How Partners Can Improve Management Performance With Associates’ Feedback

According to a post in Law.com’s In Focus series, there are several ways in which partners and associates can develop a healthy and productive working environment–and feedback is #1.  “[N]othing can stall a program faster than a belief by associates that management does not take their feedback seriously.”  

The Law.com piece takes the position that partners are generally of the opinion that they are well-liked and that associates consider them great managers.  Not always the case, says the author. “[Feedback] is a crucial first step in developing an evaluation questionnaire that truly captures the qualities most valued by the lawyers at your firm.”  

So what’s a good way to break the ice? “Upward reviews give associates the opportunity to evaluate and provide input on the management and leadership performance of partners with whom they regularly work on deals, cases, committees or pro bono matters.”   This upward review protocol is liable to attract prospective new recruits, as well, as the word is likely to get around.  

The idea is to enhance management performance and to show your associates they are valued.    How to start? Conduct focus groups which encourage participants to pitch core values and other important topics, and, if needed, bat those concepts back and forth until it’s clear what everyone considers of utmost importance.  

It’s likely you’ll find the meeting quite eye-opening.  Here are some of the characteristics that one law firm heard their associates give voice to: trust, integrity, training, mentoring, respect, associate development and teamwork.  Also, sensitivity to the needs of others.   

One valuable criterion: keep the upward reviews anonymous and confidential—and pass this fact on to all the associates. You must communicate the idea that their identities will be safeguarded, or they might not be as forthcoming with their comments as they—and you—would like.  

Before the actual sit-down, it’s also recommended that partners take some time to honestly assess their own leadership and management characteristics. This serves the dual purpose of prepping them for the commentaries—which will give them a basis for comparison—and will also point out for them, maybe for the first time, the areas they excel in.  (This will bring balance to the evaluation. We all have plusses and minuses in our management style!)  

Finally, if there are issues which merit management intervention, this sort of reality check will raise a red flag and avert a possible problem.  “[W]orking with individual partners [post-evaluation; towards improved performance] is critical.”   You should also consider “testing” the upward reviews program in one group or department, to “get the kinks out”.  If it’s at all successful, you’ll want to roll it out large-scale.   To read the full story, go to: http://www.law.com/jsp/llf/PubArticleLLF.jsp?id=1172052185553

-EM

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