What sort of things am I talking about? It’s the non-billable stuff, such as business development, managing key accounts, generating knowhow and sharing it with colleagues, introducing clients to colleagues in other teams, investing time in mentoring juniors etc.
I know this situation frustrates the management of many firms. But the typical approach adopted, which is to give them a speech and put them on a training programme, doesn’t work – mainly because insufficient focus is put on understanding why each individual isn’t doing it.
And there are lots of potential reasons according to David Maister, such as:
- They don’t really understand the action’s importance.
- They see the action’s importance to the firm, but don’t see what’s in it for them personally.
- They don’t know how to do the action or some aspect of the action.
- They know what to do but is just not very skilled at it.
- They don’t want to do it. They’d rather stick to their technical discipline.
- They have lost their enthusiasm for innovation and are in an “I’ll just do my job” place.
- They haven’t been given the support or tools to do the action.
- They think the firm (in spite of its exhortations) really wants them to be focusing on earning fees and not to engage in non-reimbursable activities.
- The action is viewed as discretionary (ie they think that participation is optional).
- They view the activity as a long-term investment, and they would rather work on things that provide more immediate gratification.
- They feel more accountability and pressure for other things. They intend to do or would like to do the action, but they feel that they don’t have the time to do it.
- They feel that the action is not really valued by their peers. The corporate culture doesn’t reinforce the action.
- They view the action as a personal choice and is not thinking of team-level impacts (or approaches).
- They perceive the reward for the activity, but think it will only be given for high levels of performance — so why should a beginner even try?
Perhaps most important of all: When they don’t do it, management doesn’t react (except perhaps once a year at performance evaluation time). Since there are no short-term consequences for noncompliance, why bother when there is so much else to do?
Getting an individual to change and participate requires a more sophisticated approach and an ability to engage in a non-threatening conversation to uncover the true reasons for non-participation.
Once an action plan is agreed, support needs to be offered and the conversation needs following up.
All of which takes time. But the rewards should be great.