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It’s Never Too Early to Start Developing Strategic Ability

Expert Coach and Performance adviser, Sarah Platts, Director of Catalyst, provides these suggestions for lawyer development. During early years of lawyer development focus is typically on learning and perfecting pin-point technical skills.  As technical credibility grows it is not uncommon to hear as next step development feedback… “you need to be more strategic;” it’s almost a rite of passage! The reality is, if we think of developing strategic capability as a higher order skill, as a next step in a linear progression, we may be doing development a dis-service. Start early creating learning opportunities that support the development of strategic capability.  The accumulation of information that combines for strategic point of view takes time to mature into insight.

Try these approaches that provide small and regular moments of reflection and stimulus:

  1. Engage in industry insights.

Taking an interest in, and regularly tracking, industry / sector dynamics (outside of the law) is critical to the understanding of commercial / operational trends and drivers of risk and performance.

  1. Follow insights and thinking in other professional services organisations.

Go to the same places as the clients for best of breed professional services thinking. Understand what they, as fellow service providers, see as news and trends. Understand their service offerings and methods / channels.

  1. Client commercial context

Understanding client’s businesses by tracking publicly available information on strategy, performance, competitors.  What parts of their business is performing, what isn’t and why? Avoid making generalisations as conclusions, be specific.

  1. Practice asking questions without pre-supposing an answer and remain curious.

An indicator of strategic proficiency is the ability to formulate “show stopping” questions. Questions that no one has an answer to, but once formulated compels a body of work to fully unravel and design a way forward. In these cases, “the way we have always done it” appears dissatisfying against the size of the opportunity or the challenge and true experimentation and debate follows.

  1. Debate and predict.

Practice foresight by conducting peer to peer discussions triangulating information into market / industry predictions. Create predictive statements supported by external evidence points then determine the legal themes that might arise.

Strategic reflection and continual exposure to broad stimulus will give rise to more options or courses of action on matters, diverse client servicing strategies and broader business development opportunities. Those who invest small amounts of time regularly can transfer strategic insight into their everyday approach taking the “drum roll” away from the pressure of “big bang” as the only course of strategic execution.

Sarah Platts is a Director of Catalyst and a specialist in executive performance.  Sarah specialises in facilitating business and people strategy, talent development and performance management. 

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