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Michael Lowenbaum uses empowerment to retain employees at The Lowenbaum Partnership Featured

7:00pm EDT December 26, 2010

Leadership is very simple to Michael Lowenbaum. He doesn’t see it as his job to bark out orders and tell his employees and lawyers what to do from the moment they walk through his law firm’s doors until they walk back out.

“It takes a lot of faith and a lot of trust,” says Lowenbaum, founder of The Lowenbaum Partnership LLC. “These people could walk out of here with these clients and there would be nothing I could do about it, because I haven’t done the necessary thing to put my hooks into the client. There is a risk with that, but the reward is tremendous. Those people develop that client. They develop the skills, and they feel empowered, and they feel like an owner.”

Lowenbaum wanted to build a law firm that didn’t focus on billable hours and the speed with which you could make partner.

“Everyone here is a partner in name to the outside world, but they’re not a partner in the profits in a direct way,” Lowenbaum says. “They are in an indirect way, because when we profit, we all do well. But the hard part is to get people who were partners in other firms that came over as equity partners for the firms they used to work for and to get them to continue to be motivated.”

That’s where the empowerment comes in. And while Lowenbaum leads his 35-employee law firm in this way, he says the principles apply to any type of business that you can think of.

“If people believe they really do have control over their destiny, and they believe they can make a difference, and if you show them that you value how they make a difference and make them feel that they really do matter, it gives them so much more reason to be happy about coming to work,” Lowenbaum says.

The key to making empowerment work is to stay true to what empowerment is supposed to be. Give your people real opportunities to learn and grow in your company.

“You can get them up to speed with what to do and how to do it, but until they see you do it and until they get the real-life experience, it’s not going to work,” Lowenbaum says. “I don’t just take them to a meeting to watch me. I get them involved in the meeting. Before the meeting, if there’s a file to look at or information about the client that is available, I have them come into that meeting fully prepared like I am.”

Putting your employees in front of your clients is another way to provide experience and to show your people that you value them and you’re entrusting them with a certain level of responsibility.

“We had an all-firm seminar where we had 350 clients come,” Lowenbaum says. “We put the junior lawyers up on podiums in front of the people and had them present on a topic. Some of the topics were topics they had never spoken on or practiced in. They had to learn it so they had the mastery to do that in front of 350 people. … If you don’t allow the junior people or younger people to do that, they are never going to get the opportunity. They’re going to become better speakers and then your clients are going to see who they are and gravitate toward them.”

Set an agenda and a time frame for the people you’re training and give them goals to strive for so they can see the progress they are making.

“That not only empowers them and motivates them, but you use that with others and say, ‘Look at what Mary can do now that she couldn’t do three months ago,’” Lowenbaum says. “‘That’s because she participated in these training activities. … If you’d like to do this well and advance like Mary has, here’s what you should be doing.’”

How to reach: The Lowenbaum Partnership LLC, (314) 863-0092 or www.lowenbaumlaw.com

Get your team involved

People in authority don’t always make the best delegators.

“They do it themselves, because they know they can do it better,” says Michael Lowenbaum, founder of The Lowenbaum Partnership LLC. “If you don’t make delegating something you are evaluating on and something you’re judging their work performance on, they’re not going to do it.”

You need your supervisors to be good delegators if you hope to build the leadership capacity in your company. If the ones in charge are doing everything, the youngsters will never learn. So you need to make it clear that it’s part of their job to train the newcomers.

“I tell them their compensation is going to be based on how they develop their staff and how they do let go of some things,” says Lowenbaum, whose law firm has 35 employees. “You may be better at it today, but in three years, both of you will be good at it if you let go a little bit.”

Lowenbaum says it’s the same as any other behavior that you want to instill in your people.

“The only way to make it so is the expectation that if they don’t do it, there will be consequences,” Lowenbaum says. “If you’re serious about it, they’ll do it.”

Get your team involved

People in authority don’t always make the best delegators.

“They do it themselves, because they know they can do it better,” says Michael Lowenbaum, founder of The Lowenbaum Partnership LLC. “If you don’t make delegating something you are evaluating on and something you’re judging their work performance on, they’re not going to do it.”

You need your supervisors to be good delegators if you hope to build the leadership capacity in your company. If the ones in charge are doing everything, the youngsters will never learn. So you need to make it clear that it’s part of their job to train the newcomers.

“I tell them their compensation is going to be based on how they develop their staff and how they do let go of some things,” says Lowenbaum, whose law firm has 35 employees. “You may be better at it today, but in three years, both of you will be good at it if you let go a little bit.”

Lowenbaum says it’s the same as any other behavior that you want to instill in your people.

“The only way to make it so is the expectation that if they don’t do it, there will be consequences,” Lowenbaum says. “If you’re serious about it, they’ll do it.”