Get busy improving, or get busy declining. The greatest enemy of any business is inertia. It will stop a business quicker than anything else. It’s toxic; it should be avoided like the plague. You keep your business fresh by constantly questioning whether you can do things better. ... Look at what works, and remember, ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.’ You’re not going to start all over if what you’ve got is working. As for the stuff that’s not working? You’ve got to fix it; you cannot stand still. This ties in with looking for people who are still growing. Finding somebody who has done all the growing he or she is going to do and is just maintaining what he or she has accomplished is not real promising going forward because nothing stands still. Everything moves in one direction or the other, so if you’ve gone as far up as you’re going to go, there’s only one way to go from there.
You cannot stand still in business, in life, or in biology. Even the simplest organism the amoeba is either growing or dying. You can’t stand still; it’s just not possible. It isn’t a question of choice. You can try to stand still - it won’t work. That’s why inertia is death.
Just make the decision, already. The most important skill for business leaders is a comfort with making decisions. Not everything is always easy, not everything is always obvious. Especially with lawyers, there is a tendency to process problems endlessly.
That’s why the most important skill for running any business, especially a large law firm, is to be decisive. You need to be prepared to make decisions and move on.
You work an issue to the point where you know what you need to know. You’ve talked to who you need to talk to, you’ve looked at it from all the different sides, and then it’s time to make a decision. There’s always one more thing you can look at, there’s always one more person you can talk to, and at some point, all that’s got to stop and you’ve got to decide and move on.
There’s an infinite number of moving parts in any position. And the skill in leadership is knowing when enough process has been done and it is time to decide. It’s experience, it’s intuition; if you’re lucky enough, it’s a bit of wisdom.
Mostly, it’s a comfort with making a decision. Most often, it’s not a lack of information that slows people down; it’s a discomfort with finality and decisiveness.
If it’s the wrong decision, admit it. The most important thing you can do with a bad decision is to admit to it. Everybody makes bad decisions every day.
You hope they’re trivial and inconsequential, but the only thing you can do with a bad decision is deal with it honestly, try to understand where it went wrong and how to fix it, so you can do better next time. But none of that is possible without the self-honesty to say you’ve made a mistake
Keep the big picture in sight. It’s a forest and the trees thing. You’ve got to be involved to the degree required to understand the business, to really have the dirt under your fingernails. You can’t do it by remote control.
But you can’t be so involved in the daily operation of your business that you spend all day bumping into trees and you lose sight of the forest. You’ve really got to keep the forest in sight as a leader, and that means that though you have to venture in among the trees, you have to make sure you get back out again and look at the forest overall.
Learn to let go. Delegation is critical. It’s the hardest thing to learn, and absolutely the most important. You cannot possibly run a business like ours let alone a larger one without it. You can’t get through the day without delegating.
It’s very hard to learn to let go. But what you have to do one more time is make good decisions about people. Then let go, let them take it from there. Empower them, let them rise or fall, but be available, and don’t hesitate to point them in the right direction.
You need to decide they are worth empowering and investing in. That’s the hard part, letting go of that decision. You’ve got to let them make their own decisions, got to let them make their own mistakes.
Empower them by letting go of the ultimate decision. You make the good decision to put a good person in that position. Their decision is going to be good or bad, but it will be theirs.
One of the biggest challenges a leader faces is letting go, whether it is developing a comfort with making a decisions and letting go, or empowering a colleague and letting go. It’s imperative to be comfortable with your decisions, and delegation is a decision. Everything you do all day is a decision, and the hard thing is getting comfortable with making those decisions.
Be courageous in the face of risks. Don’t be afraid to fail. If you are afraid to make a mistake, you’ve already failed. You will never get anywhere if you are afraid to make a mistake.
If that seeps into your leadership, it’s lethal. You have to have the courage to decide and the courage to be wrong. We all are wrong sometimes; if you’re wrong too much of the time, you’re not going to be a leader very long, but you can’t be afraid to be wrong.
HOW TO REACH: Wolf, Block, Schorr and Solis-Cohen LLP, (215) 977-2000 or www.wolfblock.com