Law Firm HR: Management by Affirmation

    I write for several paralegal publications under the title “Soaring Eagles”. I got to thinking why, as a non-lawyer, I have had such a passion for the law, that has led me from to hold every non-lawyer position in a law firm, end up a high level general manager and then to someone who has a devotion to creating great law firms with great employees as a mentor.
     What I realized was that I have been very fortunate to have worked with the best of the best with lawyers as clients or employers who consistently encouraged me to be more than I ever thought I could be. This verbal affirmation to me made me want to try new things, think outside the box, and take on more and more responsibility as I learned and as I grew.
     This lead me to develop a management style of positive affirmation of employees. I became a cheerleader that set high standards but believed in motivation by positive feedback. I saw failure as an opportunity to learn. I believed that any one could achieve anything if someone belived in them. Consequently I think I have had a great history of great employees (Soaring Eagles) who stepped outside whatever preconceived idea of restriction they had and went on to bigger and better things in their lives. In my almost 48 years of being in and around the law, I have only terminated five people; 2 for speaking badly of their employer in public; 1 for being unkind and causing great distress to someone, 1 for telling an untruth, and 1 for being rude and insenstive to a client. Each had violated my personal value code and had known in advance the expectations. I also saw some employees leave the law but only after they recognized they did not want to do the job. And I have seen the others simply be winners.

     Lawyers for some reason believe they have a hard time letting people know how much they are appreciated. I have never been the recipient of this. I have been shown a great deal of respect, given great latitude in what I wanted to try, and have had the support of the lawyers I have been involved with. I have always felt on equal footing with the lawyers but never forgot who signed my paycheck. I don’t do well with ego driven  law firms and fortunately I haven’t ever had to work within one. And I don’t take on clients who have this approach. 
     Giving staff affirmation through professional courtesy, respect, and public acknowledgment when a job is well done is the first step in affirmation. Believe it or not your employees don’t want to be your best friend; they want to be the best they can be. You have the power to allow this to happen when you open cages and allow employees to soar with the eagles.

 TIP:  If you are not a good verbal affirmation person, go buy 3 or 4 self inking stamps that have funny smiles, ‘atta boy’, high five, etc.  Then when work comes across your desk and it truly is deserving put one of these symbols on the rough draft.  One lawyer does this and staff hang his inked praise in their cubicles!