Behaviour the theme at the LPM Conference 2015
What made the LPM Practice Management a hit for us? Turned out it was all about behaviours! Spot on our big message; use learning & development to get people to behave differently at work in ways that serve your business need. All day, in every session I attended, from market trends, to risk and compliance, to succession and recruitment, the way people behave at work was the theme.
The chair, Simon Slater, Chief Executive at Thomson Snell Passmore, set the tone at the outset by reminding us that Darwin’s theory of evolution was not that the fittest survive, but those most adaptable to change. Hurray!
Jez Hopkins, former head of operations at Riverview Law, gave the first presentation of the day, making loads of brilliant observations (see Twitter #LPMConf2015 for more), including the suggestion that firms need to recalibrate profitability in order to make themselves future proof in the long term. I challenged him on that (first question of the day!) by observing that a lot of firms want to have their cake and eat it, hoping theirs will magically be the firm to survive. Jez was unmoved; there is no choice in his view. People have to be prepared to invest in to doing things differently.
Jez also observed that those with the skills needed to develop legal practices are often not given the decision-making power they need to really make a difference. This was picked up later by Shaun Jardine, CEO at Brethertons, who made plain his pride in having an executive board with a diverse range of professional backgrounds. Shaun’s message; you wouldn’t expect the shareholders of M&S to run the business, why expect it to work in a law firm?
Shaun made my day by showing the audience his notebook, the front page of which lists his key goals. Amongst them are the powerful questions we rehearsed when I delivered some coaching training for the senior team at Brethertons. Good learning and a great advert for Athena Professional Shaun! Thank you.
My question to Shaun (I asked a lot of questions) was whether he felt it was worth investing in developing the skills of senior lawyers. It was almost a rhetorical question, because I knew he would agree that investment is valuable, but again he made the point; there is no choice if you want to survive.
During the session on risk and compliance I was after some confirmation that changing behaviour might have some impact on a firm’s risk profile. Colin Taylor from Willis Group concurred, he thought that evidence of a learning culture might well be seen in a positive light by insurers. That, in my opinion, needs to be front and centre in the business case for investment in development.
With a significant number of smaller firms represented, it was interesting to hear a significant level of ambivalence about performance management in the session with Mark Briegal and others on succession planning. This time I did not ask a question, I made an observation from the floor that all firms, no matter how small, need to know what “good” looks like in their business.
I was intrigued to see that in a show of hands only about half of the 70 or so people in the session said they were conducting appraisals. So I asked, of them, how many train their staff in performance management? May be half a dozen people raised their hands. I asked Mark to comment and he made no bones about it, “Managing people is really difficult”. The message again; you have to equip people to be able to do it well.
Sara Duxbury and Ed Fletcher from Fletchers Solicitors gave us a masterclass in staff engagement and development. Sara, an HR professional with a background in retail, came to the firm a year ago and has clearly been a using her new broom to great effect, supported by Ed’s drive to do things in new and creative ways. He spoke of the value of having great people strategy informed at every level by the firm’s values. In response to my question (yes, another one!) Sara told us that they have technical and behavioural, competency-based, descriptors for all the roles in the business. For her it was plain that encouraging the right behaviours forms a huge part of a successful approach to delivering business goals.
Chris Allen and I had already connected over Twitter, but we spoke in person for the first time during his panel session on aligning business to client need. Chris has now moved on to Periscope – a sort of video version of Twitter – so I am challenged to get into that now. Chris told us that its time to stop being conservative and cross-sell. Now there’s an example of the need for attitude and behaviour to align with business need, if ever there was one.
By now, I was on a roll with my questions from the floor. The pressure was on in the last session of the day. I have to admit it was a challenge to think of something to ask about cloud computing and disaster recovery, until someone mentioned using collaborative platforms to project-manage tasks. That was all I needed and I was able to ask a question, because we use Basecamp and Slack to work with clients and partner organisations. And I got a round of applause for getting a full house on the question front!
We did have a great day; fascinating content which was right up our street, old friends and new, and a well-run event. Hats off to the LPM team.