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5 Ways To Optimise Your Legal Team (Even If You’re Lost At Rock Bottom)

By Parul Patel, with insights from Olympic athletes and sports professionals!

Have you ever experienced your legal team hitting rock bottom and bouncing back a thousand times stronger and more motivated than before?

It sounds unlikely doesn’t it? But, when you adopt the right mindset and commit to “team togetherness” (as we explored in our recent blog), you’ll be amazed at what you can achieve.

For the second of our four-part series with Olympic athletes and sporting professionals, we’re homing in on five simple yet powerful solutions you can introduce to create an unstoppable team, even when the going gets ugly. And, more importantly, you can avoid finding yourself on the loser’s bench if you adopt these strategies now!

You can listen to the full Water + Air podcast here.

5 simple solutions to help your team rise to the challenge

1. Cultivate emotional intelligence

The first solution, to cultivate emotional intelligence, comes from people performance expert and double Olympic champion (rower) Mark Hunter MBE.

Mark: “When you’re trying to collaborate with teams, you have to remember that everyone has different personalities and their own points of view based on their life experience. It takes real skill for a leader to be able to support each person as an individual. Some leaders are really good at it, but some are terrible because they don’t have the emotional intelligence to understand they need to articulate things in a different way.

Critical feedback is not a personal attack; we’re trying to help you to be better at what you do. However, as the leader, you have to assess how best people absorb feedback so you recognise if they close off because you’re going in too hard. You need to find the point where they can embrace the feedback and thrive.”

Mark is bang on when it comes to the need to cultivate emotional intelligence. It’s virtually impossible to lead others beyond your own level of development.

Even if you have resisted the urge to “journal” so far because it sounds cliched, trust that it can revolutionise your work and your personal life because it heightens your awareness and supports you to develop and evolve in ways you can only imagine.

Don’t take my word for it, try it out and see for yourself. Take five minutes at the start and end of each day to reflect on what helped you get in the flow, and what threw you into a sinkhole; all change starts with awareness.

2. Adopt a policy of open communication

If you’ve been reading Fuel + Move blogs for a while, you’ll know that I’m committed to bringing more honesty and integrity into the legal work culture. Positive and negative feedback can be a powerful tool for transformation, particularly if it’s delivered with the emotional intelligence Mark referred to in #1.

Howard Stupp, former Head of Legal and Special Adviser to the International Olympic Committee and four-time Canadian National Wrestling Champion, adds that the need for open communication is key to taking your team to new levels of success.

Howard: “In wrestling, the coach doesn’t hold back. He’d bring us round the mat and tell us we had ‘wrestled horribly’. He’d use the word ‘horrible’. When I first tried to do that in the workplace, it really didn’t work out! Most people are too sensitive or fragile to take it on board. You want to help develop people to be strong enough to accept they have strengths and weaknesses.”

Howard made a great point here, and I cover it in a lot more depth in an earlier blog: when we create a culture where people feel safe to be themselves and that they’re not going to be fired for their mistakes, they are more likely to be willing to show up and learn from tough conversations!

3. Get clear on your vision

Double Olympic medallist (hockey) Georgie Twigg MBE knows the devastation that can arise when “you know what” hits the fan! After her team imploded at the World Cup in 2014, they hired a new psychologist and got stuck into some deep conversations so that they could come back stronger.

Georgie: “We thrashed out our vision, our values and our behaviours until we had something that we were all willing to buy into and commit to making a daily standard. The impact that had on our squad of 31 girls was phenomenal.

We knew that when we stepped onto that pitch, we’d done everything we could have done and were in the best possible position come the Olympics. These conversations can be difficult, uncomfortable and upsetting, but if you want the turnaround, you have to be brave.”

Georgie also touched on the interesting point that the typical work culture consists of transactional-based relationships, whereas sporting teams tend to create a greater sense of belonging so that you can express yourself without fear of retribution.

4. Create parity

Howard also suggests that creating a level playing field has potential to help an underperforming team refocus on success.

Howard: “Sometimes I think human resources cause a sense of ‘otherness’ because of incentives like bonuses. If we’re trying to keep everyone feeling as important as each other and to see each other as a teammate, it doesn’t help for anyone’s ego to get too big.”

This sentiment is echoed by solicitor and former professional footballer Josh Low who is now a commercial property solicitor at CMS.

Josh: “When we set rules or seek ways to improve, those rules need to be applicable to everybody. You can’t have your star striker turn up late every day (or your top lawyer) and make that okay if you fire the tea lady for doing the same. The rules work best when applied across the board.”

5. Develop gratitude

Howard: “I realised that I never thanked my training partners enough. Nobody does great things alone. We have the help of our predecessors and our teammates; we owe them thanks. Sometimes I wondered why my training partners worked their butts off when they didn’t make the national team, but what I should have done is thanked them more.”

If you’re up for a dose of gratitude, you’ll likely love my earlier blog 4 Easy Ways To Live With Less Fear And Set Yourself Up For Abundance.

What’s clear to me is that when we apply a few overarching principles to how we interact as a team, we actively breathe life into how we behave as a collective.

Which of the five ways to create an empowered team appeals to you the most? Would it be cultivating emotional intelligence, adopting a policy of open communication, getting clear on your vision, creating parity or developing gratitude? I’d love to hear. Drop me a message!

We can evolve through pain or through choice.

Why wait until you hit rock bottom?

You can develop a team that maintains peak performance by integrating wellbeing and inclusivity right now.

At Fuel + Move, our programmes are designed to empower you and help you evolve as an individual and as part of a team. We offer built-in accountability and cross-community learning because when you join my community, you’re in my team!

Parul Patel

Parul is an experienced international lawyer, demanding client, disruptive consultant and thought-provoking non-executive director and board advisor.

She's advised law firms and big global brands like Nike, Speedo and Manchester United, as well as supporting inner-city social change programmes, startups and scale-ups. Fuel+Move is born of her passion to improve interaction with the legal sector and achieve a better experience with better outcomes for its stakeholders.

Parul Patel can be found here:


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