Herding cats is way too easy to describe the challenge of leading a law firm. In fact it is downright deceptive. Cats operate in 2 dimensions. Bats operate in 3—they fly.
Bats travel and feed in colonies. The fly together and rely on echolocation to navigate and get where they want to go. Echolocation relies on each bat sending out chirps and receiving the echo of the chirp back. Multiple bats sending out chirps can play havoc with another bat’s navigation—sending it crashing into a wall, towards a predator, or away from its food source. Law firms whose attorneys get their signals crossed as to direction, expected behavior, or goals can suffer the same fate.
Bats have figured out they can fly in large swarms together by listening to other bats’ chirps. Almost all bats in the colony learned they can listen to the leader’s chirps to get them where they want to go. Most of the bats rely on listening to meet their basic needs.
Clearly, it is in the bat’s vital interests to listen to the leader. The bats who don’t listen end up getting lost—or worse. But the leader helps by sending a reliable and easily understood message. The bats understand they can fly farther and faster and find more food by listening more and chirping less.
Initially, the bats will all chirp as they leave their cave, but the chirps quickly die down as the leaders guide the others.
You can harness the power of your attorneys using the same approach. Gather all the meaningful input you can as you start to develop your plan or journey. Give everyone a chance to chirp and get some level of grounding as to where they are headed. Then, quickly step in and start to communicate your message: where the group is headed, what the benefits are, and how the group is getting there. Repeat this message clearly way more times than you think you need to.
A lead bat will chirp 160 to 200 times a second—this may be overkill in a law firm, but, herding bats will lead to a far more successful firm than continuing to try to herd unherdable cats.