It’s happening. All the predictors, all the suggestions, and still here we are. Law firms are seeing the returns of their investment in culture, and it’s not completely pretty. In the past few weeks I have had more conversations about firms losing top talent, and top rainmakers, than in the past few years. What’s going on?

In a quick word – culture! The Petri dish that continually grows with what gets rewarded. When you reward individualism, you receive more of it. And I’m not talking about money. We all know that people respond to appreciation more than money, even in the highest earners in our firms. What are you rewarding?

The other consideration is tolerance. What we tolerate we encourage. If we tolerate bad behavior, it is encouraged, and often spreads throughout the organization like wildfire. When a partner is allowed to buck the dress code, staff often struggle when they are admonished for their dress. When staff aren’t as engaged, lawyers complain about it, often removing productivity from their own practice to suggest what to do with the staff.

These vicious cycles boil down to lost revenue. Lost profit. And sometimes loss of personnel – practice group departures, good staff moving along, and leadership positions difficult to fill.  In other words, your broken culture meets the road.

What’s the antidote? Plunge yourself into cleaning up the culture. Begin with the messaging – honest and vulnerable. What elements do we want to reward from this day forward? Have the rubber meet the road in all the positive ways that are exciting and powerful – the screech of tires at the start of the race.  Most of all, live it, breathe it, and demonstrate it.  What we do is watched by everyone.  Be the leader in your firm, and educate those who aren’t there yet so they understand their role in the shift.

Vroom, Vroom, the engines are started.  I’m listening for the screech….