Last month I made a critical decision, one that would affect my schedule for months. It was a decision that would reduce our family expenses but potentially reduce either the enjoyment or aggravation I experience in life, all depending upon the success of a group of 18- to 22-year-old men. For the first time in years, I decided I would give up my Wake Forest basketball season tickets. It was a decision that was not made lightly, but I would henceforth need to view Atlantic Coast Conference basketball on television.
Organizational Participation Levels
As I thought about my dedication to Wake Forest after making this momentous decision, it occurred to me that in any organization or endeavor in life there are varying degrees of dedication or commitment. As I looked at others in my law firm with ties to Wake Forest University, it occurred to me that there are three levels of commitment that can be applied to participation in any organization, including law firms.
1. Participant spectator.
The first level is what I call the “participant spectator.” Regarding Wake Forest athletics, this is the level where one remembers that a game is being broadcast on television and tunes in or perhaps is interested enough to look at the sports page to see the result after the fact. For a lawyer in a law firm, this is the level of having a job, or perhaps even the status of partner, coming to work, attending required meetings, performing client work and, of course, picking up a paycheck. Participation at this level is the lowest, meets stated expectations but is generally that of a spectator when it comes to achieving mission, vision
In considering levels of participation, I realized that my own commitment to Wake Forest has been that of an “investor,” and this led to my change in view about season tickets. I went that extra mile to buy tickets and drive two hours to attend games; however, it really was all about me, and not really about the institution or team. The true bottom line when it came to Wake Forest basketball is that we used to be really good, and that success served me well. My investment in season tickets used to pay off for me. For years now they have been average at best, and terrible more often, and it now appears there is no end in sight to mediocre performance.
In the law firm setting being an investor is a level of commitment much more than a participant spectator, but it’s one where the purpose of service to the organization is self.
I have seen the “ownership” level as it regards Wake Forest in one of my law firm partners. For him it’s not just about athletics but
Becoming an Owner
Obviously, the level of participation one has in one’s law firm is primarily a choice. Individually, we each consciously or subconsciously make a decision, expressed through action, that our position is either merely a job that is a stepping-stone to something else or something more. If something more, we decide whether we live to serve ourselves or others. It’s a given: If a lawyer chooses to be an owner of his or her own law firm, there are a few actions or initiatives to consider to further that level of participation:
Many firms continue to have systems that heavily reward short-term financial performance. Those systems, as a result, discourage activities that lead to long-term succession and success. They are simply not “firm first” in nature. An owner works to make changes to this type of system, finding that it’s difficult to be an owner when others are self-focused investors. Regardless, ownership is a choice. I will admit that when you make that choice, it may be years before you see true change, but I can attest to the fact that when you finally do, it’s worth the wait.
The future of the firm is promoted when
Organization owners naturally desire to see the firm achieve, succeed and sustain. These cannot be attained if only one person is committed. I have written many times about the need for a firm to have shared values. An owner not only knows what they are but lives them out by example and reinforces them with others—reading them at meetings and allowing members to share with others what they personally mean to them. Owners have a plan to address self-focused activity, one that gently corrects. In a performance
Looking Beyond Yourself
I would propose that even though some of the ideas I