On point.


The human element

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Ben Williams talks about the human element that is shining through in today's challenging circumstances and the qualities that help us achieve the best outcomes for our consultants and clients alike.

We're living in quite remarkable times; ones which really make us consider whether we have our priorities straight.

I run a business which connects outstanding lawyers with organisations in need of their services, in a way which allows lawyers to take a wholly different approach to developing their careers, and organisations to be more fluid and adaptable in how they tackle shifting priorities. Choice, control and flexibility are at the heart of what we've been doing, but I have no intention of telling you how well it works, or offering tips on home working or even how we might help you today, important as all those things are.

Instead, I wanted to write about some of the things on my mind as the Coronavirus crisis started to bite. It just shares a little of what we’re about as a group.

Balancing commitments and adjusting to a new reality

The closing of schools in Hong Kong was an eye-opener for me personally because I saw the impact on my team there, and grasped the severity of reaction in a place made wary by SARS. Even so, the moment we made the call to move everyone to work remotely was shocking and surreal.

As a leader of the business, I found myself trying to balance my commitment to my team, with that to my family, to our consultants and clients, as well as to the overall health of my business, both short and long term. The same things that millions of others are having to juggle.

I have a huge amount of loyalty to my team. We’re a young business with a fantastic team who have grown with us – they’re passionate, fun, loyal to each other, frighteningly enthusiastic about our business, and so committed to our consultants too. As an often extroverted bunch (although not me, so much!) we revel in working together, sharing successes, picking brains, learning by osmosis. The physical isolation was, and is, going to be a challenge.

At the same time, I find myself at home, with my wife worried about her own job (and having never been “allowed” to work remotely before), and two teenage sons, one of whom is in his GCSE year. Given that he works best when cornered like a rat, the absence of exams is not a good thing at all – I’m finding that harder than him! Then my mother (displaying an impeccably poor sense of timing) landed herself in hospital. She’s home now, and seems to be well, thank goodness. The worst thing, of course, was having to stay away, not being able to visit, and having to focus on other things at the same time – so very difficult. (As an aside, she’s a near-fifty year veteran of the NHS, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen her so proud of her former colleagues – a feeling we no doubt all share).

So much more than a transactional relationship

Everyone has their own combination of challenges: family, every team member, consultants starting new roles, or worried about current engagements, clients with big projects under threat. We cope, we adapt. We have tech that lets us keep in touch, both one-to-one and in groups. We do virtual coffees (now progressing to wine and beer). The core thread is how human every element of this is. As a team, we’re small and close-knit. We know each other and our consultants well. It’s not just a transactional relationship that's impersonal, we’re not a volume-based business. We pride ourselves on the human element and the sheer level of interaction. And that attitude stands us in such good stead despite the difficulties.

We use the same team tech tools as everyone, but really it’s the listening, sharing, openness, and determination to achieve the best possible outcomes that shines through. It’s more apparent than ever that what we call a 'consulting mindset' is an asset in any situation: self-sufficiency; resourcefulness; self-confidence; an ability to adapt and integrate quickly; pragmatism; communication and organisational skills, and not least an awareness of, and attention to, mental health and wellbeing.