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The Firm's Future

is About All of Us

Case Study #5.
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The Challenge

The two founding partners of a professional services firm were moving towards retirement. The remaining two partners, who didn’t always see eye to eye, needed to think about how to run and sustain the firm themselves, minus the buffer of the departing partners. Initially, they sought outside advising to think through how the two of them would work together to lead the firm into the future.

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The Work

Initially, Jo coached the remaining business partners individually twice a month, and met with them together once a month, working in the areas of Leading with Clarity of Vision and Deepening Your Executive Presence. They created their vision for the firm’s future in real time as they found ways they could work together better.

But they came to see that it wasn’t just about the two of them – it was about developing the next generation of leaders inside the firm. As the relationship between them improved, the next phase of work would be to develop these rising leaders, who had not yet made partner.

So Jo designed and delivered leadership training for a cadre of emerging leaders in the area of Mastering the Art of Results. For the first six months, she met with them once a month, both as a group and also individually in order to establish their goals and development plan. Then in the six months that followed, the two partners joined the conversation, so everyone was learning and growing together. In session, the group worked through leadership topics including effective teaming, delegation, the unique tension in professional service business between doing the work and business development, having difficult conversations, and setting clear boundaries and expectations with clients and project teams. Between sessions, the group completed work and practiced their leadership.


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The Result

The two remaining partners were able to successfully negotiate a buyout agreement with founding partners – a feat that had eluded them for five years. They also came to see that the success of the firm wasn’t solely resting on their shoulders, and offered three people partnerships (two accepted, and the third declined for personal reasons, but continues to happily work at the firm to this day).

According to a third-party evaluative survey of their direct reports, the next generation of leaders grew most in five key areas: identifying development areas for team members; conflict resolution; understanding others’ needs motivations, and interests; recognizing emerging patterns to anticipate opportunities; and clarifying the team’s purpose. According to this survey, the resulting gains in leadership skill and capabilities have had more than a 218% immediate return on the firm’s coaching investment.

Historically, profitability had been an issue for this firm. After working with Jo, their profit has grown year upon year. They now work on bigger projects, which was always their goal. As a result, they’ve ended up hiring 25% more team to serve their expanded business. No longer are they just developing their employee’s skills – they are cultivating the leadership and management potential they need to reach their most ambitious goals.