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Partner Likeability: A Factor in Associate Retention

Smiling The Detroit (Great Lakes) regional office of one of the leading organizational consulting firms in the country, Right Management, recently published an email newsletter article on "likeability" - defined as a person's capacity to consistently produce positive emotional experiences in the lives of other people. Based in part on groundbreaking research by author Tim Sanders, author of The Likeability Factor, the article notes that "likeable" business leaders are more effective at inspiring, motivating and engaging their employees, attracting and retaining new employees, and building trust and confidence of those they try to lead; in contrast, "disliked" leaders risk compromising the success and profitability of a business.

The article submits that "likeability" is a skill that can be developed and nurtured with appropriate training. What is required is for individuals to step outside themselves, listen to the tone of their voice, observe their style of dealing with others, listen to feedback from others, and gauge their effectiveness in influencing others.

The article provides a link to a "likeability" assessment developed by Tim Sanders that individuals can take to measure their "likeability" score (it asks questions like - "do you smile often and have a pleasant voice?" or "do you have a postive and optimistic attitude even when things are going badly?")

See the full article here.

The relevant message for law firms is that many associates cite difficult or mean-spirited partners as a major reason for leaving their jobs and transitioning to another firm. According to a study by, “the quality of an employee’s relationship with a supervisor is the #1 variable affecting why people stay or quit.” Applying this notion to law firms at a recent forum sponsored by the Women's Bar Association of Washington, D.C., Eric L. Bernthal, a managing partner at Latham & Watkins LLP, explained that individual relationships between supervisors and junior lawyers are the crucible where career decisions get made, and the basis upon which many attorneys decide whether to stay at a firm or leave.

It therefore behooves firms interested in reducing associate turnover to provide training to their partners and other supervising attorneys about how to be more "likeable," and thereby become more effective managers and leaders. Training might cover skills such as "how to provide an effective performance review," "how to communicate expectations," and "how to provide constructive criticism." Instead of using fear and humilitation, supervising attorneys need to learn how to inspire and motivate through respect and decency. What is at stake is keeping associates happy, or watching them walk out the doors - at a major cost to the firm.

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