I have been involved in coaching and mentoring a number of Managing Partners when they first take on that role. Often when I work in that capacity with Managing Partners (or indeed newly appointed Senior Partners/Department Heads/Leaders) I am asked what are the priorities for the first 100 days – how do I start successfully?
According to Michael Watkins in his book ‘ The first 90 days – critical success strategies for new leaders at all levels’ the actions that you take in those first few months in any leadership role set the tone for future success or failure. He sees transitions as an opportunity to start afresh and make needed changes in firms, however they are also times of acute vulnerability when you lack established relationships and a detailed understanding of you role.
I have built on his views to create a guide for the first 100 days as a Managing Partner or a similar leadership position within a law firm:
Suspend judgement – things are seldom as they seem, and your understanding of matters should be different from your new role. Take time to understand, to question and to diagnose before taking action. New Managing Partners sometime feel under pressure to introduce many changes – and there may well be urgent issues – but taking time to understand those better from your new perspective will be time well spent.
Spend time with everyone. You will have existing relationships –it is now important that you are seen to invest time in all areas of the firm. Go to every department and speak to all partners and representatives of all levels with the firm. And when you are there? Go to listen, and to understand how they feel about the firm and its current plans. Obviously it is also useful to begin to give them an outline of your vision and plans for the firm – however the emphasis should be on listening and understanding. Over the First 100 days – keep in touch with your partners and key individuals within the firm. It is frightening how quickly your diary will be filled with meetings – create space to stay in touch.
Monitor, understand and stay on top of the financial performance and challenges of the firm. Nothing undermines the confidence of partners in their Managing Partner more than feeling the finances are not understood and being dealt with.
Develop a vision of your own leadership style – and begin as you want to continue. Base that style on your values and your understanding of the needs of the firm. The style must have absolute authenticity with how you operate so that people feel they are seeing the true you.
Develop your team – move quickly and decisively if you have serious weaknesses in your team – and invest time and development into existing members of the team. The aim is to have in place the team which can help you to succeed – it will not be time wasted.
Keep space to think about and understand the strategic challenges for your firm, and the impact of developments within the market and clients. It is unusual to have to implement new a new strategy in the First 100 days – but it is important that you get into the habit of keeping space to think about it.
Secure some early wins to establish your credibility – not too many of them (it is better to change a few things well rather than do many badly). Identify changes that will make an immediate difference to the firm and partners.
Identify and work at developing the critical relationships for your new role – those may be with your Senior Partner, Finance Director, Heads of Department or newly appointed Associates. Identify those relationships and invest time in developing them – again from your new perspective.
Develop thyself! Make a mental break from your former role – too often people hang onto responsibilities and behaviours from their former roles. Don’t assume that what made you successful before will do so in this role – you will most likely need to develop new skills and behaviours to succeed. Establish excellent internal and external sources of advice, counselling and coaching.
All of the above rely on exemplary time management and planning. You will need to be crystal clear on the activities that are important and choose to spend time on them. This is one of the biggest challenges that I see new Managing Partners facing – their diaries are full of meetings and actions. It is important that you choose what your time is being spent on and ensure the investment activities get attention too.
Enjoy it – the role can be immensely frustrating and demanding – equally it can be fascinating and challenging – providing you with the opportunity to develop new skills and to really challenge yourself to change! Boring it isn’t!