Think More Information Is The Answer To Your Challenges? Think Again!

As the leader of a small law firm, you’re all-too-familiar with the challenges of providing quality legal services while also ensuring your business is successful. Add leading a team to the mix, and you’ve got quite a set of obstacles to navigate.

Correctly navigating your team in a small firm setting is critical to ensuring your boutique firm is successful, and the first rule of effective team leadership in a boutique law firm is to set boundaries between you and your employees.

Yes, it’s important to build a relationship with each member of your team. Showing compassion and empathy towards them and their personal lives is a great quality in any leader. There’s also nothing wrong with knowing how their kid’s soccer team did, or asking about their ailing elderly parents or their spouse’s new job.

At the same time, there’s a fine line between a professional employer-to-employee relationship and BFF land, and crossing that boundary leads straight to problems like these:

1. Employees not doing their jobs

When your employees feel like there won’t be consequences because you’re their bestie instead of their boss, it gets easier for them to justify dropping balls and slacking off. For example, they may stop following up with new business opportunities, even when you hand them those opportunities on a silver platter.

Instead, they figure you’ll just pick up their slack, because you “understand” how upset they are about their personal problems.

2. Loss of respect for you

Another problem I see all the time with employers who are BFFs with their team is that your leadership is more likely to be called into question, and even undermined.

Normal collaboration with your team is excellent, but when your authority is questioned and even ignored, it’s a sign you may have crossed the employer/friend line.

3. Less loyalty

Very often when an employer becomes besties with their team, they figure it’ll foster deeper loyalty. Instead, it can have the opposite outcome!

That’s because when your employees see you as more of a friend than a leader, they figure you want what’s best for them, including to leave your firm behind when a competitor swoops in with an irresistible job offer.

You probably do want what’s best for them, but at the same time, do you also want to deal with high employee turnover because your employees expect you to support them as they dance off to your competitors?

4. Your constructive feedback feels like a betrayal

Giving your employees honest feedback on their performance is necessary for both their growth and your business’ growth.

Putting yourself in your employees’ friend zone means feedback on their performance can feel like a betrayal, or even backstabbing, if you’re sharing ways they can improve (which is often the case).

Since your boutique firm can’t improve if you can’t give your team feedback on how they’re doing, it’s a recipe for the decline of your firm’s performance.

Although it’s understandable to want a close-knit team, make sure you’re balancing necessary professionalism with congeniality that does not cross the line into BFF land.

Aim to be a mentor and champion for your team, rather than a manager, and for sure not a friend. Keeping that boundary ensures you maintain a necessary level of authority while still showing compassion and empathy towards your team members.

Starting a boutique law firm comes with plenty of challenges, but you can reduce team-related challenges by resisting the urge to get too close with your team.

Healthy employer-employee boundaries are essential for ensuring the motivation and success of your employees and your firm. With the right balance of professionalism and congeniality, you can create a thriving work environment where your team members feel appreciated, motivated, and supported, all while respecting you and taking their work seriously.

THE fix my boss workBOOK



This workbook is intended to be used in conjunction with the book, "Fix My Boss" to cultivate respect, risk courageous conversations, and increase the bottom line. The exercises and activities provided will guide you through a step-by-step process of understanding, analyzing, and taking action to create positive change in your workplace.

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