It’s tough being a leader of a practice group. Many heads (PGH’s) say they struggle with balancing their fee earning responsibilities with all the workload that goes with leading a practice group. This doesn’t surprise me – many PGH’s have had little training in leadership. So, with so many things to do, time management is a challenge.
It seems to me that PGH’s have three ways they can spend their time:
- Leading – having a focus on the longer term, developing the business and the people, building consensus and commitment
- Managing – having a focus on the day-to-day and getting things to work efficiently and in the right way
- Doing administration – checking on WIP and getting bills out etc!
Most commentators agree that effective leaders tend to focus on the following three areas:
- Vision – Warren Bennis believes that the vision should be of a “realistic, credible and attractive future for the organisation…a target that beckons”.
- Engagement – Leaders need to build commitment to change. Telling people what to do doesn’t build commitment – it just gets you grudging compliance. Consulting and involving others does build commitment. Engagement requires energy and enthusiasm.
- Execution – Bennis believes that leaders are not followed unless they are trusted. Team members hear their head say one thing and they see them doing something else. It is important for a leader to be a good role model.
David Maister sees administration work, such as checking progress against the budget or ensuring that WIP levels are not getting excessively high, as important, but recognises that great administration will not build the future success of the business.
Also there are invariably people in the firm with better skills and on lower salaries to do this work.
So we advocate PGH’s keeping a timesheet of their non-chargeable activities and then addressing the following questions:
- How much time are you spending on your ‘management’ role? Is this too much or too little? [A survey shows 4-6 hours/week is normal – survey details below]
- How are you spending this time?
- What proportion is on your ‘planned’, strategic priorities and what proportion is ‘reactive’?
- What proportion is administration and what proportion is on building the business or the team?
- To what extent are you effective (ie doing the right things)? To what extent are you efficient (ie doing things right?)
- How do you plan/prioritise?
- Are you delegating appropriately? You don’t have to do it all!
A final thought…effective leaders tend to be more self-aware and are prepared to learn – Bennis stresses that good leaders are perpetual learners.
The results of a survey on The Leadership Challenge in Law Firms is available at https://tonyreiss.com/2014/09/29/4788/