Management guide: 7 leadership tips from the animal kingdom

May 10, 2021

What small law firms can learn from animals’ survival tactics

Thomson Reuters recently completed a survey of small law firms (less than 30 attorneys) to identify the biggest challenges these firms face and what they are doing to address them. The top five challenges in order of importance include:

(1) New client acquisition (2) Too much time spent on administrative tasks (3) Increasing complexity of technology (4) Cost control and expense growth (4)Lack of internal efficiency.

I have read some interesting articles and papers about various survival strategies that animals use and I thought it could be a stimulating and provocative exercise to try and understand which lessons lawyers, working and managing small firms, could learn from the the animal kingdom, to survive and compete against larger and more structured firms.

These are my seven tips:

1) Chameleons: Keep your structure flexible and agile

There are some animals can change colour (chameleons, frogs),gender (fish, butterfly) and shape (cuttlefish) for a variety of reasons: to hide from predators, intimidate rivals, or woo mates. In the vegetable world, the sea cucumber can literally take on different body states — from hard to liquid — in order to defend itself.

Flexibility and readiness to changes is one of the most important feature in nature which can help to survive.

TIP: take advantage of being small and agile. Small firms can

(i) move more quicklyand are more agilebecause they don’t have to shift around large groups of people to try something new;

(ii) they also may be more willing to fail, because they have fewer layers of approval to go through;

(iii) tend to have a clearer view of their skill deficiencies, so they’re better at prioritizing the gaps they need to address and at selecting the right candidates for reskilling.

2) Musk oxens: your Team is your strength

Musk oxens use cooperation to deal with predation by wolves or dogs. When threatened, they “circle the wagons” and array themselves with their young in the middle and their sharp horns facing outward toward their foes. Living in a group helps animals defend themselves against predators in several ways:

(i) an animal in a group benefits by having lots of other animals’ eyes, ears, and noses on the alert for danger;

(ii) An animal in a group also has a smaller chance of being the unlucky individual picked out by a predator;

(iii) a group of animals fleeing from a predator can create confusion. This makes it harder for a predator to focus on one animal to catch

TIP: Invest in your team: 1) Share your vision 2) Give them a reason to be loyal 3) Create a friendly work environment 4) prepare them for the future of work; 5) Understand their professional and personal needs 5) find a new niche to reinvent their skillsets and fight career stagnation and role immobility

3) Dolhins: encourage communication and cooperation amongst your Team

Whales and dolphins live social lives, and to recognize one another, coordinate group activities, and maintain contact over long distances, they’ve developed a complex system of communication. This range of signals includes pulsed sounds, whistles, songs, low rumbles, and body language that conveys different emotions.

TIP:Teamwork between different departments can foster success while communication between different departments builds stronger relationships and improve collaboration.


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