You might think the job of a leader is to teach, train and guide team members to be better, but actually it’s to simply let them be themselves.
A law practice that builds on current strengths and brings out the best in everyone in the office – rather than trying to mold them into something they’re not – is destined for great things.
“A strong company culture prizes transparency, authenticity, and individuality, which in turn fosters an environment in which team members feel comfortable being themselves,” writes Daniel Lubetzky for Inc. “This does not mean there should not be standards of professionalism and excellence, but it does mean that team members should have the space in which to play, make mistakes, and be creative.”
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4 Ways to Empower Team Members to be Themselves
When people feel free to reveal aspects of who they are, they are not only happier campers, but they’re much more likely to come up with creative, out-of-the-box ideas.
“Furthermore, when people are embraced for their differences, they tend to be more open to engaging in the kind of empathetic listening and nuanced discourse that build strong bonds in both business and society,” Lubetzky says.
Here are four practical tips to ensure you are building a culture in which team members are empowered to be themselves:
- Practice top-down humility. “It is important to set an example from the top. Especially when working remotely, it is okay to run a slightly less efficient meeting if it allows time for asking team members about their families and personal wellbeing. This builds empathy, trust, and loyalty that will more than compensate for five minutes diverted from your agenda.”
- Encourage debate and feedback. “Without tolerance for nuanced discourse and hearty debate, we miss the opportunity to learn from one another. In society and in the workplace, there is too often aversion to changing one’s mind. This is dangerous, because it robs us of our ability to see fact, reason, and truth. When we cling to preconceived notions instead of welcoming new, even if conflicting information, we limit the marketplace of ideas that fuels innovation, progress, and growth. Develop a thick skin.”
- Lighten up. “When team members are scared to be themselves, an organizational culture can quickly turn sterile, risk averse, and stagnant. Having grown up in Mexico immersed in Latin culture, I am accustomed to a warm and open approach that includes not taking yourself or others too seriously. This welcomes a sense of humor about our shared faults and quirks, and opens us up to readily connect with others. While it is important for teams to operate professionally and with the utmost respect for one another, we could all afford to loosen up a little.”
- Feed an ownership mentality. “Companies that foster an ownership culture of shared accountability may have even greater success building strong bonds between team members that supersede superficial divisions or petty differences. Because when we are all working towards the same objective, we are likely to be more open-minded about the best path to getting there. And because we know that our team members have nothing to gain by disagreeing with us for disagreement’s sake, we are bolstered by a sense of trust that gives us the safe space in which to hash things out.”
Jay Reeves is author of The Most Powerful Attorney in the World. He practiced law in North Carolina and South Carolina. Now he writes and speaks at CLEs, keynotes and in-firm presentations on lawyer professionalism and well-being. He runs Your Law Life LLC, which offers confidential, one-on-one consultations to sharpen your firm’s mission and design an excellent Law Life. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org or 919-619-2441.