Blog Post: The Four Types of Employees at Your Firm

Take just six minutes with me and think about the four different kinds of employees you have. You'll learn a lot more from this exercise if you participate and apply it to your firm as you read.

Start by answering two questions about each employee:

  1. Is this employee a cultural fit? Think about your values, as well as the importance you place on honesty, transparency, collaboration, commitment, etc.
  2. Is the employee a contributor? To answer this question, think about whether you could send them to talk with a client (on their own) or ask them to teach their fellow employees through an informal seminar for an hour or ask them to write an insightful blog post.

Draw your own guadrant, like the...

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Blog Post: You Have One Primary Job as a Leader

As a leader, your job is to make decisions. There are other things, too, but that is your main job.

Warring against that, possibly, is your fear of making the wrong decision. Rest assured in knowing that there is greater long-term potential harm in not making decisions than there is in making wrong decisions.

So to be an effective leader, try to master the timing of your decisions rather than the criteria for your decisions.

Key Times to Make Decisions

So, when should you make a decision? Here are the four most important times to make a decision:

  • When you see an opportunity you're small enough to pounce on. This is usually an opportunity that the big firm has to study, meet about, appoint a committee, assess the risks, get funding approval, and then build consensus around three times per week for five months. There are significant advantages around scale, but being nimble is not one of them.
  • When your people are...
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Position Paper: Five Important Personal Transitions to Make

As you grow, what transitions are useful and even expected? Let’s look at a few that you’ll almost certainly encounter and help you see what might be on the other side of the transition.

One: Hiring for Expertise vs. Money

The first good transition to make is to begin hiring people for their expertise rather than for what they cost you. In the early days, you have a budget and you hire accordingly. You aim for whatever you can get for that price, and that’s the best you can do. There simply isn’t any more money, and expertise takes a back seat to available funds.

Eventually, though, you determine that expertise is more important than money. So you outline what you’re looking for in great detail and you don’t settle for less. You have a budget in mind, but the budget takes a back seat to the requirements for expertise. That means you may bust the budget. But in this scenario, one very qualified person may actually be equally as effective as two less qualified individuals.

Two: From Judging to Shaping

The second good transition to make is to move from judging to shaping the work underneath....

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Position Paper: Essential Leadership Qualities

What are the characteristics of a leader that others want to follow?As you’ll soon see, this list is a very personal one. In other words, we’d all come up with different elements when building the list. What I’ve tried to do, though, is to think of a complete leader. So I’ve asked myself this question: can I imagine a leader who isn’t fair, for instance. The answer is obviously no. Each one of these, then, describes a leader’s characteristics, any one of which might hinder their effectiveness if missing in any significant proportion. What I’d encourage you to do--maybe even before you read this list--is to first make up your own list and compare it with mine. (These are not presented in any particular order.)

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Webinar: Rethinking the Employee Review

Webinar: How we got to the current state of the employee review is anyone's guess, but it doesn't work on many, many levels. Everyone--on both sides--dreads it. But there are some really interesting, really helpful ways to do employee reviews that both parties look forward to and which move the company and the employee's career forward. Come learn about some exciting ways to do employee reviews. $160

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Blog Post: Eight Gauges on Your Agency Dashboard

In your mind, list all of the important metrics you'd like to track about your agency. Now tie each metric to one specific gauge and your dashboard might look like a hopelessly complex airplane.

At first glance it can be overwhelming, with so many things to measure that you almost don't know where to start. The key, though, is to make the more important gauges larger and then place them in the center. If we did the same thing with your agency's dashboard, here are the eight gauges we'd see right in the middle so that you never lost sight of how your agency was doing.

Performance No. 1: Billings/FTE

Take all employees (billable or not) and divide that number into your yearly fee base. The average, ordinary firm achieves $116,000 per full-time equivalent employee. The good firm is $160,000; the excellent firm is $220,000; the stellar firm is $275,000. This metric is useful because it concentrates on realized utilization, folds your hourly rate into the mix, and won't let you have a bloated administrative staff. From there...

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Position Paper: Managing Your Boss

The idea of managing your boss is meant to be a bit tongue in cheek, but the concept is real and the extent to which you accomplish this is directly related to the extent of your positive impact as a manager. There are a few important aspects of managing your boss, and they start with understanding why you were promoted in the first place. Then we'll look at preferred communication methods and how to determine the unspoken expectations your manager has of you. Finally, we look at the management commitment you each have to each other, which actually forms the entire basis of the relationship.

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Webinar: Running Your Business with a Partner

Webinar: You'll spend more time with your business partner than with your significant other--or maybe they are the same. Either way, a business partnership can be the best or worst thing you do. Whether you're considering one, in one now, or need to dissolve one, get 90 minutes of insight on making it work well. Learn the advantages, the challenges, the two ways to qualify partners, the five important best practices in establishing one, how to avoid the four communication pitfalls, and how to plan for the eight critical triggers that should be addressed in your written agreement. $160 Purchase.

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Blog Post: Life is What Happens WHILE You Fix It

My Declaration for Your 2014: The Year of Your Own Oxygen Mask

This year I will jot down some clever ways to peg the amount of "care" my clients bring to the table, and I will willingly match that level, just because it's the right thing to do. But for my own sake, I will not exceed that level, just because it's also the right thing to do.

I will quit pretending to solve the potable water crisis in Africa and I will take a glass of cold, refreshing water to a randomnly chosen employee on occasion. I am tired of the hypocrisy of wanting to change that world while being a #@%!) shitty manager in this one.

Not inconsistent with this, I will finally boot that one employee out of the nest. Yes, they have done every job in the place and been with me as the organization has matured, but they no longer have the presence, objectivity, ability, or hunger that we need. If I hear them tell one more new employee that they've been here the longest, have done every job, and know how and when to present things to me, I may just make a decision on the spot.

I will be so, so grateful for whatever health and intelligence I've managed to retain through these years. [Pause and be grateful, please.] I won't view life as something that happens after I fix it, but something that happens while I fix it. The journey itself must be savored, along with the control and freedom and opportunities I have to NOT feed the machine.

If what I've just said still doesn't...

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Blog Post: Navigating Employee Compensation

These are the things I've learned about paying humans, most of which I didn't absorb until some time after I was managing them.

The two groups of employees who are typically overpaid are those who have been with you a long time and those who know what other people make.

There are five issues more important to good employees than money, and when they talk about money is when some of those five things have eroded over time.

No employees in the world are mature enough to know what other people make and not read "intrinsic value" into that equation.

Real power comes from shaping how and what someone is paid. Unless a "manager" is that same person, all they are really doing is making suggestions about projects.

Small, frequent adjustments are better than...

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