Leaders Listen: Are Your Ears Open?

Leaders listen in law firmsOwning or managing a law firm requires a lot of traits. However, one leadership trait vital to a law firm’s success is listening skills.

Many emphasize a leader’s ability to communicate. In many instances, communication skills can involve the ability to teach or present to others in a large group setting. In other instances, the ability of a lawyer to interact one-on-one or in a small group setting can be vital.

Listening Is Often More Important Than Speaking

While the ability of a leader to communicate has its place, the ability of a leader to listen is often more critical. When a leader listens, all kinds of helpful things happen.

First, employees and those around the leader feel as if they have been heard. Few employees within a law firm want to be spoken to without having the ability to communicate their interests and concerns. Law firm owners and managers must make themselves vulnerable by listening to feedback.

Effective oral communicators can benefit by listening to what others in a law firm have to say. In other words, the leader can then communicate with those around them about the interests and concerns of the employees only after they have listened to them without making assumptions.

By doing so, the hope is that management and employees can get on the same page about important law firm matters. Law firm matters can involve legal strategy in cases. It could also deal with vital administrative situations within the law firm.

Listening Allows A Leader to Decipher Who Cares and Who Doesn’t

Another overlooked reason for a leader to listen is that it can help a leader determine who truly cares about the law firm and its clients and who is purely self-interested. In a previous article, we talked about employees who are “me-monster” versus being focused on the law firm’s clients and the firm itself. Unfortunately, employees with this mindset can wreak havoc on a law firm.

When leaders listen, they can hear if the employees are uttering phrases like me, myself, and I. Or, they can determine whether the employee is a humble and hard-working employee with legitimate concerns and interests that need to be addressed. In other instances, law firm managers and owners can learn about important internal matters they did not know about because they took the time to listen.

If a leader does all the talking and does not open the forum, a leader might spend a lot of time talking and communicating about matters that only concern them–and not others around them. As a result, the leader might feel that their communication is resonating and effective. However, if the leader does not give others around them the opportunity to ask questions and state their opinions, it is a massive opportunity missed.

How Can A Leader Listen Better?

Thus, the first step of any leader is figuring out appropriate ways for others to express themselves in meetings and interactions. It is true as well that listening does not mean that meetings need to be free-for-alls or open forums. Formal meetings, in particular, need to have agendas, be controlled, and cannot deviate into chaos.

However, one way to listen is to give employees within a law firm the opportunity to submit questions before or after a meeting. The law firm owners and managers can then read these questions and address them. It might mean if a video is via Zoom, the law firm gives employees the ability to use a chat feature to ask questions in an orderly manner during a meeting.

Law firms should ask employees if they have any constructive questions, comments, or feedback in a one-on-one or small group situation. Then, the law firm owners or managers can address the feedback or question before them.

Leaders Then Make Decisions Based on Dialogue

Law firm managers or owners should then assess the questions or feedback they get. Often, it might mean the law firm must clarify a policy, procedure, or preference. In other instances, the law firm may need to make amendments or changes. Law firms can also better identify the employees who are trying to better the organization by raising legitimate and constructive concerns and feedback. Often, these are the employees the law firm should give greater responsibility or opportunities.

In other instances, the law firm may need to reiterate its policy or procedure and demand adherence to it. When law firm owners or managers listen, they might learn that employees are innocently performing their job duties in a way that is in violation of the law firm’s policy or preference. In other instances, a law firm owner or manager might hear that the employee has been purposefully disobedient or maybe is not even on board the organization’s vision in a bigger picture–to the extent that the employment relationship is not viable.

In sum, by listening well, leaders can better their law firm, enhance their communication when they speak, and ensure their law firm is functioning how they desire it.

If you have any thoughts, feel free to share them below.



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