The Strategic Business Counsel: The ‘8C’ Model

What is the ideal twenty-first century GC like? We believe the best term for them is ‘strategic business counsel’. Over the following pages we set out a model which attempts to visualise the factors that combine to make strategic business counsel capable of operating at the highest level within their organisation.

Our model has been developed through hundreds of conversations with GCs in a wide variety of jurisdictions. Some parts of it may resonate with you more than others. It would be wrong to underestimate the impact of local conditions, just as particular employers, and the characters of GCs themselves, can lead to very different situations. Nevertheless, we believe that – as our several results show – GCs around the world have a great deal in common, and that each of the ‘8Cs’ in the model is an important aspect of strategic business counsel life for the vast majority of them.

In each case, we’ve tried to explain what’s significant for the GC and to follow our explanation with some thought-provoking questions.

Some of our previous GC reports have included tools for GCs seeking to improve aspects of their performance. This is not a tool as such, but we hope it will help GCs who are thinking about what they do and how they do it.

One challenge is that some of these areas are more within the GC’s control than others. In some cases, the biggest difficulty for the GC may be finding the right modus operandi to achieve both the company’s goals and their own.

Our model shows what helps a GC to move up the Value Pyramid. A GC who scores highly in this model while being on a low level of the GC pyramid – or who judges themselves to be at the top of the pyramid but is a low achiever in terms of the 8C model – will want to think about the reasons for that disconnect. Are they in the wrong role? Is their opinion of themselves not matched by what others think? Or have they so far succeeded while maintaining a narrow focus – and, if so, do they now have an opportunity to spread their wings?

We know that not all GCs face the same problems and challenges – although most of the GCs who have seen this model, or earlier versions of it, have been enthusiastic. But we hope our ‘8Cs’ will, at the very least, provide the material for some fruitful reflection and discussion

Key contacts

Contact
Felipe Arze Abogado Corporativo
Luis Felipe Arze, LL.M
Partner
T +56 22 4852 073
Jonathan Warne
Jonathan Warne
Partner
T +44 20 7524 6130

Collaboration

Collaboration can mean very different things for GCs in different organisations. For a GC in a smaller company, perhaps with a single assistant, it may be very much a matter of personal relationships. For a GC in a large multinational company, the question is much more likely to be one of building and maintaining a quality team, and ensuring that the team is empowered to work well, and that the members of the team, in turn, collaborate effectively with other people in the organisation. We have not said much about a GC’s team in this report, but it is clear that, unless the team as well as the GC is influential and enjoys respect and good working relationships with colleagues in other parts of the business, then the team will not be able to achieve its goals – and so the GC will not achieve theirs.

Our fourth GC report looked at how GCs manage and engage talent. But – beyond considering questions of influence – we have not looked in detail at GCs’ working styles. Nevertheless, this is a crucial aspect of becoming a successful GC. Not because there’s a ‘right’ style, but because your approach has to be effective. If you’re not getting as much as you can out of your team, then your organisation is not getting as much as it should out of you. Empowering the team also becomes a story of empowering the whole business and making legal part of the everyday decision-making process. This creates greater efficiencies and value for the business but also goes toward creating a situation where there is collaborative effort towards creating an ethical culture by everyone. The GCs who we interviewed recognised the importance of empowering their people through challenging work, key performance indicators and close personal relationships. For instance, Gonzalo Smith Ferrer of Falabella explained that: "The win / play / show philosophy seeks to empower people within the business and equip them to recognise when they should handover some control to others. This strategy of shaping independent behaviours becomes independent of the individual lawyers so that other company employees have the tools to carry out their roles and maximise their talents."

The truly effective GC will also be a role model to the next generation of in-house lawyers. And a GC who moulds a highly effective in-house team, with lawyers who embrace change and development, will leave an enormously valuable legacy when the time comes for him to move on, with a high-performance team that can function even without his leadership. As one GC said: "My leadership style seeks to motivate the team by providing autonomy and setting challenges."

Questions

  • How well do you work with the people around you?
  • Do people like having you as a boss? If not, why not?
  • Are you consistent in your messages and the way you present yourself to your team?
  • Have you got a structured programme for talent management?
  • Does your model for talent management reflect the maturity of the market (or markets) in which you’re recruiting?
  • Is there a ‘value gap’ between what your team should be capable of and what they actually achieve? And if you believe there is, have you got a system
    of metrics or indicators to help you assess and deal with it?