Managing Partner – Julie Adams
Gender or any other characteristics never held senior partner, Julie Adams, back. Even when she was referred to as being ‘someone to pour the tea’, during her first partner meeting in 1983, she did not let that bother her. Nevertheless, she very much appreciated the light-hearted way in which the senior partner at that time, handled the situation, by quietly stating that this would be the last time anyone made a joke like that. By effectively avoiding a potentially toxic situation and banishing this kind of behaviour at the firm for good, Julie was impressed and her boss had won her over.
Ever since, Julie refers to winning people over, as ‘the battle for hearts and minds’. As current senior partner in her third term, she believes that this is the key to running a successful firm, which prides itself on equality and diversity. With this view she has navigated Menzies through a period of intense change and has guided a recent fruitful rebrand.
Where it all began
You could say it all started when one of the former eight partners (there are 38 today), convinced Julie, who joined Menzies LLP as a trainee straight from school, to leave the idea of university behind, take her exams at the firm and work her way up. This partner left a big impression, by noticing when she felt bored and challenging her each time again. Being that perceptive while also constantly rushing around, is a real skill and one that Julie has taken on herself in her career.
This anecdote, where great people management transformed a motivated trainee into the future leader of the firm, shows the importance of managing people and in particular those who are just starting their careers. Many years down the line, Julie has still not forgotten this valuable lesson and now tries to involve people and make them part of the journey by the creation of the Menzies Academy. An elaborate framework which challenges and supports Menzies’ staff by giving them access to all sorts of courses, from technical training to soft skills development.
The new generation
Julie believes that the change in generations makes the battle for hearts and minds even more important. Whereas her generation was more inclined to find their professional home and stay put, the millennial generation is not afraid of change and thus businesses need a different approach if they want to attract and retain this new wave of people. You either work with them or you lose them. With millennials it’s about engagement and ownership, keeping them in the loop and allowing them to shape outcomes. As they are the future faces of the industry, focusing on these incredibly talented people, should only be seen as a good investment.
Communication and sharing information is another important aspect. A poor management strategy is to hand out diktats and expect others to understand and blindly follow them. Leaders should reinforce its vision by living it, embedding it in everything and rewarding staff for living it. By relentlessly communicating, being open, transparent and sincere, you will win them over.
Spotting negativity from people who feel undervalued or alienated is also crucial. Negativism can be detrimental to the working of the firm and thus counteracting it early on, by making staff feel valuable, is essential. With the recently created animation on our intranet, we try to address the challenge of making sure that compliance staff knows where they fit in, which is even more important with the increased focus on advisory. When people understand what they are doing and how they can make a difference, after watching the animation, we will know if it has been successful.
‘Courageous integrity’ is another leadership quality, which Julie says, is invaluable and which she wants all her leaders to develop. She encourages partners not to shy away from difficult and tricky situations, where client relationships are just not working or a people problem has to be addressed. Better yet, she want them to show courageous integrity by having those difficult conversations sooner, rather than later.
Courage and integrity are two attributes which have taken Julie right to the top of her firm, but she could not have done it without her quest for ‘good business’. Her gutsy, practical vision is based on the idea of leadership resembling attrition warfare, where every battle begins with ensuring that the army of supporters living and breathing the firm’s vision, is kept on the journey, so victory can be achieved.
Julie is a perfect example of what it takes to succeed as a boss in the professional services world and she will undoubtedly inspire many other women and men alike to follow in her footsteps.