Scott Dongoske, president of Winthrop & Weinstine

 Act like an owner: Scott Dongoske 

Managing mavericks

Why Scott Dongoske welcomes strong-willed employees at Winthrop & Weinstine

Television and movies popularize the maverick charting his or her own course in a hostile and changing environment. We cheer for these people and at the same time wait for their destruction. It's part of the fun.

In a business environment, the fine line between doing it your way and being part of a team isn't just fun and games. Companies need creativity and energy, but they also have responsibilities to produce consistent service and revenue. The backlash against flexible workplaces is just one example of organizations trying to rein in the individual in favor of the bottom line. 

What if your organization is made up of mostly mavericks? Some businesses, such as law firms, attract many people who graduated at the top of their class, were great athletes, or served with honors in the military. Such individuals are naturally independent, but not necessarily business owners (or partial owners). One law firm has worked to address that distinction.

"Good leaders must balance the bureaucratic process of a business with the mavericks," explains Scott Dongoske, who for 12 years has served as president of Winthrop & Weinstine, P.A., a 200-employee law firm with offices in Minneapolis and St. Paul. The firm has a local legacy that dates to 1979, and Dongoske has been an attorney at the firm since 1983.

Pointing out common ills like pricing pressure and competition, Dongoske says that law firms had to learn a different way of doing business over the past 10 yearsor face extinction. At Winthrop & Weinstine, that has meant defining what its ‘A' players look like, then constantly reviewing and improving compensation, technology, pricing, and processes to support their success. It hasn't always been easy.


John P. Palen is CEO of Allied Executives ( and works with CEOs, business owners, and executive leaders on leadership development and business performance improvement through peer groups, coaching, and educational workshops.