The ideal law firm team is composed of many different types of personalities that complement each other’s strengths and weaknesses. We often recommend that attorneys who have strong, domineering personalities and who are big picture thinkers hire staff members who are very detail-oriented. This means the team members can supply the detailed information the attorneys sorely need, but do not have the patience to provide for themselves. This also means that these two personality types are at opposite ends of the spectrum and need to understand each other’s strengths and weaknesses in order to work together well.

The following are a few tips on how to work with staff members who are very conscientious, detail-oriented and tend to value stability and predictability in their workplace:

  1. Make sure you give patient, clear direction. These personality types value detail and tend to be analytical; therefore they need data to work with. Don’t do “drive-by” delegation. Provide context. Be positive, but not unrealistic, in your estimations of timelines and desired outcomes.
  2. Be sure the expectations of their positions are clearly outlined. These kinds of staff members like to know what’s expected of them, as well as the others in the group. Taking time to outline these expectations gives them clear boundaries to work within – they don’t like surprises.
  3. In order for many staff members to accept change, they have to understand why it’s necessary, and they have to respect that the source of the change – the change agent – understands their position and the pros and cons of the change. In order to get buy-in, ask for their input upfront and make them part of designing the solution while giving ideas of the intended outcome. Help them to change by showing them how it will make their tasks faster or easier.
  4. Detail-oriented people are not always comfortable displaying emotions and will repress their disagreements with management. The attorney should be alert for signs of disagreement and attempt to tease out the staff member’s thoughts — they will have valuable input if they can be convinced to share it.
  5. Detail-oriented people who value predictability like knowing their deadlines ahead of time and don’t appreciate last minute changes. If you have to change things at the last moment, acknowledge that this is not intended, not optimal, and you know you’ve created more work for them. Respect that they like to work in an orderly, organized fashion and don’t appreciate last minute changes.
  6. Give direction to detail-oriented staff members in an organized, unhurried fashion, but don’t force fast timeline commitments from them if they need to study the situation to figure out how long a new project will take to complete. They tend to be deliberative thinkers because they include a lot of detail in their mental analysis.
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