Find Your Firm’s Best Coaching Candidates
Business Development coaching takes time. It takes money. And it takes a lot of effort and dedication on the part of the firm, the coach and the lawyer. Ideally, firms are confident from the outset that the investment in coaching is worthwhile and the coaching candidates will take advantage of the opportunities. Otherwise, everyone ends up frustrated and disappointed.
Recently, Wicker Park Group and McMurdo Consulting wrapped up a series of business development training and coaching programs. Typically, we lead a group program focused on the skills to develop relationships and conduct client development meetings. Afterwards, the participants have one-on-one individual coaching sessions, meeting with their coach every four weeks or so for a period of up to twelve months. These follow-up sessions allow lawyers to customize and adapt what they’ve learned and make it relevant to their individual practices.
So who are the best business development coaching candidates? After conducting a number of these sessions, we see some common success traits:
- They want to do it. It’s simple but true: Anyone forced into coaching isn’t likely to follow through. It’s fine to be skeptical (most lawyers are), but the skepticism can’t outweigh a desire to make the program work.
- They have some comfort with networking. Business development is a hands-on, active skill. In the end business development is about relationships, and lawyers who are uncomfortable spending time with others will face difficulties.
- They are interested (and interesting). The most successful lawyers we’ve worked with are naturally curious. The candidate often has a unique background and varied interests outside of the law. These people are more open to learning new skills, meeting others and building connections.
- They are willing to invest the time. Time is a challenge for all lawyers, and it doesn’t help when firms send mixed messages on the relative value of billable hours versus time spent on business development. But a successful coaching candidate is willing to make the coaching a priority. Some of the busiest partners are still great candidates—as long as they are willing to invest the time.
- They possess personal accountability. An essential element of individual coaching success is the lawyer’s willingness to make the phone calls, pursue the relationships and follow through on learned practices. The coach can point the lawyer in the right direction, but the lawyer has to do the actual work.
- They overcome political forces at the firm. Is there a pathway to success without the political roadblocks younger lawyers often encounter? Despite best intentions, battles over origination credit can trip up even the most motivated lawyers. Look at the firm’s compensation structure and make sure the financial incentives exist to support the lawyer’s success.
- They recognize that coaching benefits both themselves and the firm. The best coaching candidates look for new work beyond their areas of expertise and are enthusiastic about finding opportunities for others at the firm as well.
The goal of a successful coaching experience is to get beyond the to-do list of calls and emails and instead build good habits that integrate business development into daily work life. The first piece of the puzzle, however, is finding the right coaching candidates. Pick smart and your investment will be well worth it.
PS – Stay tuned. Next week we’ll look at the attributes of a successful coaching session.