The Negative Leader vs. the Positive Leader
It’s one of my favorite scenes from any movie is in “The Lion King.” Scar, the dastardly, traitorous lion, is trying to get his dancing hyenas to understand their task: kill the king. Sadly, they are just not able to grasp the concept. Scar slaps his paw to his face and says, “I’m surrounded by idiots.”
While I hope you have never thought or said this about any of your law firm employees, it can be easy to wish that your legal assistant or paralegal had more experience or was able to predict what you need or to see the next piece of the puzzle. I think we would all be lying if did want our staff to help us run things a little bit smoother.
The reality is that we think and feel this common sentiment after explaining a task to a colleague or employee or even dealing with opposing counsel, after which they stare at you with mouth agape and eyes blank. It’s hard not to roll our eyes and swear, but that won’t do for one simple reason: allowing negativity to spew out of your mouth will ultimately cost you time and money.
The way I see it, we have two choices for how we approach everything in life and business, and both yield certain consequences or results. The first is to approach things negatively. The negative-minded person always looks for things that are wrong or badly done. This lawyer feeds on the thrill of finding an error or catching others’ making mistakes. As bad as a quality as this is in any lawyer, it is even worse in an employer.
An employer who only focuses on the bad in his employees’ performance will only get negative results. These results can range anywhere from continued poor performance, a strained workplace atmosphere or even the loss of employees. Imagine opening your mouth to utter a sentiment like, “I’m surrounded by idiots,” and having an paralegal or legal assistant walk out.
As bad as that seems, you would then be strapped with paying what I like to think of us the “idiot’s fee” in which the employer, not the employee, is the idiot paying for his or her mistakes, and all because he couldn’t control his negative thoughts and emotions toward his employees.
Fortunately, there is another alternative to being “negative Nancy” in the law office. You could be positive. For some, being positive just comes naturally. Honestly, I don’t know what that’s like, but I’ve met and worked with people who always see the good in others and in their employees’ performance. This kind of person naturally sees opportunities to constructively build up their staff while praising what they have already done well. For others of us, this type of positive outlook must become a practiced way of thinking and doing.
It may not be a natural thought process and response, but it needs to be if we hope to create a successful work environment. But how does one even begin to change from a negative state of mind to a more positive one? I have asked myself this question a thousand times. While I am far from being positive, there are certain steps that I find helpful:
Recognize and acknowledge your negative thoughts and reactions
Consciously change that negative, unconstructive way of thinking into a positive, constructive way.
Think before you speak so that you can accomplish the two steps aforementioned
Once you have your positive, constructive comment in mind, then speak and deliver that message.
Now repeat steps 1-4. Practice, practice, practice and one day you may find that positivity comes more naturally to you than you ever thought possible.
So why does it matter?
Besides what I mentioned earlier (you know, about strained work environments, losing employees and paying the “idiot fee”), there are positive results to be gained from being a positive leader. Here are the most obvious and important ones:
• Less turnover which yields more long-term, loyal employees;
• Employees who become more productive because they thrive in a positive and constructive environment and now want to do a better job; and
• Increased productivity yielding increased revenue for your law practice. That’s right. You read the last point correctly. By simply creating a more positive environment, you now have the opportunity to build your law firm and make more money. You are no longer wasting your time re-filling employee positions and trying to drag an ounce of work out of beaten-down workers. Instead, you have a productive and positive environment that runs efficiently, which not only makes for a happier workplace atmosphere, but also for a more lucrative business.
In short, being a positive leader yields more permanent employees, less turnover (as well as time and money spent on new employee training), fewer mistakes, and ultimately a unified unit that can lead to increased revenue for you by allowing you to make your clients more satisfied, giving you the time to network, and by making your life a little bit more fulfilling every day. The evidence and rewards are pretty compelling, so make the decision today to change your negative leadership strategies into positive ones; you won’t be sorry that you did.
Jared Pierce hung his own shingle right out of law school and has spent every minute since then discovering the joys and difficulties of chasing success. Anyone who has ever met Jared will tell you h