We are programmed to qualify people based on their experience, and that is a mistake. Instead, we should be qualifying their character. That is what George Randle, Managing Partner at Talent War Group and author of the best-selling book The Talent War, tells us in our conversation of talent and leadership for law firms.
Our conversation explores why investing in your team is the one investment that will yield the highest ROI for your law firm, and explains why you should start paying more attention not only to whom you are hiring but who is hiring them and what legacy you are building; Are you working your way out of a job?
In a world where we are all fighting the war on talent every day, it should come as no surprise that those who understand its art are winning.
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Liel: [00:00:00] Clients come second, first come your employees at the end of the day, your business is your most important client. I’m Liel Levy, co-founder of Nanato Media, and this is In Camera podcast, where just like Sam Walton, we believe individuals don’t win in business teams do. Welcome to In Camera podcast, Private Legal Marketing Conversations, Grace. Welcome back. Nice to see you again.
Grace: [00:00:52] Nice to see you, too, Liel.
Liel: [00:00:55] You know, today we have a really interesting conversation, which is the topic that we actually visited not too long ago. And we’re really lucky to be joined by a real authority in this subject matter. So, Grace, would you be kind enough to introduce our next guest?
Grace: [00:01:14] Yes, I’m super excited as well. So without further due, we are thrilled to welcome George Randall for a conversation on attracting and developing the right talent for your law firm. George is an accomplished manager, mentor and coach with outstanding leadership skills, with over 20 years of experience building high performing teams and leading organizational change initiatives. He is the managing partner at Talent War Group and the author of The Talent War How Special Operations and Great Organizations Win on Talent.
Liel: [00:01:45] George, welcome to our podcast. How are you today?
George: [00:01:49] I’m doing good. It’s Friday, so there’s a cocktail in my future within the next, I don’t know, maybe two hours.
Liel: [00:01:59] Yeah, actually makes me wonder why are we not having a cocktail right now. Right. I mean…
George: [00:02:03] I don’t know.
Liel: [00:02:06] The world has changed. I think both you and I are in Austin right now. Correct?
George: [00:02:10] We are. We are in. My biggest wish is that this rain stops because I’ve got a soccer game on Sunday and I really want to play.
Liel: [00:02:19] Yeah, yeah, yeah. Actually, Sunday, we also have here planned out an outing. So let’s see how that goes, because rain’s been a little bit wild here this past month. Yeah, that’s what you get, May in Austin is rain season. And it’s not really a bad thing. It’s good as an overall. But, you know, we’re kind of like ready for that to stop. Well, George, first of all, congratulations on becoming a best seller on your new book. We’ve just mentioned that the talent of war, how special operations and great organizations win on talent. I mean, I was blown away. Grace, the book has four hundred or more than four hundred five-star reviews. So, wow, it’s just been out there six months, by the way. So, I mean, quite remarkable.
George: [00:02:58] Yeah. We’ve been really humbled by the success. When you have two ex-military knuckleheads, knuckle draggers, as they say, you kind of wonder how it’s going to go. So we’ve been very, very humbled by the overwhelmingly positive response. So we’re very, very grateful for those people who’ve read and are putting those lessons to work in their business.
Liel: [00:03:22] Yeah, no, no, it’s remarkable. There’s a lot of mentions there and blurbs by very well-known CEOs. So it’s really, really impressive. So, George, why don’t we start there? What’s your background? How you became such a thought leader in the world of recruitment and team growth and such?
George: [00:03:43] Yeah, it’s it’s been a long, exciting journey, but the abbreviated version, because it’s, you know, my professional life without giving away my age, although I am a recently newly minted grandfather.
Liel: [00:03:58] Congratulations.
George: [00:04:00] Nothing makes you feel old like that. There’s the definition of aging right away. But, you know, I knew that I was going to go to college, but I had to fund it and we were somewhat poor. And so I enlisted in the army and absolutely enjoyed it. But it helped me pay my way through college and I caught the leadership bug. So I became an officer. And from there, you know, multiple deployments, a few hazardous zones, and at some point the leadership positions stop. And I knew I still wanted to lead, I wanted to make a little bit better life, so I jumped into the corporate world. And to really pull that short, I went to be a consultant because it sounded really sexy and I had no idea what they did. But I was like, that sounds cool. And I bet they get paid a lot. So it’s going to go do that. But I had a family circumstance caused me to relocate. The only job I could get was taking two steps back into H.R. And the minute I did everything kind of clicked for me that my passion in the military was building teams and it just took off. And so I’ve spent 20 plus years in the recruiting executive senior HR leadership roles, and I wouldn’t change a thing about that career.
Liel: [00:05:26] Well, that’s amazing, right? I don’t think a lot of us, and I’m including myself there, make the association oftentimes. Right, with what Human resources and the way army military works right there. They’re almost like people would think, contradictory. But at the end of the day, teams. Right. Managing people. George, the book, name, talent war. What is the talent war and who’s fighting it?
George: [00:05:52] So everybody is all the time if you own a business, even if you’re running a government agency. First of all, let me back up, because I want to take a quote in the book and I’ll tell you kind of where it came from. So one of my coaches and mentors was the former chief human resource officer at HP, Tracy Kiyo. And she went into a meeting one day and they said, hey, we’re glad H.R. is at the table. And she quickly snapped back. Wait a minute, H.R. is the table. And so the point about the talent wars that and the point about special operations is what makes special operations special is the people. It’s always about the talent. So the talent war stems from the fact that as a company, as a firm for everybody listening, it is always about getting the best talent that you can possibly field because that’s how you win and dominate in your space.
Liel: [00:06:47] That’s actually very true. I think oftentimes we forget that at the end of the day, what we were doing at all times, and particularly here in this industry, the legal industry, it’s always about dealing and managing people and. You’re only going to get as far as you’re good at doing that, right?
George: [00:07:08] Yeah, and so one of the things we talked about and people have that misunderstanding, that misperception of human resources, but sometimes H.R. has that misperception of themselves that they’re there to do payroll, they’re there to do benefits, performance reviews, you know, compliance reports, you name it. Those are all critical blocking and tackling things that each organization needs to do. But H.R. is the pivotal point. It’s the gateway for every revenue, product and service producing function in your company. And to have them relegated to the backbench or the human capital part of the equation, not front and center, is one of the things that we wanted to address in the book. So like you’re talking about, even with law firms, if. If it’s not important, if how you hire and what you look for is not important, then don’t bother to interview the person, just take the resume and then throw them in there and see how it goes for you, which is basically what most people are doing. To be honest with you, they’re hiring off experience or some objective set of requirements that they think, oh, I need three to five years of trial experience, I need two to five of personal injury. Well, those metrics are not predictive of success. Any particular organization or out in the workforce in general.
Grace: [00:08:26] That’s definitely been a struggle for me on, we’re like on a hiring freeze as well. So this is couldn’t be perfect in terms of the subject matter that we’re going over. I have found a lot of times that the common practices and, you know, when it comes to hiring and communication with the staff and employees, they’re seen as like and, you know, as a cog in a wheel, in a way. Exactly. Front and center, just like you said. So, you know, what are some common practices that you frequently identify on business and organizations that don’t see their employees and team members as their main competitive advantage?
George: [00:09:04] Well, that was one of the challenges with the book, is how do you boil down one hundred mistakes into the top ones? But I can tell you the number one thing, and that is to your point about a cog and people doing hiring. How do we do that? People come to me, George. How do we do the hiring process better? How do we do this? How do we do this? What questions do we ask? My first question back to them is, have you defined what success looks like in your organization? And most people don’t do that, and to break it down into the absolutely absurd what happens to you when you go to the grocery store without a list or you go to the grocery store hungry, you come back with a lot of crap. It might taste good at the moment, but it’s never good for you. That really does apply to how people hire. If you don’t go purposefully, if you don’t define what you need, what success is, and then go to market to look for those things, you end up with what you end up with and then people you know, the other thing that drives you nuts is people say people are our most valuable asset. That’s total B.S. Good people are your most valuable asset. Poor people are your biggest liability. And people forget about if we made a bad hire, will they become a liability? So hiring is absolutely critical. And I would and I would say this outside of that mistake, not knowing success if they don’t have a standardized process. They over-rotate on experience versus character because character determines where you’re going. Experience tells you where they’ve been. It’s as simple as that character is the only thing that’s predictive experience and performance in your past may be relevant and may be predictive, but it’s not always. So if you could just do those simple things and standardize your process and make sure your players are interviewing top talent, you’re ahead of 98 percent of the competition out there.
Grace: [00:11:07] That’s so true, right? I mean, I heard it so many times, I actually did human resources in retail, which can be pretty brutal.
George: [00:11:14] That is brutal. Wow.
Grace: [00:11:17] So I understand where you’re coming from, where people say, oh, people are my best asset. No, no. It’s definitely the good people. And those are the people that you want to nurture and develop and continue to work on and you want them to be a part of your team. So where do you see? Because, you know, we’re talking about the legal industry and this specific podcast. Where do you see law firms kind of on the industry scale, right. On that chart of industries that are leading the way in recruitment into talent development initiatives?
George: [00:11:47] As far as talent development, I haven’t necessarily found a law firm that develops talent very well. They pick their favorites and then pour and invest into those, you know, through coaching and mentoring and buddy system and stuff like that. But there’s no formal development. They’re getting better. In that conference where we were introduced, it was nice to see some of the schools and the continuing education to develop the skill set. But there’s they don’t do any character. They don’t do any mentorship and leadership training. And so you see a wide gap, even with owners of firms when it comes to leading their firm. They may be the best attorney, but they don’t have the leadership attributes. And why would they? They just it’s not been a focus area. But as far as where law firms are when it comes to hiring people middle to below middle of the pack, because most of them look at it as cogs in the wheel and say, hey, we need an attorney. We have X number of cases coming in. We’ve got this volume. You know, here’s this potential in the market that we could attack. So they go to market. But when they don’t define success, how do they know that they have the right person if they haven’t defined their culture, their values and those success attributes? If you haven’t defined those, how do you know you got the right person? And more often than not, that’s because they came from a good school and I like them and or the real nefarious side. So-and-so knows them and really liked them and referred them here, which is just insidious when at the end of the day.
Liel: [00:13:19] So, George, thank you very much for explaining that to us. So we’re hearing here be able to articulate how success looks like for organization, you know, hire for a character, not for talent, whatever, or other important players in creating a strong team in your organization. Well, because these are all very high-level concepts right now. Success looks like it’s a very broad description, to say the least. Right. And then hiring for a character. What is character?
George: [00:13:56] So. Well, what we had done in the book, a lot of questions in there. And I’ll kind of take them one by one. The one of the reasons that I’ve stayed high level is because, you know, it’s kind of like a snowball the top of the hill. If you don’t start the right way, you’re going to end up wrong no matter how you do it. And it just multiplies as it goes and gathers a lot more problems going downhill. But defining success is so important because most people don’t take the time to say, OK, these are the successful attorneys, paralegals, case managers and my firm. These are the people I would never want to lose them. What is it about their character that makes them successful? It’s a very simple step for people to analyze the people that are winning and doing great things where they are now and then replicate that. So as far as the character attributes, you know, hopefully, people will pick up the book, but what we essentially did was took all of the special operations and let me tell you why, why we chose special operations, obviously, because, you know, the buzz and people think of special operations, but nobody comes to special operations with prior experience. So by nature, they had to become experts at potential-based hiring. Most people won’t think of special operations that way, they think of the drones and the high-speed gear, the night vision goggles and stuff like that, but that’s not what makes people special.
George: [00:15:19] You can take all of that high-speed equipment and put it on a low character person and you’re going to have an international incident on your hands, what you’re going to have. So it’s always about the people. And so Special Operations was that great example to us where they are looking for certain things. They know they’re looking for resiliency. They know they’re looking for drive, for effective intelligence, team ability, emotion, effective intelligence, curiosity, integrity. And by the way, there’s something that nobody interviews for. Nobody interviews for integrity. They never ask any hard questions about it. And it probably would have been helpful if the folks at Enron that done that or people had interviewed Bernie Madoff for integrity. Those are just, you know, little oversights on their part. But those character attributes, what’s really important about the character attributes, not only are they predictive of the future success, but under stress, that’s when character comes out or the true character or lack there of comes out. And so for practicing attorneys that have surprises, that have crazy clients, crazy judges, crazy circumstances, you know, one of those big surprises and their world is stressful. It’s the character that allows them to rise above that, prioritize and execute and go out and win.
Grace: [00:16:42] There’s a lot of layers to what you just said. And you answered all the questions, though. You know, it’s funny, I kind of go back to that, what you said about special operations. What service were you in, if you don’t mind me?
George: [00:16:54] I was army.
Grace: [00:16:55] You were army. So special operations. Yeah. I never thought about it like that in terms of it being, you know, you go in without the knowledge of what you have to do, but your character is what got you to that point to even be considered for special operations and then to actually get allowed to be in. My neighbor was a Marine recruiter growing up, and I used to actually go with him and do some training with him. And and so I understand very well what you’re saying about character and development and things like that. You know, so you’re you’re talking about essentially a mindset that you’re trying to achieve with
George: [00:17:30] A talent mindset. Yes.
Grace: [00:17:32] So what does it mean to adopt a talent mindset?
George: [00:17:36] So, you know, it’s so funny. After we wrote the book, I was on a podcast and I threw out this quote. And my co-author, Mike Ciarelli is former Navy Special Operations. He had me coin it. But really the best way to define it and we’ve defined it broadly. So it applies across domains. And that is simply when you are treating your human capital with the same rigor, discipline, and focus as you do your financial capital, you likely have a talent mindset. Most people are tracking revenue or product or services or in case of law firms, case intake settlement, case win. And they will pore over those numbers and pore over those statistics and they’ll spend hours upon hours upon hours of doing that. And spend very little time other than driving the cogs in the wheel to bring somebody in the door, evaluate them, assess them, grow a mentor, coach, train
Liel: [00:18:32] George, what are some of the metrics that people should be looking at when they’re talking about their team, their staff? What are the, in what metrics do we measure performance? Do we measure engagement? Do we measure commitment, aspiration? All of these maybe competencies we can call them that…
George: [00:18:57] It’s hard to measure. It’s hard to measure that, so there’s a couple of things. First and foremost, if you think about hiring in the profession of law, most of the roles, everybody that you’re going to talk to, it’s table stakes, OK, you have a law degree, your license to practice or you’re not. OK, so we’re you know, once they met the basic experiential gate that should close and you get into the character and there are any number of assessments out there, and the first thing you should do is assess your own team, especially the top performers. What are the attributes within your culture that are allowing them to succeed? And how is that team constructed? What does it look like from a leadership and a character dynamic? Once you have that baseline, then anybody coming to the door can take the same assessment test and you can go, hey, they line up with some of my top performers. Even if the resume isn’t showing it, then you build a process that goes into the success factors. You know how they’re able to multitask, how they’re how do they think through problem-solving and structuring cases or structuring arguments running? I mean, you can dig into everything you want to, but it has to be a standard process. That looks for those success factors, additionally, you always have to be asking about people about when they failed. You always have to be checking resiliency, and especially in the legal world, because I don’t know too many people that have a 100 percent win rate. So what happens when you lose? How do they react to that? What do they learn from that? Are they humble enough to learn so that the next time they’re in a similar circumstance, we have a different outcome?
Liel: [00:20:38] Yeah, that reminds me, when I used to work in the hotel industry, and I would do easily a dozen interviews on any given week, I would 100 percent always be. One of the questions is tell me about a time that things didn’t go out the way that you had expected them, that it failed, that you couldn’t do things by yourself, had to ask for help.
George: [00:20:55] Kind of under pressure. When was a time that you set a goal and failed to achieve it? When did your boss give you a task and you had to stand there and tell them the truth, that you did not meet the standard? Yeah, I get very, very specific with people and I ask him, but I mean, in a very polite and conversational way, but I want to know these things now. You know, what’s really important about when you start asking those questions is you have to have a players asking the questions and asking the same questions and calibrating how you’re doing it. Mike and I talk about in the book A player selecting players, B players, select B players and C players. It’s whatever the cat dragged in. That’s just how it goes if you don’t put your top people in, you know what, let me back it up a little bit. Mike is the great example. So at the time they pulled him off the line, he had six or seven combat deployments. He was built to go to war. That’s just his DNA. And he was great at it. And this country is so much better off for having him in that position. But the Navy SEAL community said, hey, you know, we have one of Mike. And so they pulled him off the line and put him in charge of training SEAL officers to be future ground force commanders. And he hated it, drove him absolutely crazy. And then about 90 to 100 days in, I can’t remember how he tells it, it finally clicked that he was leaving a legacy of leadership. He was now propelling his organization by sharing his lessons, his mistakes, his victories, his opportunities with those new newly minted young officer seals. And so you’re a players need to be put in charge of hiring so they can select have the humble confidence to say, you know what, that young attorney, they’re going to be better than me. I got to get them on this team because I don’t want to be facing off against them on the other side of the table.
Liel: [00:23:07] You know, and thanks for bringing that up, because you do remember we had this conversation a few weeks ago, right? And we were talking about those interview processes that are just way too fast, like not through enough, but then also the interview processes that are just ridiculous, where just almost every person in your organization that holds a manager or title has to meet, talk to candidates and has a say. And so, yeah, I hear what you’re saying here, that you want the right balance. Right. You want leadership to show interest to be part of the process. But at the same time, you want to make sure that the right people are the ones who are making the final calls. I’m assuming here. That’s what you were saying.
George: [00:23:52] If it were my firm and obviously I own this business, I’m part owner of it. If we’re interviewing for a position, if that person needs to interview with me, they’ll interview with me. But if Mike and our president, Carly Walden and I’m not around are not available and they say, yes, I trust those, I work with a player, so I trust my players to do that. Bringing somebody into to interview with 20 people is absolutely ridiculous. It’s a horrible experience. Find the five or six people that have to evaluate and assign them roles to evaluate. Make sure that the candidate doesn’t have the same questions from interview to interview to interview. And there are other material I need to see them. Why? Why do you need to see him? Because that statement at its core is I don’t trust the people in the process. You have a bigger problem in your firm. In that case, I should be able to look at it. Anybody in that interview panel and say, you know what? If Bob or Julie says they’re good to go, they’re good to go. Once they’re in the door, it’s my job to invest my experience in that new hire and make them successful in this firm.
Grace: [00:25:07] That’s a very special comment that you made, because, you know, I think a lot of us, me included, struggle with the do I make the right choice right? And am I including the right people in the process? And for me, it’s I naturally picked my a player in terms of what I was looking for to hire in that position, made her supervisor in terms of development over the course of the last year or two. And in doing that, I’ve also kind of placed her into the hiring process at the OK, we looked at the experience, we looked at all of this. I’m ready to interview this person. You interview them, you tell me if you like them because you’re the one that’s going to be supervising and working with them, making sure that they’re actually doing what they need to do. Do you feel that you know, and then if you want me to, I’ll be included, but if not, then I won’t. So that’s kind of been the process I’ve been following recently in terms of hiring who I got to hire, besides the normal assessments of, you know, if you can do data entry and the basic stuff, not any of that,
George: [00:26:14] You can teach all of that. You know, the thing is, it is good that you put your a player in charge of that. But what’s interesting is probably everybody listening to this is going to have to hire somebody. It’s not like covid that snuck up on us. You know, it’s not we know we’re going to do this action at some point. We may not know when and given, you know, it’s going to occur, you can define success and you can set an interview panel and you can train those people and you can formulate your questions. Ahead of time, ahead of time, it’s an open book test. And then when you have the need to hire, you have the process in place now, will you get it wrong collectively? My teams have hired over eighty-five thousand people. I’ve hired personally over 2500 executives. Arguably at scale, there’s not many people that touch my numbers and I’ll be the first person to tell you if I don’t trust the process that I built. I will get it wrong, and even then, you know, ninety-nine times out of 100 are going to get it right, but you’re still going to get wrong, that happens. They’re humans. Humans are crazy. And that’s just how it goes. But what makes special operations really, really interesting is that once that person enters the special operations community, they have a feedback loop to the assessment team that says how they’re doing across the course of their career. So if they see that they’re not getting all the things that they wanted out of this, you know, operator, they have the ability to go back and provide that feedback to the assessment selection team. Most people, once they make the higher it is your job as a leader to coach, mentor, and train, and invest in that person, but additionally, if they’re not hitting the marks, go back to your own self, take ownership and say, what could we have done better? What did we not look for? What should we have been looking for or looking for more of?
Grace: [00:28:15] That’s great. Yeah, that really helps me out, actually, to kind of reassess what I’ve been doing so far. And, you know, it seems to be working very well in terms of the process I have put in place. And I’m following a lot of your you know, your specific tenants within your book, actually, without having read it before. So, you know, obviously I read quite a bit of it. And I appreciate all of the things that you have within it. You know, you kind of you really gave us a good, decent idea of what like a formula for a decent team would be. But if you I mean, if you had to put it in a nutshell in the best way possible, of course. And I know it could be difficult to distill this right. What would you say is the formula to a high-performing team? Because I’m a geek when it comes to analytics and things like that. So if there’s a formula, if there’s something, then…
George: [00:29:05] It’s at the very back of the book you haven’t got there yet. It’s called Talent Plus, leadership equals victory. It’s as simple as it gets. And I would tell you, you can have all the talent in the world. And we all know that people don’t leave bad companies. They leave bad bosses. So you can have the talent, but you have to have the leadership and to your audience, you know, leaderships, one of those things that people really have to strive. There’s a big gap between managing attorneys and leading attorneys. Make sure you know the difference, but that if you get good talent and you have good leadership. You’re going to win and you’re going to be dominant.
Liel: [00:29:47] George, I’d like to look a little bit more like the conversation has been centered a lot in how to bring the right players to your team, how to select them and how to bring them on board. How do know that you are actually making good decisions now once they’re inside? Right. That’s just, you know, I’ll dare to say only the beginning of things. You’ve just scored one point. Now things can go in different directions. And this can happen at any time. From the moment they join your team, they can actually be the stars that you thought they are. They can not turn out to be the stars that you thought they are or they can actually be the stars, but then at some point start just not caring that much about the work. So, you know, let’s start by focusing on how, OK, you’ve hired them, you’re happy now. You can’t take them for granted, of course. Right. You need to do things to keep them motivated and engaged and wanting to be there. What are some of those things that we need to do to make sure that we keep our team players performing?
George: [00:30:56] Well, the final chapter when you’re trying to figure out how to button up the book was you can’t hire or fire your way to success. You have to lead. You have to lead. You have to coach. You have to mentor. You have to train. You have to know your people and be players can become a players with great teachers and coaches and mentors. It’s about investing in people and investing in people is the only thing that I know of that has an exponential return on it. The more you invest in people, generally, you’re going to get a heck of a lot more out of it. So the two things you need to be doing is leading. And with all the coaching, mentoring, training, and investment in people and you need to understand your values and be walking the talk, please don’t just put your values up on the wall that people can, you know, stick balloons on it, a birthday and never, ever read. Make sure that you’re living your core values and make sure as a leader that you are trying to work your way out of a job, meaning you should be leaving behind a legacy of leadership, success, victory and, yes, caring. And that’s one of the things, you know, because most of the military’s perceptions are made by Warner Brothers studio or whomever is making the movie at the time, we care deeply about our teams very, very deeply. And so if you have that caring and you have that leadership and you invest that, I’ll just give you the same that I’ve told leaders I’ve coached. People do not care how much you know until they know how much you care. So as a leader, if I care about the well-being and the professional growth of the people around me and I spend that time, it’s going to pay off huge.
Liel: [00:32:38] So basically training, coaching, development opportunities. Now, there is the reality, right? You would want and you wish in the way that you envision things to go. Always like, OK, I bring team members and hopefully, you know, it’s going to be opportunities for them to grow into other things in the organization. But it also happens, right? Sometimes you just don’t have opportunities for some of your best-performing team to continue developing their career internally. Right. And so then comes like that dilemma. Do I help my best-performing players find other opportunities elsewhere where they can? Yes. Come their full selves or should I try to keep him? And I know these you already answered. And you’re right. What you’re saying is really the right choice. These are hard, hard decisions, really hard.
George: [00:33:28] I don’t think it’s a decision at all. If you consider yourself a leader, it’s not a decision if. Right. If you work for me and I’m the leader. I want your personal and professional best in the way that I get that out of you, one of the critical ways is that you and I know what your aspirations are and I’m making sure I’m contributing and helping you recognize those now. Yes. And also honest conversations. Hey, maybe it’s a partner track of this person. Doesn’t have what it takes to make partner. Don’t make that a guessing game, for God’s sakes. Make sure you have an honest conversation. Says, you know what? These are the five things. These are the five attributes that make a partner or put you in consideration for a partner. You have three of the five here. The two things that we don’t see enough of, either you don’t have them or we don’t see them. Let me help you. How can I help you? What can I do for you to get you to that level, but have an honest conversation. And if somebody has capped out saying, look, do you aspire more than, hey, let’s make an agreement? And matter of fact, you know what, in the recruiting world, this is a weird example, but this is exactly what I did.
George: [00:34:39] I had somebody where I had just promoted senior management and a person came in and they were just a rock star. And I told him, I said, here’s the deal. I will be your number one reference for any job that you find. My deal with you is I get plenty of notice and you help me get your replacement. Somebody that’s as good as you and I will write the reference letter. I will call the boss of that organization and say, do the headcount limitations. I can’t get this person. And they have so much more potential. This is a win for you. You’d be stupid not to hire them. That has come back to me so many times over the course of my career, so have honest conversations, be honest about what somebody needs to do to get to where they want to be. And if that’s not in your company or your firm, that’s fine. That’s absolutely fine. As matter of fact, just think about it this way. If you’re the person on the other end of that deal, would you want somebody limiting your career?
Liel: [00:35:34] No, absolutely not.
George: [00:35:35] Have that conversation.
Liel: [00:35:37] Correct. And that’s exactly why I do agree with you when you say, you know, career development conversations are important and they need to be part of the part of the process systematize, people need to know that they’re happening right. At least once a year. You set goals for that time period quarterly. You discuss them and there needs to be a growth path for you there. And I think it also helps to make sure that you’re not having people that are just hanging out for the sake of hanging out without necessarily wanting to do nothing else. And that’s fine. Not everyone wants career progression and new roles and new challenges. Some people are just happy doing what they’re doing, but there still needs to be accountability.
George: [00:36:22] And so…
George: [00:36:24] I fix a word for you. I don’t use accountability. I use all right, I use ownership, accountability sometimes. And I know I’m just kind of being a little bit odd here. But for me, ownership is that you own the solution or every step to get you to the solution that’s within your power and within your mental capacity. Accountability is like, hey, I fired off an email. I haven’t heard back. Oh, well, it’s in their court. That’s how I differentiate the two. But you know what’s interesting to your point? There are some people that don’t want to climb the corporate ladder or they don’t climb the firm. That’s OK. I have had those all the time. And I have people come to me and say, you know what, George? I’m pretty content. Making two hundred fifty thousand dollars a year. I don’t want to lead anybody. And I’m like, you’re a strong performer, you want to be a subject matter expert and crank this out, as long as your performance hits these marks and you’re exceeding what my baseline expectations are. I have room for you all day long. I love people like that. There are some people, once they reach that point, that that’s their conscious choice to balance their work and their professional life. And if they’re happy and performing, there’s not a whole lot of better things in this world. Additionally, I don’t do the quarterly and annual performance reviews. I hate those. I do. I do them continuously. If you work for me, you always know where you stand. And I think, you know, people it’s funny, even with lawyers who shouldn’t be conflict avoidance or conflict-avoidance and having conversations with people. Yeah, but there’s nothing better than having that honest conversation saying, hey, here’s what I see. What do you need from me? You’re doing A, B and C well, you’re doing def mediocre. We would really like to see this come up. It would impact the team. And by the way, individuals don’t, teams do so, the more you develop your team, the better off you’re going to be.
Liel: [00:38:15] Well a lot of what you say there really resonates with me, and particularly when you say, yeah, it would be much better to be able to have regular conversations with your team so that there is no guesswork left behind you. I wonder, how is the performance conversation going to go with this quarter, right. Or making notes that you can bring up on the performance conversation that it’s a month and a half away rather than addressing and having conversations right there and then when they’re happening and using that as an opportunity to help, to give feedback or coach or using it as a learning moment or whatever it is. But the reality is that many of us, if we don’t have being set up in our calendar. Right. Particularly when just the rest of the world is happening in front of us and we’re trying to decide what is more important to deal with on a given day, chances are just things are going to get procrastinated forever. So I think something’s better than nothing but one hundred percent. You know, if you can actually have those conversations regularly and have an open-door policy with your team where, you know, conversations, honest conversations are welcomed any day at any time, that would be the goal. Now, I do want to before you…
George: [00:39:27] High-performing teams. If you want high-performing teams, constant and immediate feedback, good, bad, indifferent, high performing teams, they need feedback all the time. And you’re right, it’s better than nothing to get it on the calendar, but here’s the other thing. There’s so many times where I’m going to go grab a cup of coffee in the kitchen with somebody. Hey, walk me through what you were thinking. Just even having a conversation. It doesn’t have to be. You did ABC well, DEF bad. That’s not the conversation. It might be. Hey, that was a pretty challenging case and it didn’t come out our way. Walk me through it. You know, was there anything that I missed that I could have helped with? Having conversations about somebody’s mindset and process all the time is a beautiful thing. And just people don’t take advantage of it because they kind of get, you know, as we call frontside focused in the military, everything is just zeroed in on what they’re doing. And if you’re a leader, you know, it’s not about you that it’s all on you. So start having those conversations
Liel: [00:40:25] Totally, George. And I want your thoughts on the way that the whole human resources department has evolved, particularly in recent years. It’s really, really interesting because now all of a sudden we’re starting to hear terms like human capital management, and partnership success, and employee experience. And so, you know, people are trying to, I guess, humanize more human resources and at the same time, as you say, not make it a department about payroll and benefits and administrative work, but more so about engaging colleagues and team members and building teams and all that stuff. So what stuff you do buy in what stuff is just fluffiness and it’s, you know, noise,
George: [00:41:11] I would tell you, most of the current topics are generally noise. I mean, even Coca-Cola tried do Coke tied re-brands and new and improved tide or we have this new and improved product. I mean, everybody’s trying to say we’re not sitting still, we’re changing. And sometimes that’s moving boxes on an org chart or putting new and improved or we’ve added this ingredient. That’s the same thing with human resources, that same thing with other departmental functions. They change their name. Are they trying to humanize it more? I think yes, the answer is definitely yes. And I agree with that, where I think human resources could really stand up more often is that. Again, talent plus leadership equals victory, it doesn’t leave out HR from being leaders, lead the function and your function is people take care of people, give a hoot what you call it. Employee experience. Great, do a culture survey, do a poll survey. You know, the mood of the office, the temperature check, whatever your program is, it all involves baking an environment where the best people that you bring in can do their absolute best work. So you call it whatever you want, but you are the center around everything in that company. If you’re making a product, if you’re lawyers, if you do an R&D, if you’re doing services, if you’re making food, it doesn’t matter. That human resources department should be bringing talent solutions to business problems is what it comes down to.
Liel: [00:42:48] That’s right, well said,
Grace: [00:42:52] So that actually brings us, unfortunately, sadly for me, to the end of our podcast. And so now we come to the part where we’re going to ask you for you. What are three actionable takeaways that lawyers can start implementing today, now, over the next week or two, to build better and more efficient teams?
George: [00:43:14] First and foremost, define what success looks like with your top performers in your organization at every function. Take the time to do it. Because it’s not going to show up on a resume, the people that you work with every day that are being successful, you see it firsthand, you live it, you feel it, get it down on paper, understand what that looks like. Number two, and we didn’t cover this earlier. Make sure you can articulate why somebody should work for you. Because most companies and whether it’s a law firm or not, they have that built-In arrogance. Why wouldn’t somebody want to work here? Well, nobody knows. Articulate what makes you different, better, good and a great place for people to do their best work. And then the last thing is make sure you have a players selecting a players. Don’t overcomplicate the situation. Get three or four great people that have the humble confidence to identify talent that will be additive and drive your firm where you want it to go.
Liel: [00:44:14] That’s very innovative thinking. I think we heard that as part of the conversation George. And many times the whole recruitment process is relegated to human resources when in reality they’re probably just the first step in initiating the process. But…
George: [00:44:30] They can just call me. I mean, then I’ll walk them through it.
Liel: [00:44:35] That’s that’s absolutely right. And for those who have not yet read the Talent War of Special Operations and great organizations win on talent, it’s available on Amazon. We’ll have a link to the Amazon page here on our episode notes. George, thank you so much for your time. Thank you for sharing so many revolutionary ideas and also some kind of like, very basic concepts. Right. About how to just be good. Well, leading and building teams.
George: [00:45:04] Hey, thank you. It was an honor and really grateful to be invited so people could reach me at George@talentwargroup.com, follow our content on LinkedIn at the talent war group. And yeah, we’d love it if people picked up the book and left a review. That would be great. You don’t make a ton of money off it. It was a labor of love, but I’m glad we could put something out there and I hope it helps people.
Liel: [00:45:25] Excellent. Well, thank you again, George.
Grace: [00:45:27] Thank you, George.
Liel: [00:45:38] Grace, what a great conversation, isn’t it?
Grace: [00:45:41] That was amazing. I’m so glad you came on the heels of our last talented human resources conversation, because this was very illuminating.
Liel: [00:45:49] Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah, absolutely. And I mean, the trajectory of George, pretty amazing. As a matter of fact, he’s part of the coaches or fireproof performance, which for those who don’t know, is Michael Morse and John Hazel’s consultancy and business and law firm growth program. So that’s really, really, really interesting. Grace. I mean, a lot of takeaways here, to say the least. But let’s give it a try. I mean, I think George already gave us here hard to beat once, but let’s see there. Just repeat them or make them ours.
Grace: [00:46:23] So I have two that actually pulled out of what he was saying. And they happened to be just like little ticklers when we were talking. And that’s don’t use a certain type of language. Right. He says don’t use accountability, use ownership language. So when we’re talking about somebody owning their process, owning their job, that’s the way I felt from that. And I think that that’s a bit, excuse me, a very important takeaway, because…
Liel: [00:46:51] It is Grace.
Grace: [00:46:53] Language that you use with your employees, with you know, the people that you’re working with that are part of your team. Everybody can be accountable. Right. But like you said, you send an email, you shoot something to somebody, you’re waiting for it to come back. No, I own that issue. I own that process. I own whatever it is that I’m dealing with, for my company, for myself, because that’s who I am.
Liel: [00:47:16] And as a matter of fact, I mean, to be very honest with you, if you run through your mind a recent conversation that you’ve had with a peer or with a manager or with direct report to you, you’re probably going to be using, OK, you own this project. You’re working on this, right? You’re not going to say, OK, well, I’ll be holding you accountable for the fulfillment. It’s not really the way that we communicate when we were on a one-on-one basis. So, yeah, kind of like translate to that same terminology to when you are doing more performance assessment type of conversation, right.
Grace: [00:47:56] Yes. Yes.
Liel: [00:47:58] I agree.
Grace: [00:47:59] To the second takeaway perfectly and that is don’t do quarterly, don’t do yearly, do continual reviews and not so much whether it’s a super structured review. Do it where it’s a conversation. Right. Like our podcast, our conversation, just like you have conversations with people when something goes good or bad, you should have these conversations with your team.
Liel: [00:48:23] Yeah. Yeah. Grace, I think that’s an incredible habit to build. I think that’s obviously ultimately the best way to create and build relationships, nurture your talent, nurture trust, keep things, keep the engagement, keep the commitment. I am one hundred percent very, very firm believer of that. But I’m also, I also understand the complexities of running an operation. I also understand that when you have twenty-five people reporting to you or that are depending to you, on your evaluation perse on their performance so that they can either get a job salary or they can qualify for a promotion or something, an actual process comes into play. Right. And so I do think it’s going to be important to have a system but not let the system be the only channel of delivering performance feedback sort of thing. Right. As you rightly said, it doesn’t have to be a structured conversation. Every single location. It can be a casual conversation. As a matter of fact, I think one of the things George said there, you know, hey, I’m heading out for a coffee. Do you want to join me? Let’s just catch up. I think that’s amazing, right? For as long as you can have those and then also be able to then have the other more structured conversations, more kind of like for the record.
Liel: [00:49:51] Right. For the record for leaving a trace, for leaving some document that says that, yeah, we did have a conversation these days and these are the things that we agreed to there. I think that’s more the purpose of if we were to call them performance appraisals. That is that right. But at the end of the day, nothing that comes up in that conversation should be a surprise by that point that you get to that conversation. You should want to be in a place where everything is like. So, you know, we’ve been talking a lot about this that and that. And so I was thinking and I’ve been putting a lot of thought and I was thinking this could be maybe your career development plan or we could actually be looking at learning and development opportunities for you in this and that. Right. Based on everything that we’ve already talked, it’s not the time for just discovering what’s happening and trying to make sense of things when there’s been zero communication throughout. Does that make sense, Grace?
Grace: [00:50:45] No, that makes perfect sense, honestly. And, you know, it’s all part of what we’re talking about. You should have some, you should always have structure, right? I mean, he came you know, George came from the military. So I’m sure he’s not saying throughout your structure. He just said, don’t forget that there’s the human element and these are people and you’re looking for character, not for checking off boxes. Right. I agree with you completely with what you’re saying. You need structure. It needs to be there, but don’t rely solely on that. You’re going to be dealing, you know.
Liel: [00:51:17] Yeah. You don’t want to end up in a place that you’re doing performance reviews for the sake of doing performance reviews rather than actually developing and helping your team members, that that would be an awful place to be. We both are on the same page.
Grace: [00:51:32] One more thing.
Liel: [00:51:35] Do agree, is coming up with takeaways on the fly.
Grace: [00:51:37] Yes, well, it’s because of what he said about individual development. And I used to work at Target and I was a manager at Target. And part of my job was to make sure that every single person that worked there had an individual development plan. And that was part of my human resources requirements. And they all had plans, literally plans that weekly and daily they could achieve certain types of training and certain things that they if they wanted to get to the next level or just enhance their current position, they had plans and every person had their own plan as to where they wanted to go, if anywhere. Right. Like you said, very rightly said. And he said as well, some people don’t want to move ahead. They’re happy where they’re doing and they’re 100 percent. And that’s perfectly OK as well because that’s their motivation is whatever they’re doing and being happy in their position, that should be part of their plan. But I think if it would be important and if anybody could do this actionabley take action today is to create a development plan based on what your terms of success are like, George said in one of his takeaways. But create development plans for your individuals, at least utilize your human resources department that your people department for that.
Liel: [00:52:56] Yeah, absolutely. Great. And I think, you know, one of my favorite parts of the conversations is if you really have interest in the people that are part of your team in your organization, help them reach their full potential. Right. Whether that means leaving you, whether that means them seeking out their own opportunities, I think Grace ultimately, you know, if that’s their end goal, that’s their destiny and you care about them, you’ll learn how to support them and how to help them do what’s best for them. And I think one thing that really sticks to me in what he said is that, you know, you don’t know when and how, but it will come back to you. Right. It will come back to you in some way or in another. And so I think kind of like that awareness of seeing that bigger picture, seeing beyond your organization, seeing beyond where your limitations are, and really helping those a players of yours be the best version of themselves, wherever that may include. You are not Grace. I really enjoyed this conversation, and the good news is that we’re going to have another one next week.
Grace: [00:54:07] That’s right. As did I
Liel: [00:54:09] Thank you, Grace. Have a great rest of your day and we’ll talk soon.
Grace: [00:54:16] You too, Liel.
Liel: [00:54:16] If you like our show, make sure you subscribe. Tell your co-workers, leave us a review, and send us your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. We’ll see you next week.