The Bridge - November/December 2014 - (Page 16)

It's as much about what you believe as it is what you do By John Michalik Some years ago when I was being recruited to be Executive Director of the Association of Legal Administrators, the members of the Executive Committee of ALA's Board of Directors stressed that one of the things (and there were, believe me, many things) that they were looking for in a new CEO was someone who had the background, knowledge, experience and established credibility to be ALA's "resident philosopher." That never made it into the job description and I doubt that as time passed subsequent Boards ever had it in mind in evaluating my performance, but it sparked my interest and got my attention in the interview. The idea of not only working hard and managing large but also being expected to ponder and think deep thoughts about the legal management profession, the Association and its members had a certain attraction. And over the years I tried to carry out that responsibility, including through most of the 85 or so columns I wrote in ALA News, numerous articles in other publications, presentations to ALA audiences and other groups, and in my approach to a lot of new ALA initiatives and projects. The fact is, I'm kind of stuck in that rut ... and you and I are about to plow another furrow in that field and think a few deep thoughts. give their best because of that person's evident lack of commitment, involvement, enthusiasm and dedication. In the day-to-day rhythm of our jobs and taking care of business, we may not consciously focus on or think of the abilities and behaviors mentioned in the previous paragraph. But if you're going to be an effective manager and leader, whether as a legal administrator or in some other context, you have to be and do all of those things and many others that I'm sure you could add to the list. In fact, investing the time and thought to make such a list - sort of a secondary or personal "job description" - isn't a bad exercise in assessing the unstated requirements and expectations of both your position and yourself. I'd also suggest that behind what they must be and do, effective managers - including legal administrators - have to believe certain things. I realize that in our society, suggesting that people "have" to believe something, or believe in something, verges on heresy and on the worst interpretations and ramifications of political correctness solely for the sake of satisfying somebody else's standards. But the context here is very different. There's nothing political As managers and leaders in law firms, legal admin- about it and there's no particular "correct" belief involved. istrators are accountable and responsible for doing many The point is that it's as much about what you believe as things. This is true whether you are your firm's principal ad- what you do - and, in fact, what you must be and do aren't ministrator or a manager responsible for a particular funcgoing to come about unless you believe certain things; untional area such as finance, human resources, technology or less you have a strong set of business and life beliefs. What marketing. Obviously, many of the things that we are rewe do tends to reflect what we really believe, not what we sponsible for and for seeing accomplished in our jobs are pay lip service to. Let me try a few examples. set out in job or position descriptions. Many others, often things that we don't give much specific thought to, are not in An effective manager must believe in the importance such a description but are inherent in positions of responsi- of respect and that if you give respect, you will get respect. bility and to a large degree are or should be intuitive based He or she must have a real concern for people as individuals, on our life experiences in work and in non-work settings. must care about things happening in their lives, and must manage them in a way that works for the individual - we Those include things managers and leaders do to often get tied-up in doing things to be "consistent," even in help others develop and to learn to exercise their own judg- the face of our own recognition that people actually are not ment. It also includes treating people like adults and reall the same. I recall attending a seminar a few years ago specting the roles they play; giving credit where credit is where management guru David Maister pointed out that "You due; leading by example; always doing what you say you don't have to be a chameleon, just adaptable." A belief in will do; remembering what people tell you, and recognizing fairness usually trumps consistency for consistency sake. and respecting the confidences they share; watching "the pulse" of things, so that you're not out of the loop; not beYou have to believe that success is a function of coming detached and remote; and realizing that the most things like trust, honesty, confidence, relationships, selfeffective management of people is one-on-one, and practic- discipline, and the courage to do the right thing - always. ing that approach. We also know, or should know, that as You have to have values, believe they are right, and be uneffective managers we have to be good listeners and good compromising in living up to them every day, not just communicators; we need to be sincere, disciplined, accessi- when it's convenient. ble and at least relatively even-tempered; and we need to constantly exhibit trust in those we lead and who report to You have to believe in what you're doing. If you're us. It's also important to be genuinely enthusiastic. Years not sure where you're anchored and not confident of the ago legendary Green Bay Packers coach Vince Lombardi correctness of what you're doing and how you're doing it, noted that "If you aren't fired with enthusiasm, you will be you need to stop and test your beliefs ... including whether fired with enthusiasm". The "firing" Coach Lombardi was you have any. We don't often think about what we believe referring to isn't limited or even primarily related to job terand how those beliefs dictate how we act. On the other mination; rather, it involves people firing someone as a hand, we regularly take actions and make changes based leader and not having the motivation to follow them and (Continued on page 18) 16 Golden Gate Chapter November/December 2014

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