During the Civil War, President Lincoln was frustrated with the performance of General George McClellan. One of his chief complaints with General McClellan, as he put it, was that he had a case of “the slows.” Instead of marching forward to fight, he spent all his time preparing for a battle versus actually marching his troops forward to engage in battle.
In many law firms, it can likewise feel like those around you have the case of “the slows” as well. Instead of expeditiously moving the law firm forward, it can often feel like those around you are frozen in analysis paralysis. Unless nudged to move, many can spend lots of time contemplating what they should do, or preparing for what should be done, versus taking action.
Obviously, no law firm should act impulsively. It also not effective to make decisions based on emotions. Decisions have to be made based on objective data, lessons learned from the past, and after carefully weighing the pros and cons of any decisions.
At the same time, there is a time to move forward quickly and decisively after all that has been done. By doing nothing, problems can often be made worse. The workload can pile up. Situations that could have been resolved quickly, might be harder to resolve.
“The slows” can culminate in all kinds of ways within a law firm. From the completion of legal or non-legal work or solving other difficult problems that may exist within a law firm, your employees are likely to get stuck at times. They are likely to debate or grapple over what to do when presented with a difficult situation — instead of making the best decision possible and moving forward.
There are just going to be times where employees are facing a difficult problem or a situation and they do not know what to do. There might even be times where the employees probably know what they should do, but for whatever reason, they do not take the action they should because they lack the confidence to move forward decisively. They might even worry that they could be making the wrong decision. Thus, they make no decision and do nothing.
One of the most important jobs of a law firm owner or manager is knowing how to nudge employees forward to make a decision. There is a time to wait and prepare. But there are other times where quick and decisive action simply needs to be taken.
An effective law firm owner or manager can help give employees the tools to make important decisions. The tools can be through delegating enough where employees feel empowered to make important decisions. It might also mean rewarding those employees who are willing and able to make difficult decisions without delay. It can also be putting in play policies that direct employees in terms of what they do in fairly specific situations.
Even with these tools, employees are still likely to get stuck at times. This is where the law firm manager or owner has to be able to come in and make a decision or instruct a subordinate to simply make a decision and then march forward. One of the most important jobs of any law firm manager or owner is to ensure that the law firm is not stuck in a perpetual case of “the slows.”
If you have any thoughts, feel free to share them below.