I gave a presentation recently and I was asked a great question:

What have you learned coaching lawyers?

I have learned many things, too many to put in one blog post. But, the one thing I have experienced more than any other is when I see potential in the lawyers I coach and I encourage them to reach for it, they inevitably take it to the next level. I love to see the look in the eyes and hear the enthusiasm in the voice of a lawyer who exudes confidence about his or her ability to attract clients.

In one of my favorite books, Encouraging the Heart, James Kouzes and Barry Posner discussed surveys of human nature. Kouzes and Posner asked:

Do I need encouragement to perform at my best?

Surprisingly, only 60 percent of the respondents said yes. Many said they believed they were individuals with lots of personal initiative and responsibility. Needing encouragement implied they couldn’t make it without a cheerleader.

The authors decided to rephrase the question.

When you get encouragement, does it help you perform at a higher level?

This time, 98 percent said yes.

Encouraging your lawyers is not rocket science, but are you doing it? Kouzes and Posner tell readers that when leaders to their best to encourage the heart, they:

  1. Set clear standards
  2. Expect the best
  3. Pay attention
  4. Personalize recognition
  5. Tell the story
  6. Celebrate together
  7. Set the example

Are you getting the encouragement that helps you achieve at your highest level? Are you giving the junior lawyers in your firm the encouragement that will enable them to take it to the next level? Does your firm give recognition for high performance other than the number of billable hours?