If you picked up this weeks copy of The Lawyer you’ll have seen the headline piece ‘Why your managing partner hates the job’ (17 November edition). It certainly grabbed my attention. I have often considered what a managing partner’s job is really like, as a manager myself it’s never easy being a manager of people; you get blamed for an awful lot but it’s also very rewarding at the same time.
I think often people ‘fall’ into management, a lot of the time top talent is recognised by virtue of their high performance level (being a top biller for example) and people suggest to the star performer that they would make a good manager. Why? Is it because their methods are a shinning example of how things should be done? That they can read people very well, they can analyse a person’s personality type in a heart beat and adapt their behaviour towards them and could therefore manage people and get the best out of them, and be the calming influence in times of stress? You’d like to think so but sadly I find that all too often potential managers are spotted via their performance alone (money talks, you know the rest), the all conquering end product rules the roost. The issue of whether they can relate to people, get on with people of varying personality types, make themselves accountable, take responsibility, build trust as well as producing the goods seems to get forgotten or worse still, ignored.
It seems to me that the theme that runs through the cover story is that being a managing partner is a largely thankless job, constantly trying to convince people to your way of thinking, being challenged at every turn, keeping an eye on profit and loss, making process improvements, managing change that isn’t wanted etc. Being a great lawyer will not make you a great managing partner, in fact I don’t believe being great at anything will necessarily make you a great leader.
I can see that a manager’s job will seem like a poisoned chalice if the manager doesn’t understand what is required, being made up to managing partner surely must be the pinnacle of a lawyer’s career? If it’s not, whose fault is that? The people who were responsible for promoting them or the person for accepting the job without first reading the manual?
I firmly believe that in this world where we judge everyone on results, we will unfortunately carry on promoting the wrong people. Look at somebody’s methods, do they reflect the companies ethos? Is the person perceptive and self aware? Does the person have the ability to manage change? Do they know what being a good manager looks like? If yes to all of these, I would hope that the chalice will not taste too poisonous. After all, a little poison won’t hurt and will help keep your wits about you!