In our ongoing look at the seven character traits of high achievers, we are devoting this post to an important one: social intelligence. Daniel Goleman, a psychologist and expert in social intelligence, explains in an article for the Harvard Business Review that neuroscience research has shown us the high value of social intelligence and its impact on successful leadership.
Without getting into the science behind it (which you can read about in the article), these are the main components of social intelligence:
- Empathy – Do you understand what motivates others? Are you sensitive to their needs?
- Attunement – Do you listen attentively and think about how others feel?
- Organizational Awareness – Do you appreciate a group’s cultures and social networks?
- Influence – Can you persuade others by appealing to their interests and getting key support?
- Developing Others – Do you coach and mentor others with compassion?
- Inspiration – Do you articulate a compelling vision and foster a positive emotional tone?
- Teamwork – Do you foster cooperation and support all members?
So how do these traits relate to client relationship management? For starters, Wicker Park Group’s Nancy Mangan says that empathy is essential to relationship management. Nancy, who works with attorneys to develop these traits, explains, “It’s the essence of business development/sales to put yourself in someone’s shoes and thus figure out what motivates them and what is going to motivate them to select your product or service over someone else’s.” As a client once told Wicker Park Group of outside counsel, “I feel they care about our business as much as I do.”
When it comes to attunement with clients, even the small gestures can greatly impact client trust. A client who was extremely happy with outside counsel’s performance attributed the attorney’s ability to listen and respond well to the relationship’s success. As the client told Wicker Park Group, the attorney “always gives the impression that I am the most important call.” Adds Nancy, “[It’s important to] really listen and have a dialogue as opposed to throwing your legal expertise out there.”
Nancy also says that organizational awareness can play a huge role in the success of client relationship management. “We hear from clients that lawyers are offering boilerplate services and don’t understand their industry or their needs,” she says. “It’s critical to relationship management and business development, because by understanding more of what’s going on in the organization you start to get this more fully rounded picture of what’s going on with the client and how your services relate to what’s going on with the client.” A very complementary client spoke highly of outside counsel’s “thorough understanding” of the company’s culture and “what’s reasonable and not – within that culture and what we are comfortable doing.”
Alternatively, a client who was unhappy with outside counsel told Wicker Park Group, “They should meet with us and our management to better understand our competitive strategies and internal politics. Sometimes those are more fiery than the external [politics].”
The notion of mentorship is also very applicable to relationship management. It is always beneficial for a senior attorney to help a less experienced client develop professional skills. But it is also important for the client to see counsel mentoring more junior attorneys at the firm. A client from a large information services company made a point of saying in an interview that seeing such mentoring among her outside counsel was highly valuable. It increases the value of the entire team working for the client and also proves the relationship attorney’s attitude of teamwork.
Along those lines, clients almost always sense when a team of attorneys doesn’t work well together. And how can a client feel that outside counsel is a trusted advisor—a “part of the team”—if the attorney can’t even foster that spirit among colleagues? Echoing a sentiment we’ve heard many times before, one client noted to Wicker Park Group that he placed high value on the lack of “turf protection” among the partners at his chosen firm.
Nancy adds one final but essential point about all of these skills: While they are vital, they can be learned. “Part of the challenge is to help lawyers understand and embrace how critical these soft skills are,” she says. “That’s something lawyers often have a problem with. They think it’s either not important or they can’t develop those skills. They are merely behavioral skills; this is not something innate you are born with. This is a behavior you learn at some point. You begin engaging in it and you learn those skills.”
If you’re interested in learning more about social intelligence, contact Wicker Park Group regarding Nancy’s training and utilization of the Emotional and Social Competency Inventory, which measures emotional and social intelligence.