Culture Corner: Teambuilding

Each month, we interview a Richter partner to gain insight into how our leadership finds balance and focus in a demanding job, and what non-technical skills contribute to career success.

This month, we’re showing some love to our colleagues and talking about teambuilding. Why is the team aspect so important to a professional services firm, and how can you build success within your own team? Partner Carey Singer, a leader in one of the largest divisions at Richter, shares his thoughts.

“In the interview, I always ask for examples of how the candidate has helped others, even when they wouldn’t get “noticed” for the help.”

Aside from technical ability, what do you look for when hiring? How can someone show you from the get-go that they are a team player?

Carey Singer (CS): I look for candidates with good communication skills. They should be able to articulate their qualifications for the position, as well describe their short and long term goals. I also like when candidates ask good, insightful questions about firm culture. It shows that they really want to make sure they will be happy here.

In the interview, I always ask for examples of how the candidate has helped others, even when they wouldn’t get “noticed” for the help. After that, it is relatively easy to determine if someone is a team player once they’ve started with the firm. We can tell by their attitude towards taking on issues that might be out of their comfort zone. We can also tell by how they communicate their desire to help get things done. I feel that this attitude and approach to your new role is important, especially in the first few weeks.

What advice would you give to someone that is passed over for a promotion that would still motivate them to perform?

(CS): I would provide them with an honest reason why they were passed over for the promotion, even if it hurts their feelings a bit. I would have a discussion with them about their realistic chances of attaining the promotion in the near future. We would discuss what they would have to improve on. This approach can be motivating because people want to be dealt with honestly and directly.  In most cases, we can avoid disappointment by having open communication about advancement throughout the year.

How do you encourage collaboration and comradery on your team? Throughout the firm in general?

(CS): I find that my team, and people in general, are more collaborative when they feel appreciated for their contribution to a collaborative culture. I ensure that everyone has some sort of ‘collaboration objective’ in their goals when we’re setting targets at the beginning of the year.

I also find that people are more collaborative when the people at higher levels are leading by example. It is important to point out opportunities for collaboration to less experienced people, until it becomes a habit.

What advice would you give to someone that may be having an issue with a fellow associate? Is honestly always the best policy?

(CS): My advice would depend on the nature of the issue. In most cases, I would advise the person to deal with the issue head-on with the associate by discussing the issue over coffee. If the issue was of a more sensitive nature, I would either get involved myself by getting the associate’s point of view, or in some cases, I would involve someone from Human Resources. But once again, for routine day-to-day issues that arise, I recommend the direct and honest approach.

What’s the best piece of business advice you’ve ever been given?

(CS): The best advice I ever received was to surround myself with good people and let each of them exhibit their talents. It is not necessary to micro-manage; just make sure everyone understands the common goals and that everyone is pushing in the same direction.


Read more articles in the Culture Corner series: