October 23, 2012

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By K. William Gibson

Legendary NFL football coach Dick Vermeil has compiled a volume of leadership lessons that he has learned over his many years of leading teams to NFL success. In a recent "Maximum Impact Lesson" (Vol. 11, No. 1), leadership expert John Maxwell references Vermeil's views on organizational unity. Vermeil believes that there are three things that can ruin any organization.

· The first is the organization's competition. If your own product or service cannot compete, your organization is in jeopardy.

· The second is public perception, which may be shaped by the media. Morale and performance in the organization, as well as client impact, suffer if the organization is consistently viewed in a negative light.

· The third, and the greatest threat, is division within the organization. If members of the organization are not unified in vision, or are not working well together, then breakdown can occur at any time, even in the event of seemingly minor pressures.

Thinking about Vermeil's perspectives brings to mind my favorite scene in the movie Remember the Titans, which occurs when Coach Boone (played by Denzel Washington) requires his entire team to wake up at 3 a.m. to take an early morning training run through the battlefields of Gettysburg. Boone's is a team of high school football students who at the time are wrought with disunity. Upon arriving at a battleground cemetery, Boone makes a memorable speech where he expresses his vision of unity for his organization. "If we do not come together on this hallowed ground," he implores, "we too will be destroyed." The character's realization that unity among all the members of an organization is critical to attaining success is quite striking.

One of my primary goals for the Law Practice Management Section this year is to encourage more unity in purpose and vision. Whenever so many individuals are teamed into separate entities, involved in so many significant and important endeavors, there is always a risk of individually being too specifically focused. So much so that we might not understand or regularly remember that we all need to have the same vision of success, and that vision needs to be the whole organization (and not just our team within the organization) achieving its mission. Every endeavor of every entity within the Section should constantly focus on this true meaning of success and be vigilant against focusing on many different personal or entity-related purposes. "Success" must always be viewed by dedicated individuals and teams as success for the whole organization, with all goals related back, and subordinate, to the mission of the whole. I commend this principle to every Section member as advice not only for Section-related activities, but also as something that your partners, associates, employees and staff might take to heart regarding the success of their own law firms or law-related organizations.