Glenn Mangurian is the Chairman of the Court Management Advisory Board. He is a non-lawyer and a respected leader with a 35-year track record in industry and management consulting. He has worked with Global 500 business executives in North America and Europe on managing large scale change and performance improvement. In 2001, Mangurian suffered an injury to his spinal cord which left him paralyzed from the waist down. He continues to be active in consulting, speaking and coaching to business leaders. Mangurian also teaches leadership at the University of Massachusetts.
1. You have people from many different backgrounds and perspectives working together on the Court Management Advisory Board. What benefits does that provide?
The Board is a group of very accomplished peers. I come from a consulting background where a core principle was to incorporate a diversity of backgrounds and thinking styles. In this environment there was a lot of innovative energy applied to creating value by solving intractable problems, and you might encounter what seemed like conflict but was really more like aggressive “thought partnering.” If everybody is more similar than different, then it’s easy to come to consensus without a full exploration of non-obvious options.
I respect this advisory board because each member brings a diverse set of backgrounds and commitment to the judicial system. There are not only lawyers and non-lawyers, but people in different career stages and legal practices, as well as generational differences. Mutual respect is the foundation of any team. While we may not always agree, respect and dedication to justice are cornerstones of our interactions. There’s a presumption that the Board members believe that their advice will help improve the management of the courts and it is a worthy sacrifice of their time.
As we start to hone in on sites of action where we would work with courts, I’m always looking to see how that maps against the interests and passions of the members. My professional style is to constantly ask, “How can we tap into passion related to justice that exists inside each board member?” Everyone wants to make a difference.
Similarly, the courts are full of very dedicated and talent people who resonate with the courts mission. I think there is an opportunity to rekindle the spirit of the courts’ workforce. If you can marry daily responsibilities with a sense of fulfillment, then the work doesn’t seem so much like work. The judicial system has the benefit of being a mission-driven organization, moreover with a noble mission to deliver justice. While we’ve got an imperfect system (which will always be imperfect), that mission has transcended hundreds of years of judicial practice and allowed us to live in a civilized society.
Each of the judges I have come in contact with is a dedicated person who could be doing better financially in private law, but at the end of the day, they believe in what they do; the same goes for the rest of the court staff I’ve met. Part of what I’m saying is that during these difficult economic times there’s an opportunity and need for self-motivation based on shared values.
2. From your perspective, how can you see leadership in Boston’s legal community continuing to develop? What is needed?
I am a business guy and not inside the legal community. I know that lawyers, like doctors, have to be smart. But there are different types of ‘smart.’ For the past 20 years, leaders have recognized that success requires different forms of “emotional intelligence.” For some, these forms of intelligence come naturally; but for others they are elusive.
Law school is about creating depth of legal knowledge. The practice of law is very specialized in advancing narrow and deep competencies. I suspect there are some superb legal scholars who are not as adept at communicating with or managing people. National law practice heads and managing partners need more than legal excellence to succeed – they need leadership. Lawyers and judges aren’t explicitly trained in leadership, though some may have developed leadership skills along the way. In business, leadership is developed on the job – first as an apprentice manager and then through exposure to a broad set of issues, cultures and functional experiences. So essentially, it’s about balance.
I teach a master’s level course on leadership called “Discover the Leader Within.” What I try to do is encourage people to look inside themselves and recognize instances where they have acted as leaders. My premise is that we all have leadership skills, they just may be dormant. Sometimes we’re using them without even knowing.
Finally, developing leadership individually is about asking yourself broadly: “Where do I excel, and how relevant is that to the task at hand? Where do I not naturally gravitate?” Then you can look at a specific task and ask: “What does it need? What do I bring; what’s missing, or not there sufficiently, and where can I get it?” The solo hero as a leader is a fixture of the past (if it ever existed). No leader knows it all or has all the skills. Rather, leadership is about mobilizing others toward a common goal using the unique strengths and interests of team members. This may not be taught in law school but it is the reality of today.
3. What is the greatest challenge facing the Court Management Advisory Board, and how do you overcome it?
The Board has to be relevant; otherwise it wastes time. One of the first tools to navigate to relevance is the recently completed strategic plan. The plan provides points to domains for action. The court metrics represent a second tool. How do individual courts perform and how do they perform in aggregate? For the Board the metrics are less of an evaluation instrument and more of a pointer for learning by asking “why”. There is danger in dealing with averages. Rather, we want to understand why there is so much variation around the averages. The third tool is listening to the court leaders and workforce on the ground delivering justice every day. We are not dealing with an abstraction called the courts. Every day over 40,000 people visit the courts – different people with different issues trusting that justice will be delivered. It is an enormous responsibility. We need to work to improve the experience of everyone that visits the court and maintain public trust.
Right now there is a unique opportunity to take a leap forward in building the 21st century judicial system. In addition to the strategic plan three important changes are occurring concurrently: two new trial court leaders – court administrator Harry Spence and new Chief Justice Paula Carey, five new departmental leaders and six new members of the Advisory Board. This is an opportunity that can’t be missed. Building on this, the challenge that any leader has is not necessarily deciding what to do, but what not to do. Focus is an essential part of leadership and execution. If you take on too much, you run the risk of not getting anything done. Organizations and the people embedded in them want to know priorities. The challenge is finding a focus that is relevant and sticking with it long enough to have an impact.
Funding has been a significant challenge in the past four or five years. The courts have shouldered more than its share of budget reductions. We live in a time where, for the foreseeable future, budgets will continued to be constrained with modest increases at best. You want to get your fair share, but you have to recognize you’ll never get as much as you like. The Board and others advocate for the value that the courts play in society. But the reality is that doing more won’t necessarily come with more money. Continuous improvement must become a shared value. I am confident that there are many pockets of innovation around the state improving local operations. A challenge is to encourage more of that and share the experiences more broadly. I am very optimistic that the court leadership with advice from the Board is up for that challenge.
4. What advice would you give to a leader of any group of lawyers about encouraging performance improvements among his or her team?
You should start with figuring out how to build an ethic of continuous improvement – you cannot rest on laurels. Whether it is competition or society, change is ongoing and often unpredictable. We used to be able to anticipate the future by extrapolating the past. Today, change is more discontinuous and disruptive. Strategy is not deciding what to do but rather what not to do. Focus and execution are paramount. Law firms like other sectors of our economy need to be keenly aware of what is going on around them and try to make sense of it.
Associations like the Boston Bar can play an important role in bringing the issues of tomorrow to the forefront today. For example, firm leaders must figure out what to do with professionals who aren’t growing and staying abreast of the knowledge curve. More importantly, firm leaders need to be investing in and developing the next generation of leaders now. None of this is easy but, that’s why leaders get paid the “big bucks”. Who will be the winners and losers? Well, the “jury is still out” – but if you don’t know the game is changing, you are more likely to be a spectator than a player. Playing to not lose is a losing proposition. If you have gotten this far in this blog, you are at least interested and likely a player in the future. Good luck.