Management & Culture

9 Questions to Discover What Your Team Members Really Think

When’s the last time you had a one-on-one or performance review with a team member… and you learned something completely new?

Well, after three years researching, writing and refining hundreds of questions across almost 300 companies with 15,000 employees in 15+ countries, CEO of KnowYourCompany, Claire Lew reveals her nine questions to discover what your team members really think.

Here we go:

  1. Are you afraid of anything at work?
  2. Have you seen something recently and thought to yourself ‘I wish we’d done that’?
  3. Is there something we should measure in the company that we currently don’t?
  4. Is there any part of the company you wish you were able to interact with more?
  5. Are there any benefits we don’t offer that you’d like to see us offer?
  6. Is there an area outside your current role where you feel you could be contributing?
  7. Is there anyone at the company you wish you could apprentice under for a few weeks?
  8. Have you seen someone here do great work that’s gone unnoticed? 9.Are there things you don’t know about the company that you feel you should know?


Decoupling the Role of GC and Company Secretary

For any in-house lawyer wearing the dual hats of General Counsel and Company Secretary, here’s one for you.

In this post, governance experts Paul Marcela and Andrew Vitrano, set out a handful of arguments urging companies to question why the CoSec role is still typically combined with the distinctly different role of General Counsel.

While the issues around privilege are set out from a US perspective (albeit still interesting I think), the other issues raised have global application.

For example:

“Think for a moment about the absurdity of having the company’s lead lawyer, or even his or her deputy, laboring over a binding machine (or the digital equivalent) to assemble, collate and distribute board meeting materials, ordering lunch for the board, assisting a board member with travel arrangements, or ensuring that a board member is paid or reimbursed. Believe it or not, this happens even at well-heeled public companies…”

Ever wondered whether large or small companies tend to combine the role of GC/CoSec? Well here's a chart showing company size data from a sample of 133 Australian in-house lawyers with the combined title.


Leaving The Comfort Zone

An in-depth interview with Spotify GC, Horacio Gutierrez on leaving his 18-year post at Microsoft, moving his wife and three children to Manhatten, and taking a bet on the music streaming company’s future.

For any in-house lawyer sitting in their comfort zone at an established enterprise, here’s some food for thought:

“I felt almost as though, if I had the opportunity to join Microsoft in 1982, before the company became public, and if I had become part of the seminal group of people to take the company public, and continue to grow it and expand it around the world… that is something that, around [Microsoft], the opportunity had closed. Even though it had grown in significant ways, it was no longer this feeling of being part of the project to help launch a new company.”


When Your Friend Becomes Your Boss

Here are some handy pointers (and a couple case studies) on how to handle that moment when your buddy becomes your boss by the author of the HBR Guide to Dealing with Conflict at Work, Amy Gallo.


  • Openly acknowledge that your former peer is now in charge and you intend to work well with her
  • Put yourself in his shoes and try to figure out what will help him be successful
  • Set yourself apart by being willing to share concerns and deliver bad news


  • Assume that your relationship won’t change. It will — and should.
  • Expect that you will get special treatment because you’ve worked with the boss before
  • Kiss up. Many people do, but your new boss will be wary of such behaviour.


I am Human

A senior associate at a top-tier firm pulls no punches in their anonymous letter to the NSW Law Society, setting out their beef with the ingrained workplace vernacular that describes people, team members, and colleagues as mere “resources”.

Here’s the rub of it:

“Legal business leaders are as quick as greyhounds to adopt the latest buzz words and demand that their organisations become “agile”, “disruptive” and “creative”. But in their zeal to chase after fashionable notions, they remain blind to the commercial folly of viewing skilled lawyers as “resources” rather than people.”


Facebook GC Mandates Diversity for Outside Counsel

Fresh on the heels of HP's General Counsel announcing that they'll withhold up to 10% of fees invoiced by firms that fall short on diversity, Facebook has mandated that women and ethnic minorities must make up at least 33 per cent of external legal teams working on its matters.

Here's Facebook GC, Colin Stretch:

"... we want to see them win our cases and create opportunities for women and people of colour. We think the firms are ready – our articulation gives not just permission, but a mandate.”

And that's not all – on 20 April, MetLife’s General Counsel Ricardo Anzaldua will host up to 75 of its outside law firms for a summit where he plans to deliver an ultimatum: create a formal plan to retain and promote your diverse talent by next year, or don’t plan to work with MetLife much longer.


Driving Diversity and Inclusion from the Inside Out

Here's a great write up chronicling Mastercard GC, Tim Murphy's work with the National Association of Minority and Women Owned Law Firms (NAMWOLF), where 20% of its panel are now certified diverse firms.

Their program goes beyond any minimum number, and includes specific onboarding, CLE and networking sessions for the Mastercard in-house team to get to know the NAMWOLF firms better.

Drawing on other examples of affirmative action, the article concludes with a list of 10 Things Corporate Law Departments Can Do to Promote Diversity Among Their Outside Counsel (although, there were only nine listed):

  1. Make sure your in-house legal staff gets to know the diverse firms and their capabilities and areas of practice.

  2. Pledge a significant percent (≥5 percent) of your outside legal spend with certified diverse suppliers.

  3. Develop standards for those of your outside firms who are not certified diverse for recruiting and retaining diverse talent, and for staffing your matters with that talent.

  4. Evaluate your outside firms on their commitment to recruit, retain, and staff your matters with diverse talent.

  5. Put your money where your mouth is — make sure the firms that don’t demonstrate that commitment understand that there will be consequences.

  6. Don’t make promises you don’t keep: if a firm doesn’t demonstrate the commitment, implement the consequences.

  7. Hold your in-house staff to the same commitments relative to working with certified diverse firms and recruiting and retaining diverse talent.

  8. [for US] Sign on to ABA Resolution 113.

  9. [for US] Implement the ABA survey as a means of evaluating your outside firms along diversity lines.


Great Teams Are About Personalities, Not Just Skills

Here’s a neat 5-point recipe for combining the right mix of personalities to create a successful team.

The theory is that psychological team roles are largely a product of people’s personalities, and that you can mix and match depending on what’s most suited to any given team function.

Add the following personalities and stir:

  • Results-oriented
  • Relationship-focused
  • Process and rule followers
  • Innovative and disruptive thinkers
  • Pragmatic

As Suzanne Bell, who is working on the Mars project for NASA, put it:

“…We assume that astronauts are intelligent, that they’re experts in their technical areas, and that they have at least some teamwork skills. What’s tricky is how well individuals combine.”


General Counsel Awards Firm for Diversity Advancement

As one of the first Fortune 100 companies to publicly honour law firms for diversity, Coca-Cola has awarded its first General Counsel Diversity Advancement Award to Shook, Hardy & Bacon.

In the words of Senior Counsel and chair of Coca-Cola’s Diversity Council, John UyHam:

“The award acknowledges Shook’s consistent commitment to diversity initiatives both within the firm and throughout our profession.”