10 steps to making bankers and lawyers more likable

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WINDSOR — Let’s start with 13th century Florence. Because we can… Where would art be without the Medicis? These bankers were great patrons of the arts. They produced three Popes (although let’s not talk about banking and religion.) There are many great works that simply would not exist without the patronage of great bankers.

Lawyers largely make up our political class. From ancient Greece and Rome they have built the structures on which our societies have developed.

So far, so good.

But they don’t seem to be able to catch a break at the moment. They are facing blame for all the ills of the economy and flack for every other political crisis of the second half of 2008 and the first half of 2009. Most of us are not best pleased with them.

So, while I recognise I run the risk of being seen as smug or triumphant, here are a few humble suggestions for how these noble professionals can bring back some of the reputational glory.

1. Think about people more.
The mantra of recent years has been ‘the power of the market’ and ‘what’s right is right’. But it often just ain’t. And you don’t have to do much more than look out your window to know that the shape of our communities and workplaces is not the way any fair-minded person would have designed things intentionally.

2. Set some rules. Because you can…
Let’s try going back to thinking about what would work best for everyone. Most days it feels like you have been put in charge of the Tuck Shop. You keep raising prices, so that you can eat more of the candy after the shop has closed.

3. Ask for some help.
Maybe this is my real agenda. But there’s often a combination of fear and arrogance in successful professionals. We all know our own jobs better than most other people. But why do we only need advice on the law and money? And why don’t lawyers and bankers need advice on, say, how to support a decent state school system? Or how to manage people in your employ so that they succeed and thrive?

4. Spend more time on management.
Think about this father-less science. How can you organise things better when so many people are affected by what you do?

5. Be transparent in your pricing.
Tell us where the revenue is coming from and what you have done to deserve it? You know what? We might just agree that you deserve it!

6. Give more back. Think Medicis.
And get your hands dirty. You can learn a lot by messing with people outside of your regular sphere of influence.

7. Innovate.
Come on. Who is coming up with the next version of the corporate pension plan? How can new technology really make things more transparent and people better able to understand and control the economy, the government, society?

8. Teach.
The people I know who are bankers and lawyers these days are remarkable. Intelligent. Educated. Curious. But they don’t often speak a language that I understand. We all think we know what a hedge fund is, or how intellectual property rights work, but we really don’t. And it would probably help us if we did. Don’t you think you could explain that to us?

9. Forecast and plan.
In many cases you are uniquely placed to think about what the future might hold. For example, it’s great that we have had a period of unprecedented economic growth and prosperity, but did anyone really think that it could go on forever? That we’d never see a downturn? Of course not. So why is it only central bankers and a handful of nerdy politicians that seem to have been spending any time thinking about this?

10. Wash you hands.
Don’t leave the toilet seat up. Stand up straight. Clean up your room. Stop eating off your knife. And all the other stuff that we can think of while we are in a nagging mood.

I started this blog as a big joke. Then it seemed to touch some nerves, and now I am finishing it with a thought to being able to stand in front of lawyer and banker friends and actually challenge them to do these things. I think I could do that. It might be a volatile conversation.

But most people will do what needs to be done to increase their personal popularity. In this case, I think it might also make the world a better place.


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