No interview with a job candidate is foolproof. But Gary Sasso says he can get a sense of whom he’s talking to based on his own experience and judgment. Sasso, president and CEO of the 538-employee law firm Carlton Fields PA, asks questions of job candidates that will help him understand the person’s commitment to decency, honesty and teamwork. For example, he may ask an attorney seeking employment what he or she enjoyed from a previous work experience. If that person didn’t like an environment where it was everyone out for themselves, or he or she was distrustful of colleagues, that tells him it is important for the employee to be in an environment where that individual can trust colleagues. Smart Business spoke with Sasso about how to get employees to buy in through dialogue and how to develop a vision.
Develop a vision. That’s a process of talking to people inside and outside the firm and drawing on your own experiences being involved in the business, talking to people in the firm, gathering facts about the industry, giving a great deal of thought to where the firm is positioned in the industry and where and what competitors are doing.
Assessing the strengths of the business, putting that all together, and using your own instincts and judgments to develop a sense of where we should be going, then talking to others in the organization to get feedback on that to adapt and change it.
But once you have gone through the process of gathering information and thinking about direction, then you need to develop a good, clear sense of direction that can be articulated inside the firm. What we do is prepare a strategic plan that does communicate our vision to the people inside the firm.
I have frequent discussions within the firm with groups to talk about our vision and our strategic direction to have a dialogue about it, and also frequent communication by e-mail and otherwise within the firm to discuss what we are doing to execute on that strategic vision.
Get buy-in by participation. I spend a significant amount of time talking to people in the firm, sometimes one on one or sometimes in groups. It is very much a dialogue.
I learn as much as I communicate. I learn what people like, what they don’t like. I get a lot of good ideas that way. It helps shape my views about our strengths and where we need to go as a firm. At the same time, I try to communicate to others what is on my mind, what our challenges are, what the competitive environment is and ideas about where we are to go as a firm.
Then, I get a reaction to that. That does create buy-in because, ultimately, where we are going is a place where people understand we need to go and have often suggested where we need to go.
Get help with decisions. Whenever we are called on to make a decision, I try to get the lay of the land, which often involves talking to other people in the firm, sometimes talking to people outside the firm, gathering up whatever facts we can gather, maybe doing some reading or research.
Then I’ll start to form an idea of how we should address the issue and then I’ll test that with people, maybe key members of our leadership team who are particularly involved in that issue, and then I will chart out a plan for execution and I’ll test that with people. Ultimately, I want to make sure we have something that makes sense and wasn’t just a brainstorm I had late at night.
Be involved in the community. It’s very difficult. In some extent, it’s taking turns. This year, we may be very active in one cause and another year, another cause.
To some extent, it is up to the individual choice of our professionals and employees. Everyone has his or her own cause. As a firm, we do support a number of causes.
We do get requests for support for a number of different events. I will typically channel those to the managing shareholders of the office where the event may be held. That person will make a judgment on whether they have the budget to support that, or whether, given the priorities this particular year, should we be emphasizing this cause or some other cause?
If we are committed fully with respect to our budget in one year, we will keep in mind that cause for the following year.
Develop a good sense of what is taking place in your profession. I try to understand our competitive place in this market and profession, understand what other law firms are doing and how they are grappling with these issues.
I try to bring that information to our firm so they all can understand what we are dealing with and chart a strategy that enables us to progress and to succeed as a business while keeping our values intact.
Sometimes we are able to learn what other firms have done, but every firm has a different personality and history, so you can’t just take what some other firm has done or is doing and apply it to our firm. We have to do what makes sense for us and deal with our own strengths and minimize our own weaknesses.
Never breech the trust that the organization has given you. I presume that we all try to start with honesty. But, there is a question of being committed to the firm and putting the interest of the firm first and putting your interests somewhere behind that.
We have to earn the trust and loyalty of our attorneys and other employees at the firm by being as open, honest and direct as we can be with all our employees.
HOW TO REACH: Carlton Fields PA, (888) 223-9191 or www.carltonfields.com