Why the Olympics Had Me in My Feels About Collaboration

“I’m glad I didn’t win it in an individual [event] because this just makes it 10 times sweeter knowing that I’ve accomplished this history with girls that are also making history.” – Penny Oleksiak, Canada’s Most Decorated Olympian

The 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games were full of lessons – ones of perseverance, patience, and teamwork. There were countless stories of teams having to adjust training schedules, transition to virtual coaching, manage endless health and safety rules, and more. Watching them rise to the occasion was inspiring and had me thinking about some of the obstacles that my own marketing and business development teams faced throughout the pandemic and how, in the Lenczner Slaght way, we demonstrated our own Olympic performance, powering right through. How did we do it? At the core, it was all about collaboration. We dedicated a lot of time and effort to what we believe are key strategies that facilitate effective collaboration.

I would generally define collaboration as building or developing something that cannot be achieved by an individual person or effort. In a law firm, successful collaboration can make an enormous impact on the bottom line – think cross-selling, new business proposals, lateral partner integration, etc. It’s important for law firm leaders to appreciate the value of effective collaboration and, in our post-pandemic world, where flexibility will be the name of the game, employ a more thoughtful and deliberate approach to ensure it is not only maintained but strengthened.

Here are a few strategies that my firm and my marketing and business development teams focus on to ensure collaboration opportunities are meaningful and successful.

Vision and values – What are they? Simplest description wins. Your vision has to be clear and authentic. The same goes for your values. They need to represent your business and help focus the work that is going to be done. Your vision and values need to be repeated (and then repeated again). At Lenczner Slaght, our values are virtually everywhere. They are discussed at Town Halls, one click away online, posted throughout our office, and mostly importantly, weaved into daily conversations between any and all members of our firm. It’s not a mandate from any one person, it’s a belief system that we all understand and practice.

Context – What is this all about? Understanding project objectives and how they align to a firm strategy will have a positive impact on any elements which require collaboration. It’s also important to learn why a particular team has been brought together to collaborate. Recognizing the strengths of team members and understanding their expected contributions will have a positive impact on the work. A good law firm leader will give you the information that you need but, if you aren’t getting it, the onus is on you to ask questions.

Relationship building – Is there trust among team members? Without sounding like a broken record, relationship building is one of the most important elements of success in a law firm and something that should be prioritized and nurtured. Firm members must be open and keen to invest in their relationships with one another. Although their drivers may be different, their interests are aligned. For example, when a legal marketer understands the strengths of a particular lawyer, offering profile building opportunities will be easier and more likely to be accepted. Business team members should also prioritize relationship building among one another. When the time comes to collaborate with lawyers, you’ll have complete trust and confidence in one another’s ideas and contributions.

Creativity – Are you fostering a creative environment? This may not have made the shortlist before the pandemic but, the last 18 months has shifted my mindset. I have been learning about the power of creativity and pushing myself to be more “confidently creative” in my work. What’s more, my firm has made “Inspiring Creativity” a central part of our innovation program this year. Recognizing that pandemic life had the potential to inhibit creativity, we made a conscious effort to design a program that would expose our minds to broader ideas. We have developed Special Interest Groups, heard from experts, held firmwide brainstorming sessions, and spent time curating and sharing resources on related topics (I personally recommend you follow Natalie Nixon!). This program is bold, inclusive, and something our firm can be proud of.

Encouragement and recognition – Do you recognize what is working well? Whether through real-time feedback, annual evaluations, peer recognition programs, or something else, law firm leaders must pay attention, encourage participation, and reward effective outcomes of collaborative projects and programs.

Companies are at a crossroads right now – employees want flexibility, employers know that they need to use their space differently, and leaders want to maintain morale while continuously boosting productivity. Improving your teamwork and collaboration strategies now can help you build powerful teams and collaborate more effectively in the future. And if you can get all of this right, well, you’ll be on track for gold!

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