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Know the value of leadership communication

By Susan Letterman White
BridgeTower Media Newswires

ADR-Group-handshakeLeading involves influencing people in a way that helps turn your vision for your law firm into reality, and a leader’s success depends on communication skills.

Developing communication skills

The most effective leaders create conditions in which relationships can develop and deepen. A leader who understands a person’s feelings recognizes his or her good work and delivers critical feedback with compassion and direction that is well received, processed and used by the listener.

Empathy is critical. Leaders with empathy have the ability to observe the feelings of others and respond to social cues with words and behaviors that engage and inspire people to do their best.

Empathetic behaviors include observing facial expressions, body language, tone of voice, speed and quantity of speech; and noticing if someone asks additional questions or makes further statements. It also involves listening to points of view and asking questions about interests, concerns and feelings about what matters to someone and what affects that person’s desire to do his or her job well.

Observe. Listen. Ask questions.

The best leaders know that improving social ties at work improves performance, and they encourage relationship-building. Such leaders cultivate relationships with people who have diverse perspectives, experiences, expertise and cognitive styles.

Law firm leaders need to embrace diversity to fully comprehend the world generally — and their marketplace specifically.

Great leaders steer discussions and decision-making processes in a way that manages diverse perspectives and the natural and valuable conflict that emerges.

They run meetings with a meaningful agenda, ensuring that time is valuably spent.

They encourage different opinions, disagreements, participation and inclusion. They use meetings to deepen relationships and engage groups in discussions and decision-making, rather than as a means of disseminating information that could be conveyed in an email. They listen more than they speak.

Empathy, inclusion and relationship-building extend to how people are treated online. Video is better for relationship-building than phone, and phone is better than email.

Using communication skills

People who are able to help make your vision a reality need to know what that vision means, what the milestone goals are and what their roles and responsibilities are.

Too often a law firm’s vision and goals are vague and fail to outline what must be done or provide a due date. That ambiguity leaves people confused and motionless.

Do yours specify, in an objective manner, the optics of successfully completing a goal or reaching the vision?

Is it possible to measure progress and attainment? Are there discrete tasks that can be assigned to a date and time associated with each goal? Does each goal move the firm closer to the vision? Do people know what they are supposed to do, and by when?

If you, as a leader, were to describe your firm’s vision, goals, roles and responsibilities so that the answers to the questions above are all “yes,” you would have a written strategic plan with guidance for everyone in your firm. Communicating a compelling story can inspire everyone to buy into the vision and goals.

If you evaluate whether people have the skills and resources to carry out their responsibilities under the strategy, or a plan to develop them, you will enhance your strategic plan and demonstrate how much you care about the firm and its people.

Susan Letterman White practiced employment law for more than 20 years. She works with lawyers and law firms on leadership, performance, marketing and business development. She is the principal consultant at Letterman White Consulting in Boston.