In a number of articles* we’ve explored some of the financial benefits of collaboration for individual professionals. But in one chapter of the book, I want to recognize that highly experienced partners are likely get a number of additional benefits. These professionals have gotten past the nerve-wracking stage when they were unsure whether collaboration would ultimately pay out. Now that they’re reaping the return on their investment, they can focus on some of the emotional and other less tangible rewards that come from collaborating. Clearly, money is important for its purchasing power and as a status indicator. But most professionals conform to models of normal adult development: the older and richer they get, the more likely they are to seek meaning. And that’s where collaboration helps, too.
So far my research has uncovered these intangible benefits that highly experienced rainmakers are likely to get when they collaborate with their colleagues to serve clients. What am I missing?
- Intrinsic motivation of complex work: Most professionals crave intellectual challenge; it’s part of the reason they spent years in graduate school training for a knowledge-based career. Collaborating across disciplinary boundaries allows them to move up the food chain in their clients, advising people whose challenges are increasingly complex and interesting. As one partner said, “If I’m doing work just in my specialty, then I’m almost certainly talking to clients with a narrow scope and more limited responsibility. Once I move into more sophisticated work, I move up toward the c-suite, and that’s when conversations get interesting.”
- Power dynamics: When a CEO is in crisis and he picks up the phone to seek your advice, it’s a heady experience. Whether it’s advising the world’s business elite, winning a huge grant as the Principal Investigator in a research lab, or directing hundreds of professionals in a worldwide account team — all are sources of heightened power and prestige, and they are likely the result of a collaborative effort.
- Legacy: As the Chair of one major firm told me, “Some lawyers are more partner-like than others. Just as entrepreneurs want to leave a solid business behind for their children, these partners are motivated to pass on a strong client relationship to the next generation.” Research has found that building a legacy – that is, leveraging your achievements and values to help others succeed after you’re gone – is a prime source of enduring happiness. By helping to institutionalize the client relationship across multiple partners, experienced rainmakers build their legacy.
As ever in this Idea Space, please leave your comments below. If you have a sensitive or confidential example that you’d like to share, then please email me directly on firstname.lastname@example.org. And please check out prior topics in the Archive section.