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Sally Sanderson

Consultant, Profex Consultancy

How would your team describe your leadership?

How would your team describe your leadership?


No leader is perfect and leading is challenging. That’s why it is critical to be self-aware and seek feedback from your team. Do they see you as you see yourself? What could you do differently to help them to do an even better job?

Yet in law firms we find it difficult to ask for and give honest feedback. Some leaders are appalled when I suggest it: they think it will be perceived as a sign of weakness. An alternative is to use a psychometric feedback tool to gain insight into the impact of your style on those you lead.

Having used psychometrics with lawyers for many years, I have found that different personalities have different issues when leading their teams and different complaints are made about their style (often behind their back):

  • Some are stuck in the detail – often described as micro-managers
  • Some are very negative – often perceived as uninspiring
  • Some are too hands-off – often experienced as demanding or uncaring

Our personality affects what we focus on. Leaders don’t instinctively cover everything they need to do to set direction, get engagement and provide the planning and support for implementation to go smoothly. This leaves gaps for their teams to fill. That’s why I developed the ABCDE tool to help leaders avoid these gaps. It is a simple, but not simplistic, tool which forces a leader to:

  • Set direction for the team       
  • Get and keep the team enthused
  • Ensure the team knows what steps to take and when
  • Help the team avoid problems and manage risks
  • Monitor progress and outcomes.

Here it is and why different personalities prioritise different elements of the model.

Achieve: the end results we must deliver.

First, we need to set direction for the team and tell them what to achieve. Highly directive leaders will instinctively emphasise this. Goal oriented team members are listening for: ‘What’s the challenge?’ ‘What do we need to do to succeed?’ This is where big picture thinkers start (and sometimes finish!).

Benefits: why and for whom this is important.

Next, we need to enthuse the team to do the work. Inspiring team leaders know that to get their teams to work harder, they need to sell it. Leadership is a trade – if you work hard for me, this is what I’ll give you in return. This creates purpose and for many it is critical – why this is important for the client, team and their own career.

Clarify how: the steps we need to take.

Then we need to be clear about what is going to happen, the steps to take to achieve the goal and the support available. Practical team leaders will focus on this. They will give their team a plan or checklist to follow and agree supervision approach. Some team members will distrust a big idea until the leader can demonstrate they have thought it through and planned what needs to happen.

Difficulties: how we will avoid these.

Not everything goes smoothly so we also need to anticipate what could go wrong and take action to prevent it. Cautious team leaders will have this at the front of their mind, but optimists often neglect this. For cautious team members this is reassuring – they resent being set up for failure by a leader who hasn’t anticipated the rocks ahead.

Evaluate: progress and outcomes.

Finally, once the team gets working, all leaders need to ensure that the team makes progress. Some leaders are initiators, but not good at follow-up. It is critical that leaders agree how they will monitor and evaluate progress and outcomes to keep momentum and so the team knows that they will get the leader’s support if needed.

The ABCDE tool and toolkits, © Profex Consulting, for project and performance conversations help leaders adjust for their personality, efficiently. Teams appreciate it. With further insight from widely used psychometric tools such as DISC, Insights Discovery ® or Social Styles they can make further adjustments by understanding how to bring out the best in different personalities in their team. Since no one is perfect, greater awareness of personal style helps leaders and their teams be the best version of themselves they can be.

Sally Sanderson is a multi-award-winning consultant to law firms. She is the author of ‘Leading Lawyers’ which includes the ABCDE approach, © Profex Consulting. Leading Lawyers is published by Practical Inspiration Publishing, November 2021.