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Decisions Require Explanation

A recurring theme on this site is “how bad I am at…,” and I’ve got another example of one of the many things at which I suck.

This one?

I frequently fail at communicating to our team the reasons for my decisions.

I do things without telling anyone why.

That leaves people scratching their heads. Actually, if I’m lucky, they’re just scratching their heads. Realistically, they’re left angry and unhappy. They’re confused, and they aren’t sure what I’m doing or why.

Angry, unhappy, and confused people aren’t very effective at implementing my directives.

You’d think I’d have figured this out by now, given that I’ve been doing this for more than twenty years.

Alas, I still struggle with telling people why I’m doing what I’m doing.

Here’s the deal: we make decisions, and we want our team to take action in accordance with our plans. We want to see results, and we want to see them now.

However, it’s tough for them to execute on a plan when they don’t really understand what it’s all about. We all need to know what we’re supposed to do, but we also need to know why. Why? Because things are never as simple as they seem. Invariably, following directions requires some improvisation. We can’t improvise if we don’t understand the rationale for the plan.

Recently, I increased our initial consult fee. As you might expect, increasing the fee resulted in a decrease in consultations (the demand curve, right?). The lawyers experienced the reduced number of consultations as a bad sign. In fact, I expected fewer consultations but better prospects. I got the result I was seeking, but it came at the cost of anger, unhappiness, and confusion. I’ve had to talk a few people in off the ledge.

What should I have done differently?

I should have talked through the rationale for my decision. I should have explained what I was doing and why instead of just doing it. I made a critical mistake, and I paid the price by having to deal with the fallout.

Our people need to understand what’s happening and why. It’s disrespectful to our people when we fail to adequately communicate and explain our reasoning. I plead guilty.

Learn from my experience. Communicate your reasons for every action, whether you have 100 team members or just one. Communicate, overcommunicate, and then communicate some more. That’s a cornerstone of effective leadership, and it will get you the results you’re hoping to achieve.

 

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Lee Rosen

Lee Rosen has practiced family law for more than twenty years. With four offices, Rosen Law Firm serves Raleigh, Charlotte, Durham and Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Rosen served as the Law Practice Management Editor of the ABA Family Advocate for more than a decade and received the ABA James Keane Award for excellence in eLawyering. He served as Chair of the Law Practice Management Section of the North Carolina Bar Association, is a frequent speaker and is often sought out by the media as a source of family law insight and commentary.