The premise was that we could create a network of interdependent professionals united for mutual interests, under the umbrella of our firm. This may work in some industries or with some types of professionals, but boy did it backfire for us.
I don’t like to micro-manage. That is because I don’t like to be micro-managed. But I learned that setting clear expectations is necessary and beneficial because 1) it can feel very stressful and precarious for the employee who does not know what success looks like and 2) the unstructured environment can easily break down into endless politicking and the perception of a leadership vacuum.
The idea of finding out what the “personality of the firm was” by averaging the personalities within was also a bust, because the result was financially unsustainable as well as idealistically mediocre.
The partner who was creating the most division was advocating for structure. He no doubt could sense the dangers of the current path and responded by requesting ever more extreme measures of detailed management. His continually escalating demands alienated him and looking back I feel it was his approach that was lacking, not his ideas. He was on the right track. We did not respond well to his ideas because they seemed like personal attacks. Indeed, he seemed to relish in cherry picking mistakes and revealing them to the firm. We felt that he could have been more productive and focused on the immediate needs.
And we were not ready for his authoritarian form of leadership. Still, many of his “suggestions” were eventually implemented over the course of 4 years as we installed the foundation to allow us to grow again, properly.
How did all this end? With a financial crisis and the firm shrinking by 50%, including most of the Austin office and the exit of the partner who was not able to make his ideas relate-able.
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