It would be nice if you could simply tell your employees what to do and what not to do. It would be great if they would always take this advice happily. After all, if you are a law firm manager or owner, you have inevitably made many mistakes (and also learned lots of things) over time. When you give employees instructions and guidance, the reality is that you are trying to pass on what you have learned and ensured that your employees don’t make any of the same mistakes that you made and that they can also reap the rewards from the positive things you have learned.
In a lot of ways, parents can often feel the same way. A parent can tell their kids not to do certain things in life. They might also try to guide them in a positive direction that has worked for them. But most kids will ultimately rebel on a lot of levels. They will think they know better. Most kids will do lots of things that their parents told them not to do anyway and not do things they were advised to do. The reality is that kids will often need to make their own mistakes and learn from them.
The truth is that it is no different in a law firm environment. Most employees on a lot of levels will think that they know better. They may surmise that your thinking is dated. They may think that while a course of action did not work for you, it will work out better for them. While you might be trying to guide them in one direction, they might think that their approach is better than the approach you took or that the circumstances are different.
As frustrating as this might be, this is the way it works with most law firm employees on a lot of levels. And it really won’t matter what area of the law you could be talking about.
It might be that you are trying to help a lawyer with their strategy in a particular case. The lawyer might tell you the general facts and ask your opinion. You then give them your general views and some guidance. Ultimately, you find out the lawyer didn’t take your guidance. If it didn’t work out for the lawyer, it can be frustrating when you tried to guide them in a different direction. In the end, you have to remember that the lawyer apparently needed to learn for themselves.
It might be that a manager within the law firm comes to you with management or business advice about something that is taking place within the firm. They give you the general facts and ask your opinion. You then give them your general views and some guidance. Again, you find out that the manager didn’t take your advice. If it didn’t work out, it can be frustrating. The reality, however, is the manager needs to learn for themselves.
It might be that somebody who comes to you with any number of issues. They give you their idea or proposal. You then give them your general views and guidance. Yet again, you find out that your advice wasn’t taken. Remember again that sometimes folks just need to learn for themselves.
Example after example could be given about how this might play out in a law firm from client intake, client care, human resources, marketing, recruiting, and other legal matters. The thing you want to keep in mind is that sometimes folks are going to want to try things their own way. If it does not end up working out, they will end up learning from their mistakes. The hope is that over time, they will grow. They will become wiser. And, ultimately, they will mature.
It might even be that sometimes you as the law firm manager or owner learn to see things differently than how you originally envisioned it. Maybe, if you give people the room to grow, you will learn that there is a different and better way to approach a situation than you originally thought. You might actually be surprised that something works than you didn’t think would be successful.
But if you as a law firm manager or owner naively think that you can tell people what to do and that folks will do just as you said and that it will be done that way, you are likely just fooling yourself. Obviously, you cannot let employees be insubordinate if they have been given very specific instructions from a manager or supervisor on an issue where the employee needs to follow those instructions. Further, if something the employee is going to do would result in catastrophic results, the employee needs to do it your way.
But where the employee is ultimately responsible for whatever it is they are doing, and you are merely giving general guidance, employees will often need to learn from many of their own mistakes. They often will not just take your word for how something should be done because, far too often, employees will need to learn from their own mistakes before they will see it your way.
If you have any thoughts, feel free to share them below.