We have come to the end of our series on how a critical friend can help professionals and organisations maintain a continuous cycle of improvement. In this final post, Martin offers readers advice on how to set up the relationship with your chosen critical friend in just the right way.
Previous posts covered:
What is a critical friend?
Who might use a critical friend?
Can critical friends support teams as well as individuals?
How might I find a critical friend?
How do I get a critical friend arrangement in place?
âIf you'd like to read these posts in order, start here. But if you are ready to get started, read on MacDuff...
We have taken some care in our previous 3 posts to explain what a critical friend is, what their role is, who could benefit and the right time to involve a critical friend in your business. (If you want to read these posts in order start here.)
âWhen my article on this subject was published in April, we know of at least one coach who received a call from a client saying "This. This is how I want us to work together". And no wonder: the benefits of working with a critical friend for a business leader are measurable in terms of the improvement and focus they will bring. Unlike a pure coaching relationship, the critical friend is an independent expert, a source of suggestions, ideas and examples and a means of leveraging external networks.
So where might you find a critical friend?
This is a bit like asking - who needs a friend? Answer: everyone.
As we said in the second part of this series, a critical friend comes closest to what may be termed "true friendship" - a successful marrying of unconditional support and unconditional critique. Someone who is on the side of the person they are working with, who encourages and supports them and also provides truthful and constructive feedback. Feedback that might be difficult to hear but is designed to help you maintain continuous improvement towards your goals.
In a business setting this sort of feedback and support can be invaluable, especially for the obvious group of typical law firm managers we talked about in the first part of the series: namely, senior managers such as managing partners, chief operating officers, department or team heads. In truth, anyone in a senior role in a legal business could easily justify the business benefits of having a critical friend.
âThere are some particular areas where having a critical friend can be invaluable:
The term Critical Friend is not well known in law firm circles. It's something we have been advocating for nearly a year now, as one possible answer to the question: what help is available for teams and leaders in firms who want to make change happen?
So, what is a critical friend? Typically, a critical friend is a person who understands, and is sympathetic to, the aims and objectives of the business they are working with, but who is outside the business. A critical friend is committed to helping their client to improve and succeed, whether that client is an individual or a group, by providing challenge, encouragement and candid feedback.
Yesterday evening I attended The Great Legal Reformation, an event organised by Shaun Jardine of Brethertons. The very fact that the event was organised by a law firm rather than say, Legal Futures or a bank is unusual. Add to this Mitch Kowalski as the main attraction and a venue change due to sheer weight of numbers and you will start to see that this was a special event.
Mitch himself is a great speaker. Relaxed, assured, knowledgeable. He can see into the crystal ball and what he sees there is exciting: a vision of teams of people working together to solve clients' legal problems efficiently and effectively, supported by cool technology. Mitch and the panel of experts (including Stephen Mayson, Amir Ali and David Gilroy) were equally clear on the direction of travel and what was going to be required to get there. During the polling part of the evening and the Q and A, everyone agreed: the Great Legal Reformation is coming, it will be driven by technology, will invite non lawyers into the inner sanctum and will result in prices being driven down to a point where the pent up demand for legal services will be released. The business model is dead! Long live the law firm of the future!
What a busy few months we have had! Martin and I gave a lot of thought earlier in the year as to where and how we can best serve our clients and the plans are starting to bear fruit. We've rebranded, created a post Brexit planning day, opened two new offices and expanded our client base into health and the built environment. Our new website will be launched in the New Year.
Why am I telling you this? Well, mainly because some people have questioned whether now is the right time to be doing it. I'd say, if not now, when? All we know for sure about Brexit is that we don't know. So now is exactly the right time to be putting our business into the best possible shape for the future.
If you need help doing the same, give either Martin or me a call to fix an appointment. If you want to book a meeting click here. Im trialling the Calendly app at the moment - it's pretty amazing.
Meanwhile, if you find yourself consumed by the small stuff, you may need a critical friend.
A Critical Friend may be critical to your business
Someone who has your best interests at heart, who understands what you want to achieve and (unlike your best friend) understands the environment and challenges you face as well as you do. Even better, who will tell you straight.
Here is what Martin told Modern Law Magazine. We hope you enjoy.
Blog for lexisnexis: The importance of decision making and leadership in strategy (or why your away day was a jolly not a strategy day)
I am sensing a new mood. Over the last 10 days I have engaged as many new clients, all with a stated intent to change. All want help to prioritise resources and to make the change count. The question they are asking is: what change can we make that will have the most significant and positive impact on our business?
Traditionally this has been the excuse for a good old-fashioned “away day”: an excuse to generate new ideas, make new plans and above all, create a warm fuzzy feeling that the uncertainty of the future has been wrestled into, if not a paper bag, then a well-crafted paper. Unfortunately, too many strategic planning processes are ill-defined with very little preparation or research and little or no bottom line impact. As a result, very little changes.
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