BE A COACH
There is a lot of talk about coaching in the workplace and this is one of the circumstances that it is a best practice. If the firm has asked you to get involved, then you can coach the partner instead of executing the punishment. The firm may still want to reduce compensation, but you will be offering a solution — a way back on track that might lead to their compensation eventually being restored.
When a partner sees another partner drawing income from the firm but not doing their share, tension begins to build. If allowed to continue, unaddressed partners will begin to resent the firm leaders for not managing the situation.
Begin with gathering information from the partner’s colleagues, direct reports and, if appropriate, clients. Obtaining financial data is next, followed by learning about any prior communications the partner may have received about performance. Be sure you know and understand the firm’s expectations, so you can speak authoritatively about what needs to be achieved. Finally, identify resources that you will be able to offer giving the partner support in making improvements.
Once you have a dossier, the coaching can begin. The first step is to take personal feelings and emotions out of the equation. The partner might be someone you have known a long time and have a personal relationship with, so this task will be uncomfortable. But stay focused on the goal and remember you are helping the partner. That will keep emotions in check.
Ask the partner to share issues and concerns they are having at work. There might be some simple solutions like training or tools that can help them. It is possible that there are circumstances outside of work that are affecting their performance that they have not shared with the firm. If you approach the conversation with success in mind, the attorney will be more open to sharing.
Embracing the philosophy around the old adage that says “If you teach a man to fish ... ,” ask the partner to determine their own course of action to improve performance. You can offer resources once they have stated what they need to do to repair the situation. And finally, you will need to hold the partner accountable for their commitment to change.
It can be stressful to coach your own partners, but it can also be rewarding. Once a partner has successfully turned around their practice, they will be invigorated. You might see them begin to excel and have more energy to put back into the firm. This is how to move an underperforming partner to a productive one.