Performance pressure: leadership lessons for professional service firms webinar

Heidi Gardner

Heidi Gardner is a Professor of Organisational Behaviour at Harvard Business School

In today’s hyper-competitive marketplace, where professional firms and their leaders face unprecedented pressure to deliver superior results, this brand new webinar will explore how this performance pressure shapes leaders’ ability to work together and provides guidance for how their leaders can optimally use their collective talents to enhance their firm’s performance.

Devised and presented by leading Harvard Business School Professor, Heidi K. Gardner, who has conducted extensive research about leadership, collaboration and team effectiveness in professional firms. She will share some of her latest findings in this brand new webinar, which focuses on several key themes:

  • The Performance Pressure Paradox: Every team – every professional – would like to think they do their best work when the stakes are highest. Paradoxically, though, the pressure to perform exceedingly well drives people toward lower-risk options with sub-optimal outcomes.
    • Leadership suffers because professionals revert to doing the comfortable work they know they’ll get rewarded for – revenue production or cost-cutting. Perspective narrows and short-term priorities dominate.
    • Innovation suffers because people reject novel ideas that seem riskier.   Ideas with outcomes that cannot be guaranteed get passed over in favour of the ‘tried and true’.
    • Collaboration suffers because people control projects tightly, alone and with diminished appreciation for cross-functional knowledge.
  • Leaders can learn to spot the ‘crowding out’ effects of pressure so that they maximize the most important resource in their firm: the expert knowledge of functional specialists and client-facing professionals.  This session explores best practices for anticipating and managing performance pressure:
    • ‘Think-through’ accountability: When people must justify how they arrived at an answer, their thinking process is deeper, they jump to fewer conclusions and they are more open to novel information & perspectives.
    • Contribution scorecard: ‘Who owns this knowledge?’  Uncover and acknowledge each team member’s potential impact right from the start; periodically analyze everyone’s actual-versus-expected contributions to surface dysfunctional dynamics.
    • Meeting dynamics:  Take charge of team sessions – whether you’re the official leader or not – in ways that leverage each member’s unique expertise.
  • Firms can channel pressure’s motivating potential – and increase profits – by aligning systems (compensation, development, etc.) to promote accountability for the ‘right’ behaviours such as leading, innovating, and collaborating.
  • Effective collaboration is difficult to accomplish, especially under pressure, but is ever more important for achieving and sustaining competitive advantage.  In this webinar, Professor Gardner will reveal findings from her ongoing research that links collaboration patterns in professional firms to beneficial outcomes (and some costs) for firms, clients and individual professionals.

The webinar is aimed at Managing Partners, Senior Partners, Partners, Heads of Department, Heads of Training and other senior management positions within law firms.

To find out more and book your place, contact MBL Seminars


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