Open and honest communication with team members is crucial when running a law firm. Whether it be a group meeting or a one-on-one meeting, effective communication is critical.
When I have one-on-one meetings with team members, I do quarterly conversations as opposed to the dreaded review. Reviews are uncomfortable and awkward for everyone. No one ever likes administering them — or being subjected to them.
Instead, the quarterly conversation is something I have been doing for nearly a year, and I find them to be productive and rewarding for both myself and my team. I was inspired to start doing them after reading the fantastic book “How to Be a Great Boss” by Gino Wickman.
Quarterly conversations are a casual and relaxed back-and-forth dialogue between a manager and team member. They are a great opportunity to truly listen to the team member and to gain insight on how you can be a better leader, and how the team member can be further challenged and utilized.
Here are some things to keep in mind when doing quarterly conversations:
Ask team members prior to the conversation to perform a written self-evaluation, scoring themselves in different categories on a scale of 1 to 5. The categories I use are work quality, productivity, enthusiasm, dependability and communication. You might be surprised at how team members score themselves within these categories.
Reviews are uncomfortable and awkward for everyone.
I, too, perform my own written evaluation of the team member and score them using the same categories and scale. We then compare one another’s evaluation and discuss them at the quarterly conversation.
After we review the evaluations, I ask the team member a series of questions that aim to drill down to how they truly feel about their role, and how they are doing.
These questions yield so much interesting information. Really and truly listening to the answers you get in this context is so important.
Some of the questions I typically ask are: Do you feel your work makes a difference? Do you feel challenged in your current role? How can we better utilize your skill set? What is a personal goal you want to accomplish in the next six to 12 months?
I guarantee you that other employers do not take the time to do this, and it will make you stand out. The team member will appreciate you for taking the time to ask questions that show you truly care. Retaining great team members is crucial, and this is a great way of reducing the likelihood of someone leaving.
Having an actual back-and-forth conversation instead of a review, for me, is very helpful to help improve a team member’s performance while reminding them that I care about their success. If you are not already doing quarterly conversations, give them a try. They can be a true win-win for everyone.
Christopher F. Earley is a Boston attorney and author who concentrates his practice on the representation of the seriously injured and their families.