When I set up my business and took on my first employee, I had no idea how to lead. I knew deep down what type of boss/leader I wanted to be, but it took me a while to unearth that person. You see, law firms can be awful places to work. Don’t get me wrong, I am grateful for every job I have had. Without those jobs and the people who taught me, I would not have the skills and tenacity I have today, which has enabled me to set up and run my business successfully. Just because these people weren’t great leaders (at the time, and perhaps only for me), doesn’t mean that I didn’t admire them in other ways, or that they weren’t great people. The problem is that a great lawyer doesn’t necessarily make a great leader. Law school doesn’t teach you how to run a business, manage staff or lead people. In the past, it seems to be something that has happened by default and lawyers are only now realising that these skills are in fact required, especially when it comes to leading and managing the new generation (I refuse to use the term “millennial” but that is a topic for another day).
When I look back at the leaders I had in the past, I realised that they had all shown me the type of leader I didn’t want to be, not the type of leader I wanted to be. I had to create from scratch the type of leader I wanted to be, as well the culture I wanted to install in the workplace. I can see now that this wasn’t a bad thing, as it has lead me to be a truly authentic leader. I have created a business environment where well-being is recognised as being important, where we have guest speakers, anyone from a funeral home director to a psychic, distill essential oils, and get reiki. Creating this business environment is not possible without the right people on your team. You can’t force team members to engage and be engaged if they don’t want to. Some people just want to go to work, do their shit and go home. The younger generation want more than this. They want to be fulfilled by their work.
I feel so proud of the team I have created but it also testament to them as people. In amongst all this though, the question arises: how do you balance a great, fun work environment while making sure the job is taken seriously and the work gets done? I’m not entirely sure what the answer is, but I do think it has a lot to do with instilling in your team your own work ethic, leading by example and making it clear what your expectations are. We often receive comments about how fun it looks to work for us. I recall having a stakeholder in to help implement software and comment on what a fun team environment we had. What people don’t realise though, is that the work is tough, demanding and relentless. My team work hard and give 100% every day. They know exactly what is expected of them, and how to balance this with fun. A well-stocked fridge, secret stash of chocolate for the tough days, random coffee shouts and a simple thank- you never go astray either!
With a passion for small business, Emma Stanley is committed to sharing he expert knowledge in order to help up-and-coming businesspeople with anything business!