You’ve been waiting for Alex, your associate, to get back to you on the Smith file. You: “Alex, what’s happening with those interrogatories?” Alex: “I’m working on them.” You: “AAAANNND??”
We hear it often: clients expressing frustration with a colleague or staff member who did not do what was expected. The report was not delivered on time. The data was incomplete. The wrong form was used. The meeting invitation didn’t go to everyone it should have.
In addition to the increased stress caused by these gaps between expectation and performance, there are other costs as well (e.g., your revenue-production time is eaten into, and the risk of making a legal or client service blunder is increased).
So here’s the good news / bad news. The bad news is that these occurrences of weak law practice management frequently arise from imprecise delegation — which is almost always a result of imprecise communication. The good news is that you can improve the precision of your communication and thus improve both performance and morale.
Whether you’re in a formal meeting with a client, or just touching base in the hallway with someone from your firm, here are Three Golden Clarifications which, when discussed and clearly agreed upon, will help everyone meet each other’s expectations:
1. Who will be taking what specific action next?
2. What, specifically, are the “deliverables” of those actions?
3. When and how, specifically, will those actions take place?
It’s human nature to think that people with whom we’re interacting understand what we mean – especially when we feel that what we’re saying is simple and clear. But because we can’t read minds, we have to check for understanding. Make it a habit to ask the three questions above – at least to yourself, if not always aloud – and start enjoying improved productivity throughout your work group.