Program Review: Honing Your Coaching Skills for Law Firm Marketing and BD Professionals

On March 26, 2014, the Capital Chapter received a pep talk from some seasoned coaches. Debra Hare, Director, Client Programs at Steptoe & Johnson LLP and Mary Kaczmarek, a former practicing attorney and current coach-consultant and President of Skillful Means Marketing LLC gave a presentation on developing coaching skills and implementing them at your firm. 

The key takeaways from the session included:

Adopt the inquiry approach - coaching is described as an "inquiry process," whether you are engaged in a formal coaching initiative or working as a more "casual coach," you will significantly enhance your effectiveness as a business development expert by asking open-ended questions and demonstrating an interest in learning more about your internal client's concerns.  This is a practice you can begin to use immediately.  Track the difference in the rapport you establish with internal coaching clients as well as the effectiveness of your interactions.  It is amazing to see how this simple strategy makes such a difference in outcomes/interactions!

Consider what will work best, i.e., casual coaching or more formal process - Kaczmarek uses a formal process as an external coach; Debra uses both the formal strategy and the casual coaching techniques.  Become familiar with both so that you may adapt your approach to different internal clients with whom you work.  If you take on a more formal coaching engagement within your firm, be sure that your coaching client has the "right stuff" to succeed in the process.

Due diligence is key to success with coaching clients - this is necessary with the formal coaching process.  You can ask your coaching clients to complete a subjective survey as well as a work-related personality survey before you meet.  Study the responses to the surveys so that you are prepared to ask good questions as part of the assessment session.  Even in a casual coaching setting, check out your internal client's web site biography (take a look at articles, presentations, etc.), and connect on LinkedIn as part of your due diligence to better understand your internal client's experience and credentials.

Use a “coaching contract” - this is a key to success in the formal coaching process.  Having a written agreement that states how you will work together to reach the internal coaching client's goals "sets the table" for success.  Hare swears by this strategy, and has several versions of "contracts" to share with those who are interested. 

Develop a resources library - if you want to be taken more seriously by your internal coaching clients and position yourself as an business development or marketing expert, then you want to develop a library of resources that you can share as appropriate with your internal clients.  Resources may include departmental materials - e.g., a checklist for completing an RFP or a list of best practices for effective networking - as well as articles on topics related to sales, business development and building profile with key target markets.  Follow up a casual coaching conversation by sending your internal client a relevant checklist or article; it will increase your professional influence and also raise your level of effectiveness within the firm or organization.

By Kristin Keen for the March/April 2014 issue of the Capital Ideas Newsletter.  

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