Tag Archives: People

Guest blog – banking of a different kind, part 2, by Rachel Brushfield

Rachel kindly submitted a blog published on this site a few weeks ago, entitled ‘Banking of a different kind’. Here I’m delighted to publish her follow-up piece. The words which follow are all Rachel’s own. Enjoy! This blog shares the benefits of coaching and personal development and 11 useful resources; personal development books, personal development courses and personal development seminars, videos etc. Time is precious and business pressured, so what are the benefits of personal development? This is what our clients say:

  • Time to reflect/think through where you are and where you are going
  • Time to think about you
  • Time to build on your strengths and address weaknesses
  • Understanding that you can choose to respond to others better
  • Better understanding of yourself and how to relate to others
  • How to address day to day issues better
  • Identifying problems, weaknesses and opportunities and how to work on them
  • How to use strengths to overcome weaknesses
  • Skills to be more confident about yourself and dealing with others
  • A forum to discuss issues/goals/frustrations and how to resolve them
  • How to see situations from others’ perspectives
  • Greater understanding of self, how to reframe, pause and reflect and insights into problem solving
  • Feeling supported and empowered
  • More aware, reflective and reasoned
  • How to be more balanced, composed and in control
  • The opportunity to discuss key personal & professional issues in a non-judgmental and objective environment
  • Time and space to express feelings and thoughts
  • An opportunity to refocus attention
  • Vocalising goals so they seem more real and obtainable
  • Breaking down big scary overwhelming change into small steps, making it easy
  • How to achieve goals
  • A platform to concentrate on the things you’ve been putting off or avoiding
  • Understanding the cost of not addressing important issues
  • Feeling more in control and that you have choice over thoughts & actions
  • Feedback, reframing, support & challenge from someone there for you
  • Courage to do what you want to do
  • Unravels the confusion, identifies the route to be taken and prioritises the abilities that can best be utilised and where
  • A supportive, objective and confidential sounding board

We have identified 5 client types who benefit from personal development.  Which type do you relate to? “I ‘have it all’, so why am I so tired and dispirited?” “I know what I want, but I’m not sure how to best achieve it.“ “I don’t know what I want, but I know it’s not this for much longer!” “I know/I’ve been told that I need to acquire a new skill/adapt my behaviour or habits, but show me how to fast!” “I need someone confidential/objective to talk to and bounce ideas off who I trust” 11 personal development tips

  1. Get a coach
  2. Get a mentor
  3. Look at Ted talks http://www.ted.com/
  4. Get in touch about our Energise personal development articles. Topics include busyness addiction, how to do absolutely nothing, managing procrastination, overcoming overwhelm, fear, beliefs, safe risk, insight mining etc.
  5. Read the iconic book Stephen Covey ‘7 habits of highly effective people’
  6. Define your personal values
  7. Do a psychometric test to increase your self-awareness about your personality type and what impact this has on you and others e.g. Myers Briggs, Insight, Belbin, Talent Dynamics
  8. Create a personal development plan with S.M.A.R.T. objectives which will benefit yourself, your employer and your clients
  9. Write an account of your life and what has influenced it
  10. Keep a worry diary to monitor what you worry about
  11. Do a mindfulness class

Are you interested in coaching? Get in touch for a no obligation conversation. What’s the best action you can take to explore personal development for yourself or someone you supervise/manage? Rachel Brushfield

Rachel Brushfield

Talent Liberator




+ 44 (0) 845 22 55 010

+ 44 (0) 7973 911137


Evaluating Managing Partners

This guest blog is by my friend Rob Lees, former global head of HR at Ernst & Young, later a director at their Global Leadership Center in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and more latterly a consultant to professional service firms. Rob is co-author (with Tom Delong and Jack Gabarro) of the ageless and invaluable book “When Professionals Have To Lead” (Harvard Business School Press, 2007). This piece was originally written for Managing Partner magazine. The words that follow are Rob’s own.rob-lees_height-165


Evaluating Managing Partners when you’re not sure what they’re supposed to do!!


When my colleagues and I were conducting our research into what truly effective managing partners do that differentiates them from their peers, we also asked the partners we spoke to how they evaluated their managing partners when there was often little or no clarity around what the managing partners were supposed to do.

Obviously, when there was a specific action or set of actions the managing partner was elected to deliver, that greatly aided the evaluation process, but nearly all of the partners we spoke to included the performance of the professional management group in their evaluation as they considered the managing partner was specifically responsible for the selection and performance of that group. Unfortunately, in too many instances, the perception of the performance of the professional management group had a negative impact on their view of the managing partner’s performance. The question is why? And, of course, what can managing partners do to ensure they avoid the negative impact?

Undoubtedly, the major issue facing the majority of managing partners in their dealings with the professional management group is their lack of knowledge about what ‘good’ is, although there is an understandable belief that, in the finance function, a fellow professional will know what to do.

Let’s use Human Resources as an example. If we asked most managing partners what the most important task is in Human resources, we would be likely to get a range of responses. But, in professional services, which is an execution game, there is only one answer and that’s to create a development process that enables the firm to develop its professionals faster and more effectively than its competitors – and, by doing so, to create both a competitive and economic advantage. It’s an answer that should be a ‘no brainer’, but sadly it usually isn’t.

Without an understanding of what ‘good’ is, when managing partners assess what their head of HR is doing they can get it badly wrong. And, if they do decide they want to change their head of HR, they usually sub-contract the selection process to a head hunter – assuming, often wrongly, they will know what good is. So, in the end, the selection process often ends up solely about fit (critical, of course, but only after capability) and without a robust discussion about how the individual will create a development process that will deliver what I call ‘speed to experience’ and give the firm three significant advantages over its competition. Not just the competitive and economic advantages I mentioned earlier as there is a clear third. The market for top talent is highly competitive whichever way you cut the market, and all of the research indicates that one of the critical factors in an individual’s choice of which firm to join is the quality of the development experience. The highly competitive people who live in professional firms like to constantly add to their knowledge and experience so they can continually improve and do more challenging work – and they like to do it as quickly as possible. So, if one firm has a reputation of having a discernibly better development process they will attract better people. As I said earlier, it really should be a ‘no brainer’!

So, managing partners must know what ‘good’ is. And, if they don’t know (and in my experience they always know whether they do or not, even if they can’t quantify it), they have to find out. One of the other things that differentiates great managing partners is an unwillingness to accept second best in any aspect of the firm’s operations. And, as the performance of professional management group influences the firm in multiple ways, including the partners’ opinion of their managing partner’s performance, knowing what ‘good’ is and making sure it is delivered is key for every firm – and every managing partner.

You can read more about Rob’s book, WPHTLand indeed buy a copy here




A people business, right?

images833IJ8SAA people business, right?


The topic for this blog almost literally fell in my lap. I met a friend for post-work drinks when, as is the way with these things, we soon turned to a kind of ‘how was it for you?’ conversation, about the last few months in general, and our respective businesses in particular. It didn’t take me to long to take my friend through the evolution of my consultancy practice over that period – I suspect both of us were more interested in how my friend’s medium sized law firm was faring.

I heard what I expected to hear given market conditions and my knowledge of my friend’s firm’s place in their chosen markets, that is, it had been a record year in terms of turnover and profitability. Some of what I heard had made the regional press, and why not? It may not be of huge interest to clients, but there’s nothing intrinsically wrong with celebrating success. Heck, I’m in favour of it, I’ve been there and done that! But what I was told next stopped me in my tracks, and left me pondering the meaning of ‘success’.

My friend told me that over 25% of the Partners and staff who had been at the firm a year ago were no longer there. Now, some level of attrition is normal, and I’ve always thought that churning 10 to 15% of your staff per annum is what you’d expect in most professional service firms (PSFs).  After all, people retire, move out of the area, leave for a lifestyle change and so on. There is data out there (it won’t take you long to find using your favourite search engine) to suggest that around 8-10% is what law firms should be aiming for, it’s ‘healthy’ at that level, and that 12-15% is towards the very top end (or poorest outcome) that a PSF should achieve. But 25% plus? Something about that didn’t sit right with my understanding of ‘success’, even allowing for record financial results.

For me, success in a PSF is about creating a ‘One-firm’ firm which is able to harness its resources in a way that enables it to compete most advantageously in its chosen markets. Those ‘resources’ are its structural, relational and human capital (together its’ ‘intellectual capital’). And to quote David Maister, a One-firm firm is characterised by “institutional loyalty and group effort” and such firms “rarely lose valued people to competitors”. Given the challenges of recruitment in the legal sector nowadays, you’d have thought that firms would be putting discretionary effort in to talent retention, wouldn’t you, in creating a “sense of cohesion and belonging among the firm’s people”[i]?

Now, I don’t know that my friend’s firm didn’t do everything in their power in 2014/15 to do just that, and were just plain unlucky with the outcome. But I do know that the “starting point in addressing any firm’s strategy for human capital is to place people at the centre of [the firm’s] efforts to gain sustained competitive advantage by developing a workforce that feels it is an integral part of the general needs and aspirations of the firm”[ii]. After all, law is a people business, right?

In short, a firm needs to provide all its Partners and staff with a clear line of sight as to what is required from each of them, each day to help the business achieve its strategic goals. It can be difficult to do this at the best of times, but if strategic objectives are centred on vague goals like being ‘bigger’ or ‘more profitable’ it can be too big an ask. But unless meaningful efforts are made to provide that clear line of sight, people may conclude that they don’t belong in an organization that isn’t clear about where it’s going, and what it wants from its people.


[i] Nick Jarrett-Kerr ‘Strategy for Law Firms’ (2009)

[ii] ditto