For Professionals

Challenges & Situations

Professionals, managing partners, and firm owners call us for advice and support when they are struggling with a wide range of challenges. These challenges may be problems they’re encountering, transitions they’re contemplating, or opportunities they can't make the most of. They may be individual in nature, firm wide, or as is often the case, a combination of both. These are the kinds of situations and events that are catalysts for their calls to New Actions.

Individual Issues

Organization-wide Issues

INDIVIDUAL ISSUES

Declining performance, productivity, and effectiveness
Maintaining high levels of professional performance is difficult in a world of constant interruptions and conflicting demands. The key to boosting personal productivity and effectiveness is to work smarter not harder. Great returns come from learning how to prioritize, get and stay organized, selectively multitask, and delegate.

Reduced satisfaction, resilience, and ability to handle stress
Stress and dissatisfaction in professional firms may be ubiquitous, but that doesn’t mean they should be ignored or passively accepted as part of the way things are. Creating a personal strategy for dealing with stress – and implementing it before stress becomes chronic – can lead to better health, greater resilience and higher levels of productivity and happiness.

Transitions
Changing firms or practice areas can be tremendously challenging, even when they represent a step up the career ladder. Adjusting to new firms, cultures, and people can be time consuming and difficult. Quickly finding the right set of relationship, communication, and management skills can make all the difference.

Communicating with others
Without clear communication, high quality performance and collaboration are virtually impossible. Productivity and effectiveness soar when individuals learn how to expertly listen, frame, inquire, and advocate. These fundamental skills are indispensable whether working with clients, colleagues, or adversaries.

Relating to and working with others
Poor working relationships can be an obstacle to professional advancement and success. Whether it’s managing up, collaborating with peers, or leading subordinates, high levels of emotional intelligence are required. These “people smarts” and “people skills” are also necessary when mastering the arts of persuasion, consensus building, and conflict competence.

Stepping into a leadership or management role
Many professionals find elevation to managing partner, executive committee member, or practice area head to be a mixed blessing. Balancing client matters and business development with new managerial responsibilities can be challenging. What is needed are leadership and management skills specifically designed to work when time is limited and peers are being led.

ORGANIZATION-WIDE ISSUES

Conflict, dissension, and infighting
Conflict between partners can slowly destroy an otherwise healthy firm. Even one “problem” professional can have a toxic effect on a firm. When trust is minimal and professionals put their individual priorities ahead of their firm’s best interests, morale and profitability end up suffering. Understanding the sources of conflict, managing them wisely, and rebuilding relationships are critical to any firm’s sustained growth and profitability.

Creating and implementing plans
The worst time to try to create, revise, or implement a plan is in the midst of a crisis. Professional firms with well-understood and integrated plans fare better than those without, especially in hard times. Plans – regardless of whether they are for business strategy, succession, compensation, professional development, finances, or marketing – should be clear, practical, and revisited regularly.

Indicators of firm-wide problems
High turnover and low morale are often symptomatic of larger problems in professional firms. When accountability, trust, and follow through are weak, firm-wide financial performance tends to deteriorate. A lack of clear feedback and direction exacerbates this problem. Recurring problems and chronic underperformance are often signs that a firm’s leadership and compensations plans aren’t in synch with its culture and strategy. Realigning these elements leads to breakthrough gains in growth and profitability.

Project teams and management committees
Committees are being used more and more for the management of professional firms, and project teams are being used more and more on large and complex client matters. When these teams are ineffective, dysfunctional, or paralyzed, the impact on clients and firms can be disastrous. Creating and leading dynamic teams is a readily available way to improve performance and profits.

Leadership development and mentoring
Professional firm leaders typically have substantial experience in their discipline but limited training in management. Acquiring the necessary skills and knowledge is all the more difficult because most management and leadership resources are oriented to businesses rather than professional service firms. When firms invest in leadership development and mentoring programs specifically designed for professionals, they assure the quality, stability and continuity of the firm.

Meetings and retreats
One of the most common complaints of professionals is the frequency, length, and worthlessness of their meetings. Boring, meandering meetings are a drag on productivity and morale. Skillful preparation and facilitation can turn them into excellent vehicles for solving problems, improving collaboration, and driving results. Professional firm retreats are another overlooked opportunity to set direction, build consensus and initiate major changes. When they are well designed and led, they provide an ideal, distraction-free environment for robust conversations about the issues that determine a firm’s future.

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Andrew Elowitt is a well-respected speaker and author. His expertise ranges from management and team development to strategic planning and conflict competence and beyond.