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Provide More Interesting And Challenging Work

A failure to delegate properly is not uncommon, especially, but not exclusively, in law firms. In other words a large proportion of the professional work time of more senior people is spent doing things that more junior team members, with the right coaching, supervision and support, could handle. This not only means lower profits as a result of having a high-cost delivery system but it also slows down the development of skills and reduces morale and motivation among the juniors. The lack of interesting and challenging work usually results in higher staff turnover than otherwise.

Chris Lucas, a PricewaterhouseCoopers partner leading a team of accountants providing services to the banking and capital markets sector, is clear about this:

In my view people should be doing work with which they are only just comfortable. Giving challenging work to people as early as possible in their careers is a great way to move them up the learning curve. It is an excellent investment for the firm and good for the morale of the individual. But you have to be available to provide support. It is a bit like a parent encouraging a child to swim by walking backwards in the water with arms outstretched ready to catch hold of the child should the need arise.

Here are some ideas for ensuring that junior professionals get more interesting and challenging work:

If you have the authority, encourage your senior team members to agree lower targets for personal chargeable or billable hours and more hours for supervision, coaching and personal development. By giving more time to coaching and supervision, the senior people will be able to delegate with greater confidence. By giving more time to their personal development they will be able to improve their own professional skills to concentrate on higher-value client activities. Juniors and seniors benefit.

Keep an eye on how your senior colleagues schedule the more junior people for assignments. Encourage them to keep in mind the need for skill development as well as for matching existing abilities to the demands of the tasks and the needs of the clients.

Help your junior professionals to understand the purpose and meaning of tasks. On most assignments there are a number of exciting analytical, creative and communicating activities. There are also plenty of rather mundane progress-chasing, record-keeping, calculating and form-filling tasks. Help your junior professionals to put the less exciting work into context, to understand its importance and to realize that it is worthy of professional effort. It is possible to have pride in doing relatively routine tasks well when the significance is understood. It is often these tasks, when poorly executed, that lead to a reputation for poor service and the possible loss of clients.