“Men can starve from a lack of self-realization as much as they can from a lack of bread.”
― Richard Wright, Native Son
“Only you can take inner freedom away from yourself, or give it to yourself. Nobody else can.”
― Michael A. Singer, The Untethered Soul: The Journey Beyond Yourself
In the world of law, and as harsh as it may sound, there’s no appetite for workplace coaching. Less so, one on one (where the lawyer pays).
Ipso facto, lawyers don’t need coaching.
Erm…not quite so fast.
For a start, change is thick in the air and unrelenting. Likewise, the millennials are on the rise, and their expectations about ‘personal development’, whilst not stratospheric, are not likely to be met by the new CPD regime, no matter how well intentioned.
I mean, let’s face it, if you can handle difficult, sometimes obtuse clients, you can handle a bit of change. Actually, no.
I don’t want to split hairs but we’re not just talking about the external, we’re also talking about a work environment where the pace of change, organisationally or otherwise and the decreasing returns for increased effort, has and will continue to take its toll emotionally, spiritually and physically. (It’s not as if we haven’t known about this issue before now.)
I’m not suggesting that coaching is the only way to address the plethora of issues, but it seems odd (and that’s putting it mildly) that firms are happy to roll out the red carpet for pricing, IT and ‘change’ consultants but seem unable to grasp the people issue beyond, perhaps, buying a new system or practice to measure and or manage employee satisfaction, engagement and the like.
Don’t get me wrong. Anything that helps to inculcate a sense of place and acceptance of the real you has to be good thing but in my experience — having been coached and mentored by some brilliant people — I know how immediate and helpful it is to find a coach who can help with the issues that afflict law and every other business — e.g. conflict resolution, motivation and wellbeing.
Perhaps it’s the coaching fraternity that’s at fault. I mean, who wants to work with lawyers after all? Don’t answer that. But the truth is lawyers, law firm leaders and anyone else with their hand on the people/profit/purpose tiller has to recognise when they need help. As Einstein said, “Problems cannot be solved with the same mind set that created them”. If that’s accepted, at some stage (and not because I say so!), firms have to reach for the ‘HELP’ button and see if someone new to the picture can make a difference.
A word of warning. If you do go down the coaching route, please make sure you prepare a brief. You know, the sort of document where you make it clear what it is you want to achieve. In my experience, too often the ‘outputs’ are vague or imprecise, meaning that for any coach worth their salt, they can’t possibly warrant a result when the target is so imprecise. I know it’s tricky — that’s people for you — but there are plenty of survey materials and online platforms that can measure employee engagement, satisfaction and happiness (if that’s what you’re seeking).
Truth be told, you shouldn’t need any of these. Whilst the results shouldn’t be that stark where you feel you’ve developed a whole new workforce different to the people who went into the programme, by and large, without wishing for some happiness miracle, the majority of people who go through a programme, come out the other end more focused and energised not because they’ve bought into some hyped-up rhetoric but they’ve realised an insight which helps them understand where their thinking, emotion and sense of wellbeing comes from. If that’s understood, whilst it’s not the panacea for everything — we all have our ups and downs — nevertheless, it’s far more likely to embed new cultural norms that will: (a) help with the adjustment to change, (b) engender employee engagement and (c) give everyone who goes through the programme the resilience to cope when things go off the rails (as they always do).
You might read this post as a self-serving means to achieving more coaching work. It’s not. Honestly. All I’m trying to do, and have been doing for the last few years, is raise up the agenda how a modest investment in external coaching can support and assist all the work you’re already doing, and help build, from the inside out, a legal brand where your people are famed not only for their legal nous but their incredible people skills.
Of course, if you want to know more please feel free to contact me. I’m not saying that my brand is the only or the right one for you, but I’m more than happy to explain why I think coaching, at whatever level, is such an important investment right now.