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5 Easy Ways to Support Your Support Staff

In and Out Boxes

What would you do without your support staff?

Next Wednesday, April 24, is Administrative Professionals Day—a chance to recognize the hard work and achievements of the support staff who are essential to any successful business.

For small legal practices, your support staff is especially critical to your success. If you’re like most lawyers, you  probably have no idea how to e-file your latest brief, build your own trial binder, or schedule a trial calendar. Your employees make sure you don’t look bad in front of the judge by correcting the typos and misspellings in your memoranda. They make sure you don’t miss that important filing deadline in your big case. And they make sure you have everything you need to do your work on a day to day basis.

Being a great boss is something you should strive for every day, but with administrative professionals day coming up, it’s the perfect opportunity to show your thanks. Rather than dismissing Administrative Professionals Day as a manufactured holiday, you could use it as an opportunity to think about how best to cultivate a rewarding work environment for your support staff.

With that in mind, here are five ways you can improve your office culture and efficiency, and to let your administrative staff members know how much you value them.

1. Seek Feedback And Act On It

While you have your hands full with your case load, it’s possible that there’s a lot going on in your office that passes by you, unnoticed. Sometimes, these are things you’d want to know about. For example, are there ways you can cut costs and/or increase office productivity? How is morale? Are there things you could be doing to improve the services you offer your clients? You may be miss signs that trouble is brewing or that something’s not working, but chances are that your employees are already aware of it. Staying on top of things is often as easy as just taking the time to ask your staff about how things are going in the office, and whether they have ideas about how to improve things. If you don’t ask them, they may not volunteer it, so make regular check-ins part of your practice. And be sure to take what they say to heart.

2. Give Constructive Feedback

It’s true that your support staff will recognize potential issues in the day-to-day management of your practice that you’re likely to miss. Conversely, there are plenty of things your support staff won’t be aware of because of their specific roles and their responsibilities. For example, you’re probably in a better position to judge client satisfaction and potentially the quality of your team’s work. Don’t be afraid to provide your team members with respectful, constructive feedback to improve the quality of their work. Likewise, when they’re performing well, be sure to let them know.

3. Understand Each Team Member’s Strengths And Weaknesses

Along with their skills, each member of your staff brings with them a unique set of strengths and weaknesses. Understanding where each person excels is essential to getting the most out of your team. Some people are great with numbers, while others seem to always forget to carry the one—but have a great eye for other details. By understanding which skills each person has to offer, you can make the best decisions when delegating tasks and assigning projects. Similarly, if you understand your team members’ weak spots, you’ll have a headstart when reviewing the quality of their work.

4. Recognize Each Team Member’s Personality Type

Extroverted staffers may be at their best during meetings in front of the entire team. Meanwhile, introverts may clam up during well-populated meetings, but give you valuable insights during one-on-one chats. Though people can improve their public speaking skills or become better listeners, they can’t change who they are. Understanding your employees’ personalities can not only help you make the most out of your relationship with them, but it can help them do their best work.

5. Empower Your Team

Employees perform at their best when they feel their work is valuable, and they feel responsible for the result. Micro-managing can be counterproductive—for you, and for them. Hire good people and trust them to get their jobs done without being over-supervised. Be clear and concise in your instructions when you delegate tasks. Be accountable for your own actions—such as when you give poor directions—but also let your employees know that you expect them to accept responsibility for their own performance. Finally, don’t take sole credit for accomplishments that were the result of your team’s work. Be sure to acknowledge the value of each person’s contributions and the hard work of the team as a whole.

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