to approximately 35 in that short time. But at what cost?  Money and success have come for the partners while the associates have been tapped out. It reminded me of the building of the pyramids. The Pharaohs sat back and reaped the glory while the men pulled the large blocks into position.

The problems that this firm has created for itself are enormous. Each employee knows deep down that it is every man or woman for him/herself. There is no loyalty.  They are only loyal to the dollar and to the clients because the clients might be secretly lured away from the firm in the event that the attorney decides to leave and start their own firm.

According to Ken Blanchard, “Poor leadership doesn’t just hold employees back from reaching their full potential, but actually sends them in the wrong direction and seriously impacts morale, employee retention and financial performance.”

This firm needs to get a handle on their employee morale. Having company picnics once a year is not the answer.  The mentor-mentee process broke down for this firm. Kudos to them for having such a process but apparently the partners in the firm didn’t give the mentor the input he or she needed to correct any problems with the associate. If they had, they might find that the actions could be corrected and most of all, the whispering among the other associates would be about how they really worked with that person and gave them a chance.

According to professional communication coach Christine Zust, this firm needs to understand the value of the Golden Rule and open communication in building a successful enterprise. This company may be enjoying financial success today, but if it continues its current practice of hiring and then firing people with no warning or justification, the firm will quickly establish a bad reputation in the community. Soon it will be difficult for the firm to find top talent because the word on the street will be “stay away from them.” There goes the firm’s growth strategy! Zust recommends that every firm, large or small, complete a core values assessment and review those values each year. Often times, companies and organizations that have the greatest problems are those whose actions are not aligned with their core values. For instance, if a firm says it values “education” but will not allow staff members to attend valuable professional development programs, the firm is living out of alignment with its core values. It is important, Zust says, for companies to identify core values and share them with employees so they can understand from the beginning of their employment what the firm values most. If the company’s values are not shared during the first interview, the interviewee should ask the interviewer what the company’s core values are. If a prospective employee clearly knows what the firm’s values are before s/he accepts the position, it makes the decision much easier of whether or not to work for that firm. 

If you’re in a situation where you need to apply changes to your company and review it’s core values but you’re lacking motivation to take that changing step, you might need a motivational speech. You can find it clicking here.

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