Coaching a football team is smooth sailing when everything aligns, allowing coaches to "spin the magnets on the board" or place players in different roles to provide better opportunities. On the flipside, when things are not going so well on the field or in the workplace, what strategies do you fall back on to change direction?
Game Day is Relative to the Process
Often in post-match interviews a player or coach will refer to the ‘process’ - the cumulative preparation or training for game day that has occurred on a consistent basis to reach a level of achievement that is targeted by players, the coach, and the team as a whole.
When facing various crises within a law firm, reflection on what has gone wrong is most important - including the process, to determine whether the particular situation could have been avoided and what actions or steps could have been taken previously that may be adopted for the future. For example, when a key staff member leaves a law firm on short notice causing a potential crisis, often this scenario is perceived as a snap decision rather than a cumulative build-up of tensions that were only partly articulated. Reviewing the process may reveal that a lack of consistent communication with the team member regarding their present circumstances, needs or future aspirations has contributed to their decision to resign.
Establishing and clearly documenting important processes, particularly during periods of law firm growth, is crucial for sustained success and preventing setbacks. For instance, the presence of an effective hiring policy and a record of successful hires in the past can serve as a valuable template for future recruitment, ensuring the best possible outcomes for new hires.
The Foundations of Game Day
In the management of the Brisbane Lions AFLW team, coach Craig Starcevich looks to fall back on a number of key statistics generated during the game by the playing group. These include what is called the pressure rating of his players – which refers to what they are doing in or around the ball to put pressure on their opponents. Conversely, reviewing the number of uncontested possessions players receive each quarter reflects the amount of space on the field the players can create to receive the ball out in the open, clear of opponents.
Having ready access to key statistics or information is equally as important in running a law firm. “Cash is King”, a statement often uttered by a firm’s accountant, declares that without cash flow a law firm will not succeed. Important to achieving fluid cashflow is understanding a series of key indicators of how the cash flow will occur. For example, at Your Divorce the number of online divorce applications received each month predicts the number of completed hearings expected in the following months. Tracking both the initial applications and the progression of those matters provides a very clear indication of the projected cash flow or success of the firm.
On game day an AFL team consists of around 20 players and the mechanics of a great coach requires a team structure and plan for the playing group but also on a more granular level, preparation of each individual in the team to ensure that they understand the gameplan and can execute on a personal level at their best.
When a team member, whether in an AFL side or in the workplace, is failing at a given task the challenge is to understand why. The simple lack of skill in execution is commonly blamed, particularly when the same error constantly occurs. However, a lack of understanding of what was required in the first instance is more likely the cause. An instance where a youth footballer kicks the ball across their own goal allowing the opponent to intercept and score would seem foolish at first glance. Upon reflection by the coach, however, it can be that the instructions were given to the player to execute that kick, without first checking that the strategy was understood or without a valid assessment of the players age and capability of executing that strategy.
Conversely, in the workplace, if a paralegal is consistently making errors in processing it is necessary to pull back and examine the level of understanding for the task, the existence of adequate instructions to fall back on if uncertain or the presence of a support system or person to call on regarding unusual circumstances. Considering the systems or processes required for optimum individual performance can avoid disaster and improve the team as a whole.
The Coach’s Box
There are quite a number of people required in a coach’s box. Typically, the head coach, several assistant coaches, statisticians and occasionally a senior player who may be injured. Each coach’s box will have a system of how information is communicated between all of the parties in the box. For example, the assistant coaches may be able to speak to the head coach at any time but the statistician only provides updates at the end of each quarter or when an opponent is doing particularly well. There is an “in joke” that in a coach’s box when the team is playing well the assistant coaches are full of ideas but when the team is not going well, they tend to sit there silent and you can hear “the crickets”. Failure to have assistants communicate their thoughts in the coach’s box can signal death for the success of the team.
Lawyer, CCW stalwart and bid chief Rod McGeoch credits the success of the Sydney 2000 Olympic bid to the staff member who suggested that Australia fund the cost of airfares for all the athletes and officials from all the countries attending the Games. Having never been done before this was a jaw dropping moment when announced at the crucial final presentation to the voting countries resulting in the win.
The concept of drawing ideas from various sources within a law firm is worthy of exploring. Often the genesis of a great idea may come from an unexpected place or person within the organisation. Establishing systems or regular opportunities to get feedback and input from staff provides a sense of value and ensures the best chance of reaping golden ideas. The Your Divorce team have considerably reduced email enquiries and increased efficiency by including of a series of diagrams included with each key client letter to explain the progression point of their divorce application – a suggestion made by a team member at the weekly ‘toolbox’ sessions.
The right mix of people in the coach’s box or team is critical. This is why an AFL team will often recruit a senior player verging on retirement from an opposing successful club, like Luke Hodge from Hawthorn moving to the Brisbane Lions, to help create and drive the standards necessary for success. The make-up or balance of key personnel in a law firm is what determines its success. A growing firm will reach ultimate success with a great finance officer, a key operations manager and supportive and energetic senior legal team member/s to drive the firm's vision.
Most coaches would agree that game day brings out the most excitement but the process of training and building the team is important. To avoid a performance disaster followed by a restless night putting the right building blocks or processes in place will ensure that game day goes well.
Read Chapter 3
Written by Geoff Ebert, Your Online Legal Group
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