What can CEOs, boards and SLTs learn from Joe Schmidt?

Whatever happens on next Saturday at the Six Nations Ireland v England clash at The Aviva, Joe Schmidt will, according to many, retain the title of being one of the best rugby coaches in the world.

What, if anything, can CEOs, boards and senior leadership teams (SLTs) learn from his leadership behaviour?

The inspiration for this blog and this question comes from spending most of last week in the meeting rooms (corporate boxes) at The Aviva Stadium in Dublin, which overlook the pitch.

Over four days, I facilitated 1-1 meetings with the members of an operating board (senior leadership team) which has signed up for my #smallchange programme.

Below the meeting rooms, preparations were underway for the big game. I watched as the grass was cut, hosed and lamp treated. A labour of love.

I’m not a great fan of sporting and military models for behaviour in business. But I’m all for lessons we can learn from them.

Peter Pearson, former British Army Lieutenant General, with whom I sat on a panel on leadership at a conference last year, remarked dryly that “the bottom line in war is somewhat different from business.” Quite.

In respect of the former, while there are many lessons to be learned for example from Alex Ferguson, I would not encourage anyone to emulate his leadership style or some of his reported behaviour.

The motivating benefits of “hairdryer treatment” are greatly exaggerated. We all know CEOs who try it on and find that, ultimately, in business, it doesn’t work.

Clues as to Joe Schmidt’s leadership style emerge from the press coverage, especially a piece in The Irish Times (24 Jan).

On leadership: “We have a degree of hierarchy because we have a captain, a vice-captain, a leadership group but there’s no hierarchy in training or when it comes to people making good decisions”.

In my programme, I work with directors on unpacking their decision-making processes. How did we make that decision? Was it the best process? How can we change it for the better?

On planning: “They’ve got the firepower to be physical…we need to be ready for that” in response to Eddie Jones: “if you want to go to Ireland and get a win you’re going to have to deliver a brutality”. Note that word, “brutality”. Feck!

On a key element of success: “…integrate the new guys”.

Changes in personnel on boards and SLTs invariably change the group dynamics. I’m sure the process of “integration” on a rugby team is different than that on a board. But the need for a process remains the same. Often I see this need overlooked.

Clearly, Joe Schmidt has a fully thought through purpose, strategy and behaviour plan (PSB).

What’s not to like? 🙂


Yesterday’s vote illustrates the lethal dangers of an Executive Chair

Yesterday’s vote marks the nadir in political decision-making process in UK’s recent history.

The vote is, in business terms, the equivalent of a CEO failing to get their business plan approved by the main board after two years trying.

Business boards have contributed to the problem by failing to lobby Parliament strongly enough to ensure that Leave and Remain voters, who are equally entitled to a properly led and managed Brexit process, get one.

That’s because some businesses are not properly led and managed. Their leaders don’t know what they don’t know about leadership and safe decision-making.

It’s also because some wealthy business leaders will be insulated from the negative impact of a poorly led and managed Brexit. They don’t have to care.

But chiefly it’s because of our willingness to tolerate Executive Chairs, whether they hold that title formally, or not.

Instead of acting as the equivalent of a CEO of an Executive Committee or Operating Board reporting to Parliament, which is the equivalent of a main board, Mrs May has attempted, sometimes successfully, to convert the Cabinet into the main board acting as its Executive Chair.

Mr Blair was heavily criticised in The Chilcot Report for using a similar tactic – the “sofa” approach – during the Iraq crisis. If the current crisis turns into a similar catastrophe, Mrs May too should expect an enquiry into her behavior.

Few would contest that the vote was a vote on Mrs May’s deal and not one on her Cabinet’s deal and, manifestly, not a vote on a deal negotiated over time with Parliament.

No organisation can make good decisions, sustainably, through the force of the personality of one person, no matter how hard working or well intentioned. Mrs Thatcher learned that lesson to her tearful cost.

Nor should they be permitted to do so when stakeholders needs are at severe risk.

But few will be surprised or unfamiliar by and with this behaviour. Many readers will sit on boards where the Non-Executive Chair is anything but a non-executive or, in flagrant breach of good governance, holds formally the title of Executive Chair.

Furthermore, readers will know of many CEOs who act as Executive Chairs in the presence of weak but formally appointed Non-Exec Chairs surrounded by equally weak and supine non-executive directors.

The upshot is that in business and in politics we continue to ignore good corporate governance. This leads to poor decision-making and dangerous decisions.

Whether you voted Leave or Remain you can’t deny that the decision-making process over the last two years was deeply flawed. The outcome, consequently, is dangerous for all stakeholders.

So, are you currently tolerating an Executive Chair on your board, or a Non-Exec Chair behaving as one?

If yes, vote them off.

And if not now, when?


“Trust me”: two words PMs and CEOs should never have to say

Mrs May today is saying in a speech that unless MPs support her Brexit deal that the outcome will not only be catastrophic, but undemocratic.

She may or may not be right about the former but the latter is open to challenge.

The danger is that she appears to have fallen into the behaviour trap, like many CEOs, who say “trust me on this” as a statement and not, as it should be framed, as a question: please, will you trust me on this?

I don’t hear any “please” in her voice as many directors who don’t hear a “please” in the voices of their CEOs who say “trust me” when they really mean: JFDI!

The problem is that JFDI doesn’t work with adults. It barely works with children. It certainly didn’t work with mine, whenever I tried it on.

The fact is that leaders have to earn trust. And when, in times of crisis, they need people to follow them and trust their judgement that trust will, almost invariably, be present.

But it takes time to build that trust. And it must be tried and tested through several experiences where those who are led feel a) that they are always heard b) there is a negotiated shared purpose c) there is an unshakeable confidence that the needs of those who are being led will not be trampled upon.

Once, a client of mine, a senior business executive, who had been an officer in The Royal Marines explained that during his training his troop called him “Sir” for many months until one day they called him “Boss”.

Why are you calling boss today, he asked.

Because only today do we trust that if you send us into harm’s way, we believe that you know what you’re doing and you will take care of us as best you can.

So whether you are Mrs May, a CEO or military leader, don’t say “trust me”. Don’t say anything. Just lead well and they’ll follow.



A New Year board resolution?: “The board agreed, unanimously, not to repeat the bad decisions we made last year.”

decion picPicture: http://bdellium.com

How many decisions did your main or operating board or function team make in 2018? How many were good? How many bad? How can your board avoid repeating the errors of last year?

However, before answering those questions, can you all agree on what constitutes a good or bad decision? If your board decided to fire X, hire Y, spend A, not spend B or launch C are you sure you know who on your board agreed with those decisions and who didn’t?

Did you all vote? Did the CEO decide? Did the Chair hold sway? Did the CFO nobble the CEO? Did the GC even get a look-in? Might any of last years’ decisions land your organisation in legal trouble or onto the front pages next year?

Against what benchmark were those decisions judged? Short, medium or long-term? Were the decisions based on financial criteria only? Alternatively, were environment, society and governance (ESG) issues taken into account?

Who on your board is coming back from their Christmas break holding a silent and bitter grudge against a decision taken last year? Who has left your business who could damage it later? Do you know? If not why not?

Above all, even if the most forceful personality on your board took the decisions and you were too scared to speak up, does that person have anything approaching a decision-making process?

The theme for 2019 should be decision-making processes. If I were PM, I would pronounce 2019: “Decision-Making Process Year”. DMPY for short. Rolls off the tongue, doesn’t it?

In business, politics, sport and religion 2018 was an annus horribilis in decision-making terms.

A parliamentary report drew sharp criticism of KPMG, Deloitte, EY and PwC, saying they operated as a “cozy club incapable of providing the degree of independent challenge needed”; Parliament failed to take a decision on Brexit; perhaps Mr Wenger should have decided to leave earlier and the Pope missed a golden opportunity in Dublin to demonstrate, rather than assert, that the Vatican is serious about its corporate governance overhaul.

So what should your main or operating board, ExCo or function team do in 2019?:

Step 1: Acknowledge your default decision-making process, or change it

If your board doesn’t act as a board in the collective decision-making sense then why not just admit that? If one person makes all of the decisions, why not call that out at the start of the year? At least don’t pretend for another year. That would be dumb.

If you want to change to a proper collective decision-making process then do so, without delay, in January.

Step 2: Agree on a purpose, strategy and behaviour (PSB) plan against which your board will judge its decisions

If the purpose of your organisation is to maximise profits and screw everyone else, at least admit that, take responsibility for it and judge your decisions against that benchmark.

If on the other hand, you want to balance profit with the environment, society and governance issues then don’t pay lip service to those issues – agree, up front to what extent, ESG will figure in your decisions.

HBR gives CEOs a 20% weighting for ESG in their Top 100 CEO rankings. I believe this is as small as it is arbitrary. Why not 50%? Why not #ESGP?

Step 3: Appoint a Devil’s Advocate by rotation at each meeting

How many meetings did you attend last year during which you remained silent about an issue or a behaviour on which you felt strongly? How many times did you stand by and watch a colleague being bullied or wronged and didn’t speak up? How many times did you witness hard work go uncelebrated and failed to call it out? Or which business decisions did you disagree with, but didn’t feel able to fight?

A simple way of solving this problem is to appoint a Devil’s Advocate by rotation at each meeting who has permission to call out whatever he or she likes about whomever he or she likes, or not.

No chance, I hear you say, on your board.

If true, then expect next year’s decisions on your board to be as good or as bad as last year’s. Nothing will change unless you make it happen.

Why not start with small change? What would constitute a small change on your board?


Ciarán Fenton

Why Mrs May and her “NEDs” should (re) read Chilcot on decision-making, today

Even CEO/owners of private companies with boards should consult them properly on key decisions, if only for selfish reasons. The risks of not doing so are high.

Prime ministers are not running private companies. They are acting on our behalf. The bar on following good decision-making practice must be set at the highest level.

Mr Blair ignored this requirement during the Iraq crisis. Instead, according to The Chilcot Report, he used a ”sofa-style” decision-making approach using a small number of close advisors. The disastrous results are etched on his face to this day.

Mrs May is repeating this error. There is no evidence of thoughtful collective decision-making, with input from Devil’s Advocates and with consideration of the needs all stakeholders.

History will judge her harshly. The worst damage is done, already. Over the next year we will merely experience the impact of her solo decisions over the last two.

But her ministers, who are behaving like complicit NEDs on a board dominated by a dominant CEO, will also be thrashed by the inevitable public inquiry into Brexit.

They, like so many NEDs, could stand up to her but are afraid. Afraid for themselves. Afraid they won’t be supported by other ”NEDs”.

This has nothing to do with the rights or wrongs of Brexit. It’s to do with its implementation.

There was zero focus on facilitating a shared purpose for the people of The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and its relationship with neighbours after Brexit.

As in business, zero shared purpose in politics means there’s lots of activity but little progress.

It’s not too late for a courageous ”NED” – that is, a minister or even an MP seen as a supporter of the Prime Minister – to man or woman up and say what might feel like the unsayable:

”Prime Minister, as you know I have been a long time loyal supporter. But I can no longer support the process you are using to take key decisions. And I am not resigning. Every day you fail to use Cabinet and Parliament properly I will publicly protest that failure.”

It will never happen, you say. It didn’t happen in the Blair government nor in many high profile corporate scandal – RBS or Carillion to mention just two.

But I detect a shifting mood within moderates in politics and in business. This reflects a shifting mood in society which is saying: we’ve had enough of powerful people impacting our lives, unchecked.

Moderates who want to limit the damage should act, this week. Or else.

Three change management lessons for CEOs from the #Brexit story, so far


Whether you are a Leaver or Remainer you will agree, I’m sure, that Brexit is a change management project gone badly wrong.

No side can be happy with its leadership or management. The Brexit Crisis – and a crisis it is – is destined to become the Suez of our time, only worse.

Most historians agree that the core failure in the Suez Crisis was hubris. No one looked at the issues from Nasser’s point of view; Eisenhower was ignored and kept in the dark about the British/French/Israeli deal until it was too late and the campaign was disastrously executed.

But at least the Suez own-goal was scored thousands of miles away. The Brexit process is a hat-trick scored at home.

First, no one checked or cared about all the facts that might impact the outcome. For example, the Brexit leaders appear not to know or care what happened in 1921 between Mr Lloyd George and Mr Collins or its consequences. If they did they would understand why the EU can’t simply “bin the backstop” and if it does what might happen.

Second, they ignored the 70/20/10 rule of change management. This rule of thumb is that 10% of people are usually stars of change and should be celebrated; 20% are resistors and should be ignored, if not sacked. Finally, 70% are on the fence and should be wooed. That’s right, wooed: enticed, incentivised or properly sold. Neither Remain nor Leave campaigns did any wooing. Had they done, the outcome might have been different, either way.

Third, neither side presented a vision for the future around which most people could rally – a shared purpose if you like. That would mean confronting the UK’s past. And that’s a no-go subject. Sooner or later a truth and reconciliation process on this matter is unavoidable.

These three errors were compounded by a refusal to take decisions using good corporate governance codes. The Cabinet was forewarned. The Chilcott Report into Iraq called out the decision-making weaknesses of Mr Blair’s “sofa-style” processes. Lord Faulkner only last week said that full legal advice should have been disclosed.

Mrs May doesn’t appear even to use a sofa. People were forced to the Supreme Court and to Motions of Contempt to get her to share her decision-making. And yet she is praised as “resilient”. Another decent word ruined.

While there’s little you can do to prevent this nightmare ending in a disaster, you can prevent your board from emulating these mistakes in your business. So,

⁃ agree a shared purpose

⁃ use the 70/20/10 rule of change

⁃ allow all directors, especially NEDs, to see all legal advice, in full

Then your board will be in a better position to avoid avoidable crises. The alternative is playing out in front of your eyes. And it’s about to get much, much worse.

Ciarán Fenton

#smallchange consultant

In-house lawyers: building relationships at a time of change & upheaval – Ciarán Fenton’s speech to The Law Society of Ireland’s Annual Conference, Dublin, 8th. November 2018. (SPEECH FORMAT)



 Ciarán Fenton

Leadership consultant

Building relationships at a time of “change & upheaval”

morning keynote speech


The Law Society of Ireland

Finuas Skillnet


Thursday, 8th. November

Blackhall Place

Dublin, Ireland

Good morning, delegates.

I must start by unburdening my conscience. I must confess to having bad thoughts about some lawyers.

To be perfectly honest – I have a sort of “love-hate” relationship with them. I say sort of because love’s DEFINITELY too strong a word. Let’s be clear and for the avoidance of doubt as you, people like to say: I-DON’T – LOVE – LAWYERS. And you’re not to tweet that I do!

And hate’s TOO strong a word, too. What I mean is sometimes I find them VERY frustrating. But I do admire them. I do respect them. Perhaps, part of me even envies them.

I’m NOT a lawyer. Note that I DIDN’T say I’m a NON-LAWYER Whoever came up with that expression should be shot!

Between 1978 and 1982 at UCC, I studied “Commerce”. I MAJORED in Law & Accounting. Then I spent most of the next 35 years working with lawyers, in one guise or another. First as an accountant – and later as a divisional director and managing director in various organisations mainly media companies. So I spent a lot of time with lawyers mostly on commercial or intellectual property deals.

When I set up my own consultancy, over 15 years ago, I ended up spending more than HALF my time working with lawyers of all kinds – in-house, private practice, public and private sector, B2C and B2B.

I’ve lost count of the number of legal sector talks, workshops and conferences I’ve done. The plethora of blogs and articles I’ve written. The number of 1-1 sessions I’ve had with in-house and private practice lawyers, young, old, and middle-aged. I’ve even worked with the most maddening lawyers of all – barristers.

So, I must know hundreds of them – which makes me feel like a kind of David Attenborough of the sector. Fascinated – even obsessed – yet not one of them.

In the main, most lawyers I’ve met are usually “nice” people. And they’re invariably bright – sometimes, awesomely bright. And they’re incredibly hardworking. And they’re interesting and good company because they tend to be readers and thinkers – and have opinions on everything from politics to sport.

But there’s one thing I’ve come to notice over the years with lawyers, is that they behave as if they feel they have to know EVERYTHING!

Now, I don’t BLAME them for this. Society grabs very bright young people from university puts them through law school – where they are force-fed an adversarial model, and more often than not made to value thinking over feeling. After that, they’re worked to death in law firms.

Yes, We need our lawyers to be tough, analytical and unemotional. And we hire them because they know the law – and we don’t. So, what’s the problem?

Well, it’s this. Many lawyers end up in leadership roles of one sort or another. Roles they’re OFTEN not prepared or trained for. One GC client of mine – from an international business with a huge Legal team – was once asked whether she became a “manager” by luck or design?

She answered that she started as a litigator and loved litigation. Later she worked on commercial deals and became a bit of a “deal junkie”. Then she was spotted as a potential leader and was given some leadership roles

She liked the promotion but said that she had no proper TRAINING in LEADERSHIP, OR in other business disciplines, like, for example, MARKETING.

I choose marketing because it can to some appear to be the most nebulous of functions. I’ve known some lawyers to look down their noses at marketing. One equity partner client earning over a million dollars once said to me: “Marketing? how complicated can marketing be? All you need are forty tickets to Wimbledon…”

At a stroke, he had reduced to nothing all the art and science of marketing – which is awesomely difficult to learn and to get right.

But to be fair to lawyers when it comes to the use or abuse, of the word STRATEGY they HAVE a point. Strategy, after all, simply means “HOW?”How will you achieve your objectives? That’s all. The rest is MANAGEMENT SPEAK.

And it’s not a case that lawyers don’t go on management or leadership courses – they do. But they approach them with a particular mindset forged in the CRUCIBLE of their legal training.

Their training usually excluded the F-word – Feelings. Lawyers are trained to distance themselves, to some extent, from their feelings.

That’s OK when it comes to black letter law – Or in court – Or when you just want to win your case, Or deal point. But leading people requires a DIFFERENT skillset because it’s more problematic. And the problem is, you CAN’T lead unless you engage with your feelings and with other people’s feelings. I’m afraid there’s no way around it.

So Lawyers must find a way of increasing their EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE if they want to manage their relationships successfully. That’s it. That’s my core message today.

It’s in your personal interests, in your family’s interests, in your profession’s interests, in your Legal Function’s interests, in your organisation’s interests, and – of course – it’s in the interests of society – that you increase your EI or EQ, whatever acronym you use.

Don’t take my word for it – just Google EI or EQ, mindfulness or empathy at work. You will find that this is not a fad. This is here to stay. Because the fads have gone. They were blown away by the last corporate scandal. The trust barometer has been broken into smithereens – and we all know it.

So there’s no getting away from it – in the 21st century – if lawyers are going to be fit for purpose, increasing their emotional intelligence is an ABSOLUTE must.

There are LOADS of books written about emotional intelligence – some better than others. Daniel Goleman is great if you want to understand the theory and the practice of EI. Brené Browne’s top ten TED Talk on how showing your vulnerability is NOT a weakness is excellent. Her book, Daring Greatly, which was given to me by a GC, Is well worth reading. Eckhardt Tolle who wrote The Power of Now is brilliant on mindfulness.

From all my reading of these great authors and from all my work with clients I distilled EI down to three components:

  1. Empathy.
  2. Self-awareness.
  3. The ability to negotiate your needs productively.

Empathy is about being able to understand how another may be feeling. Self-awareness is about knowing how you behave on a good OR bad day and the ability to negotiate your needs productively is about win-win NOT win-lose and NOT lose-win.

It is often in the area of negotiating needs that many lawyers come unstuck. It may be productive to get your needs met in an adversarial manner in court, or in negotiating a deal or a contract but that approach will not get you where you want to get to with your relationships.

Now, some of you may be thinking – this is all very interesting, but it isn’t about me – I’m not a leader. Some of you may not even have a team.

My belief is, based on my experiences that if you’re a lawyer, you ARE a leader. Let me explain to you why I believe that you are a leader whether or not you lead a team: It’s because you are an officer of the court.

That means – to quote the Law Society of Ireland’s Guide for In-House Lawyers May 2018: “You have an overriding duty to the court to ensure, in the public interest, that… justice is achieved”. And that’s a leadership position. In your organization –In your community – In society.

You colleagues in Finance, Operations, IT etc. They are NOT officers of the court. They do NOT have the same broad legal responsibilities.

Philip Wood QC, Visiting Professor of Law at Oxford, wrote in the January Edition of Modern Legal Practice: “legal systems are, in all their aspects, the most fundamental source of morality… the world may be able to do without its various philosophies and religions …it cannot do without its laws” …

So, you are guardians of the rule of law and defenders of our hard-won democracies. And when it comes to upholding the rule of law, your role is to protect us from ourselves – as one GC, for example, put it to stop us sending that stupid letter; to put the good of society above what is expedient for the business or organisation.

And if all of that’s not lofty and high fallutin’ enough for you if you HAVE a team, not only must you LEAD them as well as any other leader in your business or organization, but you must lead them in accordance with your higher purpose in society.

 The first rule of leadership is to create an environment in which the people you lead, THRIVE. And what could be more at ODDS with your legal training than creating an environment where the other guy thrives? Were you not trained to some extent not only to win but to ensure that the other party loses? Is that not the essence of an adversarial system? But as leaders, you can’t treat your context as a gladiatorial arena. That’s a recipe for disastrous relationships.

And over the next five years – a period of “change and upheaval” the strapline of this conference – you will have to grapple with these contradictions in your business – in your public sector organisation – and in your head.

So, imagine this is 2023 and not 2018 just five years from now. And, imagine if with the kind permission of The Law Society – albeit with a forty-page health and safety disclaimer – a Time Tunnel, like the one in the TV programme we used to watch as kids – were to appear behind me, and we all entered it together and tumbled into the future but back into this same hall, here in Blackhall Place in Dublin the year would be 2023.

If still alive, we will have aged by five years. I will be 63. You will all be five years older. So picture yourself in five years’ time? What work will you be doing? Where and with what title? Will you still be an in-house lawyer? How will the function have changed, if at all? Will it be, as you lawyers like to say, B-A-U, business as usual? Lots of stuff done using new technology and AI, but the core will remain unchanged – but with some techy bells and whistles ridding you of some of the tedium.

Or will the legal sector be unrecognisable from what it is now – like the airline industry is when compared with 25 years ago?

All the art and science of legal counsel and process serves the purpose of ensuring that the business – or the organisation – makes the best decisions it can.

And how you manage your RELATIONSHIPS up, down and across – impacts HUGELY how those decisions are made. So the most important thing for you to do now is to focus on managing your relationships as well as you can. That way you will be prepared for any outcome and you will have a more fulfilling and rewarding career.

Life and work are about how one person, one team, one function, one board, one business, one organisation, or indeed one country – relates to another.

Yes, you can become more and more expert in your area of legal expertise. But this is not what worries the GCs I work with apart from the nonsense of doing “more for less”?

They are concerned about their relationships. They are worried about making a mistake. Some fear their boss or specific people in ‘the business’? Some see in emails and texts sleights – real or imagined. And they often feel angry, frustrated, unappreciated or sometimes, just bored

These are all feelings. If you Google feelings you will get a chart of ‘emojis’. These come under four headings: Happy, Sad, Angry and Other. Let’s pick three from each

Happy: Confident; content; loved

Sad: Disappointed, Hurt, Unloved

Angry: Annoyed, Frustrated, Fuming

Other: Anxious, Jealous, Bored

SO how can YOU manage these feelings – and therefore your relationships – better? That’s a big subject. It’s what I spend most of my time doing with boards main and operating and Exec. Committees and with lawyers and their legal teams.

And I too use an acronym. It’s P – S – B: Purpose, Strategy, Behaviour.

Your starting point is to review THREE purpose statements:

FIRST, what’s your personal purpose as an in-house lawyer?

SECOND, what’s the purpose of your Legal function?

THIRD, what’s the purpose of your organization? Unless these three purposes are CLEAR. Unless their INTER-dependence is NEGOTIATED  then it follows that the relationships on which they depend are at risk.

On your personal purpose:

Why are you an in-house lawyer? Why do you want to remain a lawyer? Did you always want to be one? Did you drift into law? Or were you pushed?

Since you are where you are what’s your purpose now?

You have choices – you can stay where you are, and make it better – or you can leave. Whatever you decide, make sure you have a purpose – even if your purpose is to figure out your purpose. The quality of your relationships – which is what this talk is all about will come back time and time again – to the extent that OTHERS can see and feel that YOU have figured out YOUR personal purpose.

They won’t speak openly about this of course But that does NOT mean they’re not trying to figure YOU out.

Next, you must decide on the purpose of your legal function in relation to the purpose of your organization.

Earlier this year I was commissioned to write an article for the quarterly journal  – Modern Legal Practice. You can download it from my website. The title was: GC role and purpose: a revolution, not evolution, is needed by business and society

The gist of it is this:

When it comes to legal counsel and process – you know, and they don’t. The relationship is asymmetrical. FULL STOP. So you must have the courage to tell – not ask – the organisation what it needs to achieve its purpose. Now that can be a bit scary and for good reason, there is “scared” emoji

Next, you can move on to your personal  STRATEGY. That is, HOW will you achieve your personal purpose? I recommend that your strategy should be to learn how to lead by connecting with your feelings – as well as your thoughts.

You were trained to think. That’s made you a good lawyer. Now you need to train yourself to feel as well as you think. That’s about using a different muscle.

That brings us to your B – the behaviour you will use to implement your strategy to achieve your purpose.

Feel Need Do is a useful tool, championed by Marshall Rosenberg and others, to help you manage your feelings and therefore your relationships. It works like this:

So, start with what you feel about a situation, then ask yourself what you need in relation to that feeling. Finally, ask yourself what OPTIONS you have in terms of what you can you do to meet your need to address your feeling.

Often lawyers jump to DOING because their legal training ensures they usually know what to Do. Doing is their comfort zone. They should pause. Check what they feel and what they need.

In summary, there are three steps to managing your relationships better:

Step 1: figure out your personal purpose

Step 2: decide on a strategy to achieve it

Step 3: then make small changes in your relationships every day.

Just start by changing ten interactions in every hundred to reflect your newly-framed purpose as a lawyer-leader. Changing just ten interactions is only 10% of all interactions.

That’s small change.

But – in aggregate – small changes will have a big impact on you on your business or organisation and society. So if you want to manage your relationships better – and you’re looking for two words to sum it all up – then SMALL CHANGE sums it up.

If you’re up for Small Change in YOUR behaviour then, hard as it is to believe, you will notice big changes in THEIRS.

I know it seems like a contradiction that to get others to change you have to change first. But it’s true.

And take a moment to think about the complexity of some of your relationships today. If you RAGed them now: how many are green? how many are amber? how many red?

How can you convert the Reds to Green – and prevent the Ambers going Red? The answer lies with you – not them.

Recognise that, and you will be well on the road to being a great lawyer-leader.

Thank you