I get asked this question a lot these days, “What’s it like to fill Jonathan Fitzgarrald’s shoes?”
I just reply back honestly, “I don’t know. I brought my own.” “Filling the shoes,” so to speak, of another person is challenging. Filling the shoes of half your dog & pony show can be daunting. Like myself prior to joining this firm, Jonathan was in his position for nearly eight years. He had seen through a culture change and shift. He saw through the passing of the baton from one generation of law firm leaders to the next. He was witness as the old guard of rainmakers retired, and the new guard took root. The firm Jonathan left is much different than the firm he joined. And I am now having my own unique experience. I will get to witness the firm I joined on February 23, 2015, evolve into something different. I will hopefully have the ability to influence and help shape things where I can. But that’s not what this blog post is about. So what is this post about? I suppose my first 90 days (yes, it’s been 90 days), the things that I have noticed, and things that I would share with anyone walking into a new position. Know what will make you successful. This is a personal strategy that influences my professional strategy. I need to know how I will be judged successful by my boss, the partnership, and the administrative team around me. I need to communicate that to those around me. I’m not pushing through a new product because I want to spend the money, I’m doing it because it will allow me to accomplish one of the four things on my list of priorities from my boss. I’m not asking you to drop X and do Y because I like seeing you shift course in the middle of a project, but that it will move us closer to accomplishing number three on our priority list. And, if I am good at what I do, I can easily tell the story of our department’s success and how what we are doing and our accomplishments fit the business, as well as strategic, plan of the firm. I am NOT saying to not do things that don’t fit into that “success” bucket, but to realize, when choosing priorities, how all the pieces fit together. Make a plan. You need a plan. What will your first 90 days look like? What do you need to accomplish? What’s on the table already that needs to get done, and what’s coming down the pike that you don’t know about? Where is everything that you need to do your job well? Are the systems in place to do what you need to do? Do you need to make changes to the foundation before you start building out your plan? And through this all you need flexibility to be able to shift away from the plan, but the awareness to come back to it. Build your team. You have to build your team, and not just within your department and with the leaders of the firm, but across the hall, floors, and offices. Finances, office services, IT, HR, the library, all the vendors. You name it. Go meet them and sit down and start developing a relationship with each of the key players, and their team as well. It’s not just political, but you need to know how your cogs fit alongside their cogs. You also need to figure out the political landscape by what others share, and by what they don’t share. You also need to know their challenges. And, better yet, is there something you can do to help them get from point A to point B. Marketing does not operate independently; we interact with every facet of the firm. You need to be the one to reach out and build the bridge. You’re the new kid on the block. Easy wins. I love easy wins. There are some things that need to be done, that haven’t been done, figure it out and do them. People will amazingly give up this information immediately. I have found that whether it is a typo on the website, a need for assistance with an upcoming presentation, the lack of X or Y, or just putting them in touch with the right people … there are quick and easy things that can be done. While a good marketing department should not be reactive, we need to be responsive. These easy wins are one-offs, personal, and help to serve as relationship building blocks. Visible wins. These are different from the easy wins. So much of what marketing does is either individual, or behind the scenes. Right now, we’re working on updating the back-end of the website, as well as just starting the process of implementing a new BD software. Sure, everyone will see or experience the end results, but they won’t appreciate the next six to nine months of work that goes into it. If we get stuck only working on back-end things, we’ll create a culture of “what does marketing do?” How you combat this is with some visible wins that everyone can notice and point to you and your team. I’m not talking about redesigning the website, but refreshing the PowerPoint slides, or creating a new form or system that makes a process easier. For us, it’s a new ad, and updating the portraits on the website, along with a key survey win (that is embargoed until next week). These wins are something that everyone can see and point to, and I’ll be able to link to the website so all of you can see it as well. It’s no secret that I am a fan of white boards and other visuals within my office space that create opportunity for converstions, and I like to put things on display. So in addition to the two huge white boards I ordered my first week, I also make use of the glass partition between my office and the marketing bullpen. Yup. It’s another space I use for brainstorming and displaying what marketing is doing, which turns it into a conversation piece. And really, when you think about it, marketing and business development are conversations realized. In short, returning to the concept of “marketing me,” you need wins that you are able to share and promote with the PTB. Save them some money. Marketing is a cost center. Find some ways to save the firm money, and then redirect it into better ways that support your plan and strategy. Walk the halls. Be visible and be visible where it counts. My office and team are in a central location, but internal. We have made it a welcoming place, and I am amazed at how many times a day attorneys come by our offices, but it is too easy to get busy and stay in my office working. You have to walk the halls, visit the offices, and be seen. This has to be an intentional activity. Back up your intuition with fact and intentions. This is a common theme of mine. I have a great intuition. But I need to back it up with facts, and then intentions. I can easily see where something is not quite right, but my first instinct is to jump forward and move quickly. I need to slow things down, investigate, and prepare a plan. I have great people around me, and I definitely take advantage of that. They will hear me say many times a day, “I’m just processing externally” as I chatter away, trying to work out my solutions to whatever challenge I have. As a GenXer, I am very independent, and can figure it out on my own, thank you very much. I have to work against that instinctive trait and collaborate more. Who knew? ‘We” make a better team than “I,” and that is 100% proven by the work product achieved. Understand your predecessor’s motivations and relationships. This is the hardest part about knowing and having a personal relationship with my predecessor. It has been the greatest challenge. It took me a while to realize it, but this is the first time I have walked into someone else’s role. I have either been the first marketing director of the firm, and built out their program, or my role was new or an expansion to the firm. I have to set aside my judgments (I would never do this like that) and figure out why this process was set up a certain way. Lucky for me, I can pick up the phone and call Jonathan and find out why. I’m sure it’s a challenge for him as well to see me walk in, sit down at what had been his desk, and do things completely different. But isn’t that the point? Jonathan took the firm from Point A to Point M. He had the harder of the two jobs: he shifted culture. I get to walk in and build upon that. Sure, I’m making some changes to the foundation, shifting things around a bit, but that’s okay. I am seeing things from a different and fresh perspective. Which brings me to the final point: Make the position your own. Don’t be afraid to shift priorities, throw out the old, change systems and processes to fit your style and your priorities. As long as you are making changes with intention, rather than to fit your preconceived perceptions, you’ll be fine. Isn’t this why you were chosen for the position over someone else? Because of what differentiates you from your fellow legal marketer? And know that along the way you will make mistakes: learn from them. Things will fall through the cracks: fill them. And be open to the fact that while you’d prefer to do things one way, they might be working just fine the way the are: be okay with it.