Whenever you read historical accounts of great businesses–or case study analyses like those put together by Jim Collins and his researchers in books like Great by Choice and Built to Last–one big lesson is revealed: culture matters in an organization.
Whether you sell widgets or legal services, you need to create an environment at your workplace that brings out the best in people, however you define “best.” This is a very obvious idea. And it’s an appealing idea. After all, who wants to work at a terrible or bleah workplace? Very few people set off to build businesses that are uninspiring—that draw unflattering comparisons to the office in The Office (either the American or British version—take your pick).
But if you don’t consciously work to create that great culture–that amazing, collegial environment–a culture will still evolve. And it will almost certainly be dysfunctional in some fashion, if not outright pathological.
As the leader—the law firm owner—great culture begins with you.
You live in a fishbowl. Everyone is looking at you for inspiration. Whether you respond in a positive or negative fashion, they will mimic you. So really, the first step in building a great culture is quite simple: just make the decision that you will actually have a great culture.
In other words, put on your project list somewhere “create and defend a great culture at my law firm.”
There are many, many strategies you can use to achieve to this to end. Here’s just one trick–and it’s super easy.
Assuming that you keep a personal journal—which if you don’t, you need to start ASAP—write this down in your journal. Answer it every week: “This week I’m going to take ONE action that will help me create a great culture at my law firm. That action is ___.”
Then fill in the blank.
If you do this very simple exercise every week in your journal—over weeks, months, and years–you will be vastly more likely to create an amazing culture that will give you a durable competitive advantage. It will literally take you only seconds to do this every week. So do it!