General counsel and other senior in-house attorneys shouldn’t be afraid to show their human side as they lead their teams through crises trying to achieve business goals, prominent figures in the legal market have agreed.
Panelists, who attended an online event jointly hosted by Legal Business and Pinsent Masons as part of GC Powerlist UK 2020, agreed as they reflected on the challenges they and their internal teams would face during the Coronavirus Faced crisis.
Panelists gave an insight into their leadership approach and emphasized the importance of good communication not only to guide the work of their legal teams, but also to support them with the Covid-19 challenges.
Amanda Hamilton-Stanley, GC and Compliance Officer at Pernod Ricard, said she has been open with her team members about the challenges they have faced while juggling work and personal life during the pandemic challenges I faced … so you Making people feel, “I can say that,” “I’m good at expressing myself,” and maybe say, “I fight to keep all the balls up,” she said. She explained how regular informal meetings with her team are helped her maintain a human element in the working relationships even though everyone is working remotely.
“For me personally, through the weekly coffee chats on Friday afternoons, my team made it possible for me, as one of the company’s directors, to hear how business was going, how we reacted to it, and learn the real story instead of just having to read it through a portal all the time, ”said Hamilton-Stanley. “You could ask me questions about it. It just gave him a much more personal and human touch. ‘
Dan Guildford, General Counsel at the Financial Times, agreed that communicating with team members in different locations is especially important not only to ensure that the internal legal team is “working well” and doing their job, but also from a “more empathetic” Perspective.
Guildford said, “What has been really popular is that we are social animals. Maybe that’s a bit of a given when you’re in the office every day, but you have to work a lot harder at it when you’re working remotely. You need to lead by example. You can’t expect the team to talk to each other and work together without you meddling and showing some leadership. You can’t just assume these water cooling moments are happening.
“You have to be authentic about these things when you reach out to people and ask them how they are doing. You have to listen, you have to be serious. It can’t just be a box ticking exercise. We are all very vulnerable right now. I think it’s been a privilege to see people’s lives at home – you see kids running around in the background, dogs barking, Amazon parcels being delivered – and you really have to take advantage of that by building on personal relationships this way because your moments are out of the office, ”he said.
Bjarne Tellmann, senior vice president of GSK Consumer Healthcare, said those responsible for internal legal functions need to understand how the pandemic can affect the mental health of team members. He said executives should be “long-term optimists” and also work to ensure that team members are active and have time away from their desks. He said they should also encourage their team members to engage with projects that “transcend markets or locations” in order to “get people out of their silos, get people out of their everyday reality and connect them with people around the world”. Focusing internal teams’ efforts on a core purpose can help guide their work in times of crisis or uncertainty, Tellmann said. “In my opinion, leadership is really based on three pillars. The first goal is to ensure that you have the right mission, the right strategic priorities, and that they are backed by solid values that reflect the company’s values and will evolve as the department develops. Then put together a team that aligns with that purpose. That would be the second part of it, which is about finding the best people you can get and positioning them in the core areas of risk, the top priorities for the company, and then delegating a safe culture for that team and really create. “Then it’s about accountability. It’s about this third pillar of making sure that people hold themselves accountable and you as the leader are held accountable. If you take this approach, it doesn’t really change much in the current context [of the pandemic],’ he said.
Operation and procurement
In a separate legal business and procurement online event, also jointly hosted by Legal Business and Pinsent Masons and part of GC Powerlist UK 2020, Helen Lowe, head of legal operations at easyJet, explained how the airline’s internal legal team had its own purpose Helped to share how it works and how that sense of the team helped the team during the pandemic. “What the Purpose really gave us is a real focus and opportunity to understand how we, as a legal team, are part of the wider organization, what impact we are having, and what value we should really be focusing on delivering into the business.” Said Lowe. “It’s really important for this purpose because it creates this sense of unity, this sense of community within the group, and has made a huge difference for the team.” Lowe incorporates principles from Network Rail’s Dan Kayne-initiated O-Shaped Attorney Program into her team’s development. Law firms like Pinsent Masons do this too. Mo Ajaz, Head of Legal Operational Excellence at National Grid, said it was important that the goals of the legal functions match those of the board of directors. “It is important to tie what you do every day in the legal department with what is happening strategically in your company,” said Ajaz. ‘The purpose of the legal function is to help the company deliver its services. So make sure we understand that we are not an island, that we don’t do things to business, and that we support the company in providing services to their clients and clients, it is important that the legal department then sets their goals and that there are results that can be measured against this overarching principle, ”he said.
This post originally appeared on Out-Law, Pinsent Masons’ online news service