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Industry Insights Blog

Direct People Management Experience – How Can You Acquire These Skills?

Kate Harry Shipham

 By Kate Harry

In June 2014, our Market Analysis reported the following:

Firms are seeking Managers who possess several years of formal and direct people management skills, but we see a significant gap in legal marketers with people management skills. Most managers are not exposed to this responsibility in their current firms, being a Manager of projects, but not people. We will keep our eye on how this is to be reconciled in years to come. Some people are being particularly savvy on this front and are seeking out management opportunities in other areas, such as their LMA committees and not for profit associations that they are involved in.”

This is still an issue. People are progressing into Manager roles with very little, or zero, formal people management responsibilities.

Knowing how to formally manage (ie day to day management, review, and, sometimes even, performance manage) people is critical. And this is not something that most people know how to do. You must learn this craft and practice it to become a good manager and then a respected leader.

The issue that will happen down the track is that our Managers will ultimately step into Senior Manager and then Director positions and, at that point, they must have people management experience. And several years experience of this at least. So how do we fill the gap in the meantime?

Savvy marketers out there are focusing on what they can do to address this ‘gap’ with their teams and firms. Firms are also trying to help, but law firms typically don’t offer the people management component as part of their Manager titles; they are a Manager in title only.

Some firms offer people management training to their marketers alongside their attorneys. Other firms are also finding ways to satisfy the manager in us all by offering project-based management responsibilities.

Here’s some things you can also do to help this ‘gap’. The more you suggest, innovate and lead, the more of a manager you are…

  • Ask to manage people on a project-by-project basis. What projects are you currently doing where you’re deal with more junior people daily? Ask to formally manage these people for these projects.
  • Managing interns. Are there any interns in your team who need a mentor? Ask to be the person who is responsible for their experience. This is a big commitment but will allow you to really see how to do this effectively.
  • Look at what projects your peers are involved in and what management responsibilities they have. There is always extra work to go round, someone going on maternity leave, someone out on vacation. Step up and see if you can manage the people / projects in their absence.
  • Seek out management training from your firm. Start with what training the attorneys might be receiving to see if you can join, otherwise research what trainers you can bring in-house for you and your budding managers.
  • Look at local organizations (LMA is a great one!) or volunteering opportunities to have a leadership role and manage people. Many of you are already involved in work within your communities, and whether its on a sub-committee or smaller project, you can create the opportunity for yourself to lead their group.
  • Think laterally… you manage up every day, you manage people in other departments, you even manage your local child’s football team on a Saturday morning. This all counts.

Kate Harry is a Recruiting Manager with J. Johnson Executive Search, Inc. She can be reached at kate@jjohnsonexecsearch.com

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