On this week’s Wealthy Woman Lawyer ® Podcast, we speak with Heidi Gardner, PhD. Dr. Gardner is a Distinguished Fellow at Harvard Law School Center on the Legal Profession, Faculty Chair of the school’s Accelerated Leadership Program, and co-founder of the Gardner & Co. Research and Advisory Firm. She’s also the author of more than 70 books, chapters, case studies and articles, including: Smart Collaboration: How Professionals and Their Firms Succeed by Breaking Down Silos, published in 2017, and Leadership for Lawyers: Essential Strategies for Law Firm Success, published in 2019.
Previously, Dr. Gardner was a Professor at Harvard Business School and has been named a Next Generation Business Guru by Thinkers50. She’s also lived and worked on four continents, including as a Fulbright Fellow, and for both McKinsey & Company and Procter & Gamble.
We discuss smart collaboration and its tangible outcomes, as well as:
- Best practices for working remotely
- How and why women solve problems differently
- Projections for future legal models
- Efficiently dividing time between leadership and management
- And more…
Mentioned in this episode:
- Smart Collaboration: How Professionals and their Firms Succeed by Breaking Down Silos by Heidi Gardner
- Leadership for Lawyers: Essential Strategies for Law Firm Success by Heidi Gardner
- Gardner and Co’s site: www.gardnerandco.co
- The Smart Collaboration Accelerator: https://smartcollaborationaccelerator.com/
Davina Frederick: Hello and welcome to the Wealthy Woman Lawyer podcast. We believe all women lawyers deserve to be wealthy women lawyers. Our mission is to provide thought provoking powerful and practical information to help you in creating your own sustainable wealth generating law firm without overwork or overwhelm, so you can live your best life. I’m your host, Davina Frederick, and I’m so excited for you to meet our guests today. So let’s get started.
Heidi Gardner PhD, is a Distinguished Fellow at Harvard Law School Center on the Legal Profession, Faculty Chair of the school’s Accelerated Leadership Program, and co founder of the Gardner and Company Research and Advisory firm. She’s also the author of more than 70 books, chapters, case studies and articles, including her book, Smart Collaboration, How Professionals and their Firms Succeed by Breaking Down Silos, which was published in 2017. And Leadership for Lawyers, Essential Strategies for Law Firm Success, which was published in 2019. Previously, Dr. Gardner was a professor at Harvard Business School and has been named by Thinkers50 as the next generation business guru. And she’s lived and worked on four continents, including as a Fulbright fellow, and for McKinsey and Company and Procter and Gamble. So we are so excited to have you here today, Dr. gardener, and we can’t wait just to dive in and learn from you.
Heidi Gardner: Thank you so much for having me.
Davina: Geat. So why don’t you start out by I kind of gave a brief introduction. But what an exciting life.
Heidi: I have to say, I’ve been incredibly fortunate. I mean, you know, some will say luck favors the prepared. But I will be the first to admit that I have had a lot of luck along the way I came from relatively modest origins, I grew up in Amish country in Pennsylvania. And from there became the first woman in our extended family to certainly to graduate from an Ivy League University and go on for a couple of master’s degrees and a doctorate in teaching at Harvard. And in looking back, it is clear to me that I’ve had a lot of incredible support along the way and have been privileged to work with incredible people from whom I’ve learned so much. I always say that when I’m in the Harvard classroom are working with clients, I always learn at least as much as my clients do.
Davina: I love that. I love that. Yeah, we look back and we realized how many people when when we’re working so hard, and we think we’re doing it alone, we can always look around and know that there are other people there. But for them, we probably wouldn’t be where we were so but you are incredibly accomplished. And I know that also comes with a lot of hard work on your part, and not just luck. So we thank you for being here, I’m really eager to sort of dive in our audience is our women law firm owners.
And so I really want to sort of focus on information that would help us to grow our firms more successfully. And so the couple of the couple of books that I mentioned, I know you’ve written very many, with books and articles and case studies. But in particular, I want to know, can you smart collaboration, how professionals in their firm succeed by breaking down silos? Can you talk to us about what it means to break down silos and why that’s important?
Heidi: Absolutely. Absolutely. So let me start with this idea of smart collaboration, you know, what is it? And why should we care? Well, smart collaboration, we talk about the integration of different kinds of specialized experts who come together to tackle problems, you know, in the legal firm context, tackled a client problems that are more complex, and any of them could do on their own. And, you know, this sounds like a no brainer, in some ways. And yet, we see that it’s really hard to accomplish in law firms, both large and small, as well as virtually every kind of organization on the planet.
But when we’re thinking about law firms, there’s two trends that really drive this need for collaboration. And one of them is that most lawyers, nearly all lawyers who are at the top of their game, are more specialized than they used to be. So you know, even if you have the sole practitioner who, you know, takes care of the legal needs for the community that they live in, chances are over time, they have developed some deep, deep, deep expertise in particular areas. And, and that’s where people really know that reputation.
They understand that this isn’t just the full service law firm, but people will be attracted to that lawyer from you know, many miles away because she’s established her reputation is the go to person for this kind of law. And that specialization is really important. It’s really functional and adaptive. It’s how you get to be known as an expert, but at the same time Time our client’s needs are getting much more complex than they used to be. I mean, think about what appears superficially to be a straightforward question. You know, given the COVID situation, do we have people work from home? Or do we have them come into the office or some other configuration? Well, you know, in years past a question about remote working, may have touched on our thoughts about human resources.
You know, what, what do our employees need, what’s going to make them most productive, and so forth. But these days, of course, there’s a huge number of compliance issues in there, you need to take on board the policy implications, you need healthcare expertise, you even need advice from your air conditioning or heater experts to help you understand air quality. I mean, tell me when in the past, you had the owner of a law firm, drawing on their HVAC specialists, at the same time as calling their medical doctor to try to make a decision about where their people worked. I mean, wow, you know, that’s the example of smart collaboration in action. It’s people with different kinds of expertise, coming together to tackle these complex problems.
And what our research shows, I mean, I’ve been conducting this research at Harvard University for more than a decade, we now have millions of data records that span law firms of every shape, size, specialty location that you can really consider. And by crunching the data, what we’re able to demonstrate empirically, you know, this is bringing math and science to what some people consider to be a soft topic. And we’re able to demonstrate with our number crunching, that collaboration of the kind we just talked about, leads to very tangible business outcomes, higher revenues, and profits, more, not just lucrative, but loyal customers in the long term, sustainable client relationships, the ability to attract and retain the best talent in the market. These are all outcomes that add up for the bottom line. And it clearly demonstrates the business and talent case for smart collaboration.
Davina: So talk to me, if we can sort of bring it to with women own law firms, what we’re seeing now a lot is we’re seeing a lot of women attorneys who are starting their own firms, because, you know, the law firm business has not always been kind to women. It’s a model that doesn’t work, oftentimes, especially for women with children. And now we’re seeing a whole generation that’s grown up with tech, and they’re working remotely, they love the remote lifestyle. And I love that and you’re seeing a lot of sort of lifestyle businesses, and they’re hiring people, but they might be distributed workers and that kind of thing. What kinds of how can we use smart collaboration in those types of models?
Heidi: The remote working, I think, is a double edged sword for collaboration. On the one hand, it’s a huge boon, because it means we can tap into a labor force well beyond the boundaries of anything we would have done before. And we’re seeing this with law firms, you know, small law firms now are able to bring on board, whether it’s paraprofessionals, paralegals and so forth, technologists, other kinds of industry experts, and they’re able to access them in ways that allow for seamless integration, even though they might be sitting on the opposite side of the country or the opposite side of the world.
And so we’re seeing that openness to people working with others in a distance mode, that probably just wasn’t, wasn’t there before, there was no receptivity for it, we didn’t maybe have the technology in place, or the comfort with it, and so forth. So that’s the upside. The downside is that we need to be hyper cognizant of the need to reach out beyond our own expertise. Our research shows that. So let me take a quick step backwards. I mentioned all of those millions of data records that we have, some of them are from law firms that span a whole decade. And that might be from say, 2004 to 2014. So right in the middle of it, we have this shock of the last financial crisis, and we can examine our data records to understand how collaboration patterns changed, before, during and after the crisis, and the effects of the head on performance.
So all of that to say, our data clearly shows that in times of crisis, most like 70% of lawyers and other people, but 70% of partners in law firms will become more self defensive, and, and operate more in silos or more individualistically than they did pre crisis and, you know, that sort of makes sense from a self protection mindset, if work comes in, I’m going to feed myself first, rather than turning a colleague who has complementary expertise, or rather than referring that to another firm that might be somewhat better situated or even, you know, rather than getting an associate involved, I’m going to do it myself. But what we show is for the 30% of people who were highly collaborative, during a financial crisis, they had far superior individual performance and collective performance. Their their revenues did not drop nearly as far during the crisis, and they recovered significantly faster than people who went into that isolation mode.
Davina: That’s interesting. That’s so interesting. You know, I, I find with social media, being what it is, and sort of a younger generation that sort of grown up on social media, that I tend to see a lot of the younger lawyers and, and speaking with younger lawyers, being more open to collaboration, because of sort of the way that they’ve been brought up in that culture, as opposed to people of my generation who are in their mid 50s, where you’re sort of grew up in the 80s, where it was a totally different sort of model. It’s very competitive, very hungry, very kind of thing. Do you think that that has anything to do with sort of the way our technology is allowing us to be more collaborative.
Heidi: So I would say two things we see countervailing trends there. On the one hand, we do see this technological fluency, allowing people to collaborate more seamlessly and more comfortably when they’re in remote situations. And so I think that has real advantages. What we’ve never found in our data, though, is a correlation between age and prevents propensity to collaborate in this way that we call smart collaboration. And in other words, it takes some degree of maturity and confidence to be able to admit that you don’t know everything, and to be willing to reach out and share work, share credit, get other people on board. And, and truly engage in this kind of smart collaboration. So there are people who get it at an early age, and they are people who have a tremendous growth mindset, they understand that they will take on stretch assignments, but that they’re going to need backup to do that. T
hey’re not afraid to expose some of their perhaps, you know, less than stellar thinking if it will allow them to stretch their wings and, and have somebody backing them up to make sure that they don’t fall. Now, some people have that desire to operate in that way. But it isn’t necessarily a generational divide, I think we see, you know, quite a number of people, early mid career who feel like they need to fend for themselves, they need to establish and burnish their own reputation, they need to individualistically climb to the top of the ladder. And then when they quote unquote, make it, then they’ll team up with people. And frankly, by then they they’ve surrounded themselves with the kind of people who are also anti collaborative, and they’re less likely to be able to make the shift to working with others.
Davina: Do you think have you seen in your research gender differences? Or have you taken a look at that, because you know, women sort of have a reputation for being more collaborative, and, and men sort of have a reputation for being more competitive. And I know the traditional law firm model is one that is very competitive and kind of cutthroat. So have you researched that at all?
Heidi: We absolutely have researched it. In our first book, Smart Collaboration, we didn’t touch gender with a 10 foot pole. And, you know, the reason was twofold. Number one is that I got advice from a mentor of mine, who I think was dead right. And said, you know, the issue is so explosive that if you talk about that you’ll get pigeonholed as a gender researcher, and, you know, and first make the case for collaboration, the business case, use the financial data and so forth before you get into the diversity and gender dynamics.
But secondly, and here’s the really tough part is that it’s hard to study diversity in law firms, because they are by definition, not very diverse. And, and so we have gender findings. And you know, we can run statistical models with reasonable reliability, looking at women, but if we try to look at any other diversity category, the models blow up because you have, you know, almost no one who’s not an outlier, right? You have two black partners and a law firm or something. Right. So, long story short, yes, we studied gender we haven’t written about it. Until now. We’re just kicking off research for the follow up book to Smart Collaboration and we have two chapters devoted to diversity and gender, specifically to answer your question, yes, though there are very significant and reliable as in sort of similar from firm to firm results that we see about collaboration and gender.
But there are a whole lot more nuanced than anyone really thinks about. It’s not just women are more collaborative than men, men are cutthroat. It is that women operate in ways and are given and take opportunities that are quite different from those that men will take. And it adds up to a pattern where, as you said that the traditional big law model isn’t particularly conducive for women. Some of our data, for example, shows really clearly, statistically, that of all the things that you could predict would be dependent of all the factors that would help somebody become the natural heir to a client relationship.
You know, you think about how much time if they worked on that client? How close are they to the current lead partner? What’s their area of practice, all of these different things should determine whether somebody who’s an up and comer is the natural heir to take over the client relationship, when the currently partner whatever retires or steps away or something, what we find in our data is you control for all of those other factors that should be legitimate determinants of who becomes the next client lead partner. And what as soon as you enter gender into the model, all of those evaporate, the only thing that matters is whether you’re a man or woman.
Davina: Hmm. Hmm.
Heidi: And so, you know, we see, and, you know, anecdotally, women in law firms see this happening all the time that they get passed over for these plum assignments for these important roles for the most powerful committees and so forth. But the problem is that we don’t understand the root causes of this. And through our research, we’re able to track the beginnings of this pattern of discriminatory outcomes very, very, very early on. It’s a pattern of mentoring of coaching of sponsorship of the kinds and extent of opportunities that women versus men get it oh, let me give you another quick database anecdote, or database example.
When we look at the kinds of work referrals that women partners in law firms get, we see that women are receiving many more referrals for work. In other words, they’re pulled on to many more client projects by number than their male counterparts are. And this could be a signal that partners men or women who are running client teams are trying to do the right thing and say, hey, let’s make sure we have women on our team. The problem is, it’s all done in this complete new laissez faire way. And so what happens is women are pulled onto the team, but for very small pieces of work, which means that they don’t get the benefit of really sinking their teeth into significant pieces of work.
So they’re, they’re tapped to do the same thing again, and again, they’re, they’re stretched across two different clients at once, with all the incumbent switching costs, they really bear a lot of the costs associated with with those small bitty referrals, while they’re, while their male colleagues are referred, you know, big chunky pieces of work where they have a lot of client interface and and really a lot of deep learning and the results associated with it.
Davina: Mm hmm. That’s so interesting. I am. I am I hold some. I polled some women law firm owners and in on Facebook in my groups and asked them what the number one reason for them leaving, starting choosing to start their own practice was, and most of them are saying it was for flexibility and control of their schedule, because they’re raising families. And we’ve read the walking out the door study by the ABA, and they’re talking about women attorneys in their 50s who are leaving law firms at the at the point where they really should be enjoying the fruits of their labor.
Because the traditional law firm model isn’t a doesn’t take into consideration the kind of the societal norms of women having that full time job in the law firm and full time job at home, that men don’t have it. It still exists in our society. And so now you’re seeing a lot of kind of younger women going out say I’m just gonna go start my firm to begin with. What, you know, how much of this is is a result of, you know, women sort of saying this is not? This doesn’t work for us? Do you know what I mean? Like we can, like there’s a piece of it where women aren’t given opportunities, and traditional law firms and not the mentorship and not the big, you know, cases and all of that. And then there’s a piece of it, where a lot of women don’t want it. I know, it sounds very anti feminist, and I’m a feminist. So I don’t mean that but like, you know,
Heidi: I think it’s not that women don’t want those opportunities. And I think women are just as hungry as men are to get challenging assignments, you know, to, to stay at the top of their intellectual game, to engage with clients who really depend on them for not just specialist legal advice, but to become the trusted advisor. You know, I think women actually do want that, but they want that, and they’re not willing to settle for that, at the cost of human relationships, a personal life, their well being, yet I mean, and rightly so. So, you know, I think rather than framing it, as do women want these big opportunities or not, it’s do and want to pay a traditional cost for those kinds of opportunities. And no, and frankly, men don’t either.
But for a lot of them, the societal pressures cut the other way. They’re, you know, they’re expected to be whether it’s breadwinners, or you name it, right. And so I think that women could truly step into leadership here, by innovating and demonstrating how different kinds of models can work really well. And some of that might mean going out on their own, like your your listeners did, and I admire that a lot. But you know, frankly, I’ll be clear, I’m really biased, because I stepped off the tenure track at Harvard Business School, in order to go do my own thing, right? Still at Harvard Law School, but I crafted my own job there. I actually have, you know, different titles at Harvard Law School, I have a distinguished fellow title, which is my research title. I’m the Faculty Chair of programs.
So I run our executive education programs on some of the courses. But that required me to do what your listeners did, which is basically buck the system, say, you know, this system, that tenure track system wasn’t working for me, I’m gonna go do my own thing, chart my own course. And I can tell you, I am happier. Now, I am far better off financially. And I’ve got a nice amount of autonomy, and I haven’t lost anything, because I still get to do the research I want to do and serve the clients, I wanted to teach incredibly smart people come through the Harvard system.
So you know, that’s, you know, I think I’m doing the same thing in academia that your listeners are doing in law. And the question is, can we then go back? And do we have an appetite for it? Is there scope to do this? You know, does anyone listen, if we go back to the traditional system and say, hey, it doesn’t have to be like that.
Davina: Right. Right. Well, I think what we’re seeing is we’re seeing a lot of women, law firm owners, but a lot of women lawyers, becoming women, law firm owners, and they are working to crow law firm businesses, and really, are faced with these questions of, do I do I do a traditional model? Only now I’m pet cheese? You know, so how is this gonna impact?
Or do I start bringing in some other weather ways to work, you know, some flexibility and that kind of thing? Like, so it’s I know, that I’ve been, you know, I’ve talked with spoken with many over the last seven years who struggled with this, you know, sort of idea of, we know, it works to build so many hours, and, you know, work our associates to, you know, 2000 hours, a month or whatever, and then I mean, a year, or do we do something that’s less intense, and maybe we don’t make as much money? Or is there another model that can? So I think it’ll be very interesting to see in the next decade. How that if that begins to shift and how it what it looks like, you know.
Heidi: Absolutely, you know, my I don’t have a crystal ball, but my, you know, anticipation is not prediction is that we’re going to see a flowering of many different kinds of models in the legal ecosystem. And if I take a look, you know, 12 years ago, or or more perhaps, I wrote a case study of a small consultancy in based in London, founded by two of my former McKinsey partners, and they have a network based consulting model they they employ directly, very few people, but they take on extremely large engagements for clients and their up against, you know, competing for those assignments with very big traditional consulting firms. And the people who are working with them in this network model have all kinds of flexibility.
And they’re doing it for a huge range of reasons. You know, some of them had, you know, spent half a year working as a consultant in the UK and half a year living in Japan for whatever reason, or they were starting a different business and only wanting to work, you know, every other week, or, you know that but more than a decade ago, we saw a lot of those kinds of innovations in terms of models of working models of the firm, flowering, in flourishing in, in the consulting arena, for example, I’m surprised we haven’t seen that happen yet, to such an extent, in the legal arena.
But I absolutely think that there’s, there’s scope for that. And I think, to your earlier point, technology is allowing us to really question some of the assumptions about how lawyers need to work. From where, with whom, how long, and and what does it really mean to put in an hour’s work? I think that’s a big one up for grabs.
Davina: Right, right. Absolutely. And, you know, what you described is, is a collaboration model that, you know, I, I interviewed someone recently, you is an attorney who was on a high profile case, and she did it, she was part of a collaborative team. So there were lawyers brought in from different disciplines who participated together in even though they were not in the same firm on this high profile case, so that, you know, we may start seeing more of that kind of thing, particularly since people are becoming a little more autonomous, and we’re kind of, you know, not being some of the behemoth law firms anymore, you know,
Heidi: I think, I think we will see a lot more of that, you know, and it’s funny, because legal practitioners are used to doing that with other domains, you know, don’t bring in the economist for, you know, as an expert witness or the medical doctor or so they realize that they need to collaborate with these other disciplines, outside of their law firm when the expertise is needed. It’s not a huge leap of imagination to say, well, if we don’t have that expertise, you know, inside our law firm, it doesn’t it’s not even somebody in a law firm per se. Why is it that we wouldn’t collaborate with them in order to solve these more complex problems. And I think that the definition of what constitutes a firm even can can flex and innovate in ways that we just haven’t experimented with as much in the legal community as is necessary.
Davina: So what would be a good way for us to start thinking about how we can collaborate in, you know, in a with a small law firm?
Heidi: It really starts with understanding the from the clients perspective, what are the problems that warrant this kind of collaboration, you know, clearly, you’re not just trying to overload you’re the client, if you can get on with it yourself, and you’re the expert do it. But really stepping back and saying, is that what’s really going to benefit the client the most? Is there somebody else who has, whether it’s tactic expertise or estate planning expertise, or anti trust expertise, or whatever?
You know, what is it that the client’s not asking right now that they should be? And and how do we bring a more holistic solution oriented answer to a question than simply responding to a specific question that we’ve been asked. And when lawyers can step up and serve their clients in this ways by anticipating their needs, and helping them proactively figure out where the business is headed, or where the issue was going? That’s going to make a huge difference. And so I’d say, you know, the starting point is really with the client problem. How do you contextualize your legal expertise, so that you’re helping them solve not just the legal angle, but the business problem that they’re up against?
Davina: Right, right. Just terrific advice. And I want to get into while we have a little bit of time left, I want to get into your the book, you wrote Leadership for Lawyers, Essential Strategies for Law Firm Success. And we want to know, of course, what some of these central strategies are. Can you talk about those?
Heidi: Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. So that book is an edited volume, meaning that different experts wrote chapters specifically based on their own expertise. So you know, we have chapters in there from people who are real leaders in the field, looking at what you have to do before and after a merger in order to make that merchant Burke, for example. And we have people looking at it from the perspective of, you know, perhaps more relevant to to your listeners who are running their own firm’s how do you think about parsing your time between law leadership and management?
And you know, and and, you know, somebody who is running their own law firm, probably doesn’t stop to think which of those hats am I wearing right now. But it can be very effective to do that and actually to segment your time to the extent that you can. So you know, leadership and management tend to get bundled together and that the same hat of you know, I’m running this place, what do I need to do. But if you can think really tactically about leadership is really about shaping the future, it’s about the strategic longer term issues that you need to do? Have you carved out the time that you need for true leadership? Have you thought about your strategy, your competitive positioning? Have you thought about your alliances and networks and human capital?
You know, whom do you have that you can rely on for these kinds of collaborative opportunities, which are much higher value than things that come to you alone? That’s leadership, thinking about, you know, and you don’t even have to have employees to be a leader, right? You know, it’s a thought leader, it is a leader in your field, the management side is the the day to day, you know, how do you keep the trains on the track, and make sure that, you know, the bills get out and the people get paid, and so forth. And I would strongly, strongly encourage people to think about leadership as something that they need to spend more time on, and management as something that to the extent possible, they outsource as much as they can get in there, even even somebody who’s a part time office manager, or whatever, to handle the the management tasks that really don’t require a business owner or law firm owner to engage in them.
And I think a lot of people may be, and especially in today’s really tight economic times, with the uncertainty, it’s hard to invest in, in people, but there are real returns on investment that can be made from those kinds of, of human assets that allow us to focus our time on our best and highest purposes. And so, you know, we spend some time in the first chapter of that leadership for lawyers book, encouraging people to think carefully of the difference between strategy and tactics, and where is their time and energy best placed?
And as I said, you know, something as small as figuring out, you know, have you blocked enough time to do the deep work? And then the real strategic thinking, have you segmented your day, so you’re not pulled into managerial stuff, just at the time when you’re hitting your peak of being able to think creatively and, and deeply and, and asking people to really be much more intentional about how they spend their most precious resource, which is their time, is critical.
Davina: Yeah, I use that you bring up an absolutely great point. And it’s one of the things in working with women law firm owners that have is a struggle through the growth process, because initially, it may be you and maybe a staffer or a couple of staffers, and you are doing it all. And then as you grow, you still may be playing manager roles and leadership roles, and they’re very different. And one of the things that I often recommend is really taking personality assessments, and really understanding what your strengths are. Because some people may be great visionaries and great leaders and inspirational leaders, and they just stink at the management part. Because because they’re just not they don’t think that way. You know, it’s a very different app.
Heidi: Yeah. I don’t know if you know, but we launched the Smart Collaboration Accelerator, which is a psychometric test that does exactly what you were just talking about.
Davina: Love it. Yeah. And I love it. Tell me about it.
Heidi: So we based on you know, a decade plus of research, we were able to bottom out seven behavioral dimensions that relate to smart collaboration, you know, the kind of collaboration that truly results in commercial successes. And by teaming up with a psychologist, we could pinpoint behavioral characteristics and personality traits associated with the likelihood of engaging in those behaviors.
So we have this tool, these smart collaboration accelerator, and people take a 10 minute online assessment, and they get immediate access to their online report, which helps them understand their profile on these dimensions. And so one of them for example, is there risk propensity? Are they a risk spotter? Do they see a new situation as an opportunity and they want to go patch for that upside that really drives them? Or do they see the same situation and they immediately spring their mind to here’s the downside, here’s what could go wrong? How do we mitigate the risks? Now, you know, we help people understand their natural propensity to do that, you know, some other dimensions, you know, around which kinds of problems are they drawn to? How do they interact with other people? What’s their trust thresholds, etc.
Those are all really strong predictors of whether somebody engages in truly collaborative behaviors that lead to good outcomes. And what the what the test shows is not only where somebody falls out on those dimensions, but the report then gets into very practical suggestions for how to use their natural tendencies as strengths. And so, you know, how do they, how do they show up at work? How are other people likely to perceive them. And for any of those dimensions, you know, maybe the one of the dimensions is a complex thinking versus concrete thinking, you know, the complex thinkers love the abstraction and the, the big, you know, high level problems.
And that can be a huge strength when it comes to collaboration, because they do lean into the uncertain, ambiguous problems where collaboration is really valuable. But we also provide watch outs, if they, if they stop there, at the level where they’re most inclined to engage, which is the complex problems, they might not be good at what tends to be the more managerial side of things, you know, turning it into action plans, and seeing them through to completion and tracking it and so forth. And so our advice to people would either be, you know, team up with somebody who has a different profile than you so that you can each leverage your strengths, that’s how you’re really going to thrive at work.
Or if you don’t have somebody that you can turn to, to do that, make sure you’re very intentional about bringing in the dimensions that don’t come as naturally to you, you know, how do you shore up those areas, and, and, you know, literally in, you know, a one hour or so investment, people take a 10 minute online report and spend some time thinking and understanding this afterward. Ideally, they have, you know, a coach that they work with, who can help them think it through, but even on their own, they can do this and really get a lot of those insights about their own strengths.
Davina: Great, great. So you will provide us a link to that. So we can include it in the show the show notes, right?
Heidi: Yes, absolutely. Absolutely.
Davina: Wonderful, wonderful. I’m very excited about that. I can’t wait to take it myself. I have taken just about every sort of personality test out there. But this really sounds, it sounds like it gives you the kind of information that’s critical to leader, you know, to leadership and running a firm. And I do think that, you know, one of the challenges of so many attorneys is, you know, we graduate from law school, and we decide we’re going to start our own firm, maybe, right, we graduated maybe after working someplace for a while, and law school.
And being an attorney, you learn a very specific sort of skill set and way of thinking, I mean, we’re taught, we’re going to teach you how to think like a lawyer, right. And then when we start trying to shift and open a business and run a business, you know, we’re confronted with this idea that this thinking like a lawyer doesn’t necessarily work and thinking like a CEO, or thinking like a business owner and operator, you know, we have to learn new skills and have different skills, and I love anything that can help us determine what our natural strengths are, um, and give advice on how to use those, you know.
Heidi: 100%. And one thing I think we should really acknowledge is that in times of stress, and let’s face it, everyone’s stressed right now, but business owners are particularly stressed right now, I think it’s fair to say, and when we are stressed, we do what psychologists call reverting to our natural tendencies, or our central tendencies. And so being self aware, what what do we do when we’re not thinking about how we’re behaving, that’s how we are going to act when we’re under stress.
And so the insights into those natural tendencies is more important than ever, because it’s how we will show up at work, it’s how will show up to our clients or our colleagues and frankly, how we show up, you know, in our personal and home life as well. And, and being intentional about that. And even if these are ideas that you kind of have, you know, floating around in your mind somewhere, crystallizing it and getting very concrete action points for how to be stronger.
It is really important right now. And we’ve been working with a number of organizations since the product launched in in the summer, we’ve trained up about 70 professional coaches and consultants who are now licensed to use the smart collaboration accelerator with clients. And we’re seeing huge receptivity in the legal world. Because to your earlier point, it’s so true that these are not skills that are taught or reinforced through a lawyer’s journey starting from you know, 1L and up.
Davina: Mm hmm. Absolutely. Absolutely. Um, so before we wrap up here, can you give us kind of like, leave us with a gold nugget, something that we really can use and begin maybe implementing in our practices to, to be more collaborative and be more successful in that way?
Heidi: Absolutely. So I’m not sure if everyone’s familiar with the term psychological safety. It was a term popularized by one of my colleagues in Edmondson at Harvard Business School, she was actually studying life and death situations, literally. She was she was studying surgical teams in hospitals. And what she was exploring is the paradox of why teams that had more mistakes actually ended up with much better patient outcomes, you know, patients live longer and got fewer sorts of things. It was a crazy result, how could the error prone teams be so successful, but it turns out, they’re not making more mistakes. They were admitting mistakes.
And so teams that admitted their mistakes, and discuss them openly so that they could learn from them. And they created an environment where people could ask for help and challenge each other and make sure they pointed out problems before they blew up into huge issues. Those were the ones where they learned they grew, they improved, and they had superior outcomes, measurably demonstrably important superior outcomes like patients living and the teams that had the opposite, where people were hierarchical, they were scared to speak their mind, they couldn’t admit a mistake if they did make it because they were afraid of getting fired. That kind of fear and top down autocratic leadership, if you can even call it leadership, and created an environment where nobody thrived.
Everyone was stressed and people died. And psychological safety, right? So psychological safety, creating an environment that allows people to show up authentically to ask questions to admit mistakes, to ask for help before they admit mistakes, that is so crucial. And that’s what collaboration entails. It’s admitting that you don’t know everything, and that you were are willing to take a small risk and join forces with somebody because they are more knowledgeable than you or perhaps better than you in a certain area. And the first step of admitting your limitations is crucial to the journey of collaboration, and creating an environment of psychological safety. And honestly, putting yourself in situations where you feel psychologically safe, is the absolute first necessary step on this journey.
Davina: Wow. Wow. I so I could ask you so many more questions. I could talk with you for another hour with questions. But we probably need to end. So could you tell us if we want to find out more about you and connect with you and find out about Gardener Company research? Where can we do that?
Heidi: Absolutely. So our website for the company is gardenerandco.co. And that has an archive of all of our publications, at least the ones we’re allowed to release publicly. And under the research section. And, by the way, the CO in gardener and co stands for gardener and collaborators because we you know, try to live what we what we research and preach. We also have the wwwsmartcollaborationaccelerator.com. And that’s where you can find out about the psychometric tool and contact us if you’re interested in taking that or using it in your organization. And of course, I’m on LinkedIn and always happy to connect with people that way as well.
Davina: Great, great, thank you so much. And thank you so much for being here. And sharing with us today. I know you we learned a lot. I know I learned a lot. And I’m sure that the other listeners will will learn a lot as well. And, you know, maybe we can have you back at another time and ask even more questions.
Heidi: I’d be delighted as you know, this is a passion of mine. It’s not just my work. It’s it’s absolutely a passion of mine. I take these ideas inside and outside of law firms and into the public sector. I work with government agencies, I’m working on some cybersecurity issues, which are pretty hot right now. So anything that I can do to help invent these, I really strongly believe that it makes us a better, better, stronger, more just place to live.
Davina: Terrific. Terrific. Well, let me just ask us where where can we get your books, if we bought them? Are they on the website?
Heidi: They are some links to them on the website. There’s that you know, gigantic online bookseller that everyone goes to first I’d encourage people to, to go to your independent bookstore and ask them to order a copy of Smart Collaboration. Support your indies and and they will order it for you because it’s, it’s in stock and it’s in in print, and they can get it for you pretty quickly. So so go there or, or go online and get it there. Either way.
Davina: All right. Well, I appreciate that. And I I’m in agreement with you there. So thank you so much. Thanks for being here, Dr. Gardner.
Heidi: My pleasure
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