Partners must change or accept extinction!

Partners must change or accept extinction!

By Seven Suphi

It has taken over a decade of research and working with amazing leaders to discover the fundamental truth of exceptional behavioural results. The equation below is a high level summary of that truth. Some clients have improved their performance just by being aware of it because they are able to understand their situation at a deeper level and come up with a solution themselves.


Potential = what we’re born with, including our character profile
Strategies = the recipes we learn, the knowledge and know how we have
Blocks = negative emotions and negative thoughts (eg fear of failure can catapult one to great success and a fear of success can hold one back)
Context = a situation

So in any given situation the results we get (through our Performance) is determined by what we are born with (our Potential) plus what we know (our Strategies) and all that is either accelerated, diminished or even stopped by our internal negative thoughts and negative emotions. This is the reason why there are people with great potential who are unable to deliver (or consistently deliver). Before being aware of this equation many confuse Strategies with Potential and ignore or even suppress Blocks.

The brilliance of Partners today is unquestionable – they are truly magnificent examples of the intellectual capability of the human mind. Even so, unfortunately, their extinction is equally inevitable not because of their strengths but because of their weaknesses combined with the changing market.

The majority of Partners go through a grueling career where they have had to develop their intellectual capability in a specific way. Metaphorically it’s as though they have had to be exceptional at using their right hand. Of course, some realise this is not the whole picture and develop other skills, their left hand skills, yet firms don’t measure them in the same way. Research has shown performance is increased in those areas that are measured – so they become brilliant at using their right hand and make Partner with either poor, average and in a very small percentage exceptional competency at using their left hand.

The reason women who make it to Partner are usually exceptional is because women in the main are metaphorically left handed creatures. They usually have an innate capability in that area and the process of making Partner is substantially more unpleasant and unreasonable to them, so, in the main, they drop out along the way.

This is all very interesting but so what? Why when Partners are so brilliant do they need to change?

The reason is because the market has irreversibly changed. For those who don’t believe it has or believe it will change back to the way it was – you are wrong. It has changed for good because we now live in the technology age where information is becoming a commodity; markets are converging and usage of mobile devices mean a real time 24/7 challenge.

The legal market has additionally changed:

  1. It is now an open market (anyone can practice law and though the brands firms have developed are substantially valuable to clients, there are other established brands who are now a real threat in both the Business-to-Business and Business-to-Consumer markets).
  2. Youngsters coming into a firm are more tech-savvy than Partners and fussier.
  3. The increase in stress is shocking and has only grown over the years with technology being the “master” with 24/7 demands that need to be satisfied (and many firms continuing to ignore its existence).

It is clear that lawyers need to change – and fast.

So how to change? What’s the most effective way?

It’s a lot easier than many think and is based on manipulating elements of the performance equation. There are three main ways to quickly and substantially improve performance:

  1. Find effective Strategies – ideally ones that work best for that character type (like a cooking recipe for certain taste buds).
  2. Eliminate Blocks – this is usually deep change work.
  3. Copy the internal programming of a successful Performance and apply it to a situation which previously was not (this is possible if the individual performs exceptionally well in one situation, a Context, and badly in another).

It’s not a Partner’s fault that they developed in the way they did or that the market has changed – that was the environment they “grew up” in. However, to survive and thrive tomorrow they must change today.

Over the next six months we are intending to publish a series of blogs that share details of each of the elements of the equation to help develop exceptional Partners. The next will be about Partner Potential: what the common character type of a Partner is; its strengths and its weaknesses; what can be done to cultivate the strengths and minimise the weaknesses.

If you found the above piece valuable do The Challenge below because the impact of your learning will be amplified:

Using the framework of the Performance Equation, consider and compare two situations, specific times in your past, where your performance was:

  1. Exceptional
  2. Dismal

Note everything in those two scenarios, and then note the difference between them because they will be essential information for future accelerated results (and we shall use them for the next time).

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About the author:

Seven is a behavioural change specialist, leadership expert, professional speaker, twice published author, founder and MD of Odyssey Solutions Ltd and has partnered with LexisNexis to further equip partners of law firms to win new business. 

Seven generally works with Partners, CEO’s, MD’s, Directors and Senior Executives on a one-to-one and workshop basis to help transform their performance.

Seven is in demand as an expert in her field and has appeared many times in the national media including being the expert presenter of the Virgin 1 six part documentary series The Naked Office and the coach who assisted Sue Perkins to build her confidence (in only forty five minutes) at a critical point on the BBC Maestro – Sue won.