Carl Schuster

Carl Schuster is the first to admit that he doesn’t change too often — and if you don’t believe him, he’ll tell you to ask his wife of
50 years. Schuster, president and managing director of Ruden, McClosky, Smith, Schuster & Russell PA, has turned his nose up at
forgotten fads, such as leisure suits and Betamax home video systems, through the years, but he hasn’t budged on his philosophy of
being an honest, straightforward leader who feels the need to compliment his people on a job well done. Fortunately for Schuster, those
leadership principles have transcended the generations and continue to work at the $93 million law firm. Smart Business spoke with
Schuster about why compliments are so important to his 523 employees and how keeping even-keeled as a leader is the way to go.

Be sure to compliment good work. Compliment
good work so that it will be better understood when you have to criticize somebody. If you do nothing but criticize, you
don’t get the best out of people. You have
to compliment them when they deserve
the compliments, and that’s probably
more important than criticism.

I can’t know everything that everyone
does, and I can’t compliment everybody,
but when I see somebody won a big case
or did something that moved us forward,
I make sure to compliment them.

Over the course of the year, I end up
traveling around our various offices and
complimenting people because I don’t
see those people every day. Once I’ve
done that, I can do some criticisms that I
have or deal with other issues that need
dealt with. But I’m the one who has the
best opportunity to tell people how good
they are doing, and I try to do that
because they are looking for that — they
want the pat on the back, and it makes
them feel appreciated.

To some people, it’s more important
than the compensation.

Avoid mood swings. Avoid the idea of getting
way up one day and way down the other.
That doesn’t help with leadership. I try to
remain positive as much as I can and
keep a smile on my face. That encourages
people to enjoy working here.

I’ve been in this firm for almost 45 years,
and over that period of time, there are
obviously highs and lows, and I just try
to avoid letting those things bother me
and keep an even-keeled attitude. People
in the firm want to know that I’m going
to be even-keeled. They don’t want me
jumping up and down and screaming
and yelling when things aren’t going
good and kissing everybody when things
are going well.

It’s important to set the tempo for
everybody being able to understand that
there are highs and lows in everything
that you do — in the stock market, in the law firm — and if you’re going to be
affected by every high and every low,
and that’s going to affect your personality and how you handle people, then
that’s not good for you or them.

You need to be above those issues; you
need to continue to operate regardless
of those issues.

Let employees mentor the new guard. We
encourage people to work with others as
a mentor or supervisor. We have a mentoring system where all of our associate
attorneys have a mentor assigned to
them so that to the extent they have
issues they are concerned about, we can
get those out. They are not kept inside
the belly, so to speak, and then all of the
sudden they erupt and the person leaves.

We try to keep our mentors on top of
their associates and make sure they
meet with them and get the input and
give the input back to us. It is the most
important thing you can do to try to keep
employees happy because it ends up
helping both people.

We all take a great deal of pride when
we work with someone and they ultimately become a partner and a good
practitioner. If you don’t have that
opportunity to mentor someone or
supervise them and all you’re doing is working by yourself, then you’re missing
out on an awful lot.

You see a great deal of pride in a supervisor or mentor who sees the associate
moving up in the ranks. They take a
great deal of pride in saying, ‘This is
someone I worked with, who I helped
train and who has become a very good
lawyer.’

Remember that no employee is indispensable.

The biggest challenge I’ve had is losing a
good person. We have occasionally lost a
very good partner, somebody who you
certainly didn’t want to lose.

I have learned over the years that no
one is indispensable — including myself.
That’s the way you have to look at it. You
hate to lose somebody, particularly when
they’ve been here a long time and you’ve
become close to them, but people go.

It’s more common today than it used to
be, and with as many people as we have,
we do lose them. I learned early on that
if you are going to continue to do what
you are going to do and continue to live
and enjoy life, then you can’t stop when
someone leaves.

Be a soothsayer. It’s so important to be honest because people are relying upon you
for their future. We have (nearly 550)
employees in the firm, and they all have
families.

When you look at it all, you’re looking
at a small town of people. And they are
not going to want to stay here if they
don’t believe that the one who is in
charge of the firm isn’t absolutely honest.

That’s the thing that I would be looking
for more than anything if I was out on
the job market. It’s great to have someone in charge who is popular or who is a
nice guy or gal, but if you’re not honest,
I don’t think you’re going to achieve any
of those other things you’re working for.

HOW TO REACH: Ruden, McClosky, Smith, Schuster & Russell
PA, (954) 764-6660 or www.ruden.com

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