2People who need to improve their communication skills o;en don’t realize how their style a;ects others, nor do they comprehend the various ways they cost
the organization. ;ey might be convinced if shown a new
O;ce Team survey that suggests that 29 percent of the
respondents would likely leave their current positions if
they didn’t feel appreciated by their managers.
Communications assessments are available to individuals online and are easy to do, yet they reveal a lot about
communication skills. Some of the tools used by human
ASSESS WHAT WORKS AND
3DEVELOP A TRAINING PLAN ;e training plan should include speci;c com- munication skills you and your team have
decided need improvement. An example is the need to
improve the daily interaction between supervisors and sta;.
Lawyers and sta; frequently say they don’t know what is happening in the ;rm, and they rarely interact with its leaders.
Yet this need is so paramount that management literature is
over;owing with tips on how to interact with employees.
A simple approach to address this need for interaction
is to make sure that you and the team take a walk around
the o;ce at least once a week. ;e phrase “management by
wandering around” (MBWA) refers to strolling around at
random through the workplace to say hello to employees,
inquire about how they are doing and listen to them. To get
connected and stay connected, you need to walk around
and talk to your fellow employees, work alongside them, ask
questions and be there to help when needed. One of the ben-
e;ts of MBWA is increased approachability, as others begin
to see you as a person with whom they are familiar, and they
will be more likely to tell you what’s going
on. Some of the top leaders in the corporate
world make sure they walk around o;en
enough to know what is going on in their
workplaces. Steve Jobs was famous for it.
Another communication skill you and
your team can include in your training plan is encouraging
and responding to feedback from others. ;e opportunity
to provide constructive feedback occurs almost daily in
the legal environment during the day-to-day work assign-
ments and annually or semi-annually during performance
evaluations. In a recent article, an associate noted that
during her performance review, the evaluator spent 10
minutes acknowledging her achievements and the next 50
talking about how she needed to improve. Perhaps, rather
than focusing on the negative, positive feedback could be
o;ered, emphasizing the strengths of the person reviewed
so that those strengths can be built upon and used to bring
about improvements in other areas.
One way to develop better feedback skills is to engage
professional speakers to provide guidance on the subject to lawyers in the ;rm. Law ;rms that have provided
professional training report that the sessions can be an
eye-opener to senior lawyers and group leaders. ;ey
also report that retention is enhanced when constructive,
thoughtful feedback is provided, and asking for the associate’s feedback helps develop his or her skills.
A simple training plan would provide guidance in the
areas you wish to develop as part of your ;rm’s communication plan. As an example, see the table to the right.
PEOPLE WHO NEED TO IMPROVE THEIR COMMUNICATION SKILLS OFTEN DON’T REALIZE HOW THEIR STYLE AFFECTS OTHERS, NOR DO THEY COMPREHEND THE VARIOUS WAYS THEY COST THE ORGANIZATION.
resources professionals are available for free. Typically,
an assessment evaluates how you respond to various scenarios to measure your self-awareness and how you handle
situations with other people. ;en, it suggests areas where
you likely need improvement. Four types of assessments
are listed in the table on page 47. In each case, there is a
self-evaluation test, feedback on the results, and ideas for
skills you and your team want to develop. We’ve also listed
some inexpensive publications in the resources box (page
45) that can be purchased for your team to delve a bit
deeper into the topic. ;e books allow access to an online
test each team member can take to ascertain what he or
she does well and what he or she may need to work on. ;e
results can be kept private or be shared with others.
Let’s say you decide to use the emotional intelligence
book and you score low on being socially aware. Seventeen
strategies can be found in each section to tackle any shortcomings. For example, perhaps you aren’t good at listening;
you get easily bored with what people are saying and ;nd it
hard to pay attention. Some simple skill development ideas
are provided to help you. Each of the assessments available
online o;ers a di;erent approach to skill development.