My comment on Lucy Kellaway’s piece on Amazon…

There is no evidence that “all corporations must extract their pound of flesh to turn a profit”. Many corporations do, but many don’t. There’s no “must” about it. There is increasing evidence – e.g. Reinventing Organisations by Frederic Laloux – that the “some win, some lose” model will, in time, become out of date in the way behaviours in organisations have evolved over the years. When it does, it won’t be a moment too soon.

Ciaran Fenton

My letter to the Editor of the FT complaining about its editorial on Amazon and Jeff Bezos’ leadership

Sir, In your editorial “No one is forced to work in the Amazon jungle, August 18” you opine for two reasons that “there is little reason” why Mr Bezos should change because you say there is no evidence yet that “his approach is deterring vital staff from joining Amazon, or driving customers to competitors”. You also point out that his employees are “not slaves” and “are highly employable elsewhere”. These words are thin code for the corporate bully’s answer to every complaint: if you don’t like it, leave. They are sentiments which, I suspect, would make your excellent management columnists blush. If I were advising Mr Bezos I would invite him to ignore your counsel, because of its manifest lack of humanity. Instead, I would invite him to consider that greater businesses that his have declined or collapsed because of hubris and, as a daily reader of your newspaper, I feel disappointed to find you championing it.

Ciaran Fenton

When Equity Partners leave private practice law firms they need a new purpose, strategy and behaviours. Easier said than done…

You can view this blog on video here

… Usually they say they are seeking a new equity partner role or want to launch a portfolio career. A common challenge for me is getting them to believe that they have unexploited talents. When I say this at the start of my programme they look at me as if I’m a bit crazy. They are, after all, at the top of their game – at least as lawyers if not as business developers. So what hidden talents could they possibly have that have not already emerged during their testing careers? Later, they learn the answer to this question – that there’s more to them that they thought. Just like the rest of us. But lawyers are trained to believe that they are different to the rest of us. And in a way they are. We need them to be. But this doesn’t help when it comes to their own career management. It makes some blind to themselves, to others and to the world of business to some extent. Some can be a bit disconnected therefore to other perspectives on them. My job is to help connect them. Equity partners who are leaving law firms need: a  “good” exit, a new purpose, a strategy, and a plan to execute that strategy. Their law firms need a smooth and rapid process, to protect its reputation internally and externally and to ensure good future relationships with the departing partner. The key to a successful exit and transition is to understand the unique personality of the exiting partner. The important questions are: Where are they now and why? Where should they go? – Not, where are they going? – and how can they get there?. Maslow was right. We need to figure out what we can be, not just what we’re good at. I use my own model to help uncover for them a new purpose, strategy and the behaviours required to achieve it. Together we write a plan. Then I help them to implement that plan. They need management and advice on their message to the market. They need progress, not just activity. They can easily fill their diaries with meetings and get nowhere, fast. Most of all they must learn how to sell themselves in an unfamiliar context. Usually they are not good  at this because they rarely, if ever, have had to sell in this way. I teach them how to sell again. Then they must network to intermediaries who can deliver feedback and leads. Without this feedback they fly blind. They must know what the market thinks of them. This is tricky because often the market won’t tell them what they really think of them. I have to find this out for them through “back channels”. It is crucial that they know and confront what the market feels is “wrong” with them as much a much as what it feels  is “right” about them. They also need someone to “hold up a mirror”, to bounce ideas and assess portfolio opportunities, which are difficult to find. They need support in managing key relationships and their own morale. This is easier said than done. The issues are rarely about money. They are about self worth, self belief and, above, all about purpose.

Ciaran