Fire At Will! Lessons from Jack Welch
My wife and I both love biographies--the only difference is that she actually takes the time to read them. I just go on about them. At any rate, one biography that I got roped into actually reading was that by Jack Welch, GE uber-CEO and dynamo (Straight from the Gut). I can tell you--the guy is a son-of-a-gun. But you knew that.
One theme that comes up--let us say, about 37 times in the book--is Jack's unabashed and ruthless relish in firing people. It seems nearly every step of the ladder up to the corner office (hell, the corporate jet) was littered with bodies--and lots of them.
Not that there's anything wrong with that.
Indeed, Jack had the right idea and I'll tell you why. Jack believed that the best way to get the best organization imaginable is to get the best people in place. Whenever he took on a new division or project, he always went in with the idea that he would do WHATEVER it took to get the best brains, the toughest minds, the biggest muscle he could find to trounce the competition.
On the other hand, lots of these 'firings' were mutual. Jack would go in with his usual two-fisted approach to management. He would insist on seeing the books--all the books. He would ask rapid-fire questions about details, about big picture, about everything. And he actually expected answers. Lots of people just couldn't hack it--they left. Plus, even if folks had difficulty performing, Jack would come to a mutually agreed-upon plan and give the guy a couple of quarters to start MAKING PROGRESS toward the goal. If there was no progress, the guy was out.
I hope I don't have to remind you just how successful GE has been under his leadership. Read the book or go find a stock analyst. The point is that Jack's ebullient and frankly hard-ass approach to management got him tremendous results. AND IT BUILT A STRONGER COMPANY TO BOOT.
Law firms can't afford to take quite approach; talent is so scarce and firms don't have the economic or contractual or other incentives to keep an organization strongly together. Mostly though, I think they just don't have the guts. It might not be fair to say so, as those who are successful as attorneys perhaps do not have the temperament (generally speaking) to take such forthright and direct action. I can tell you, though, that once law firm finally make the mental switch to corporate leadership versus old-styled "partnership" co-leadership, the heads will start rolling far more quickly.
Your best bet in anticipation of this perhaps startling but inexorable trend? Start pushing yourself now to be twice as good as you were last year. Maybe if you bust a gut, or two, you'll stand a chance in the new world. Welcome, folks, to the real 21st Century.