How to Be Decisive

In today’s episode, we’re going to talk about the importance of being decisive. More than a few of our guests recognize the power of decision, but I think many lawyers struggle with knowing how to be decisive. Therefore, I’d like to provide a framework to help you to learn how to be decisive in your day-to-day lives. 


In this episode we discuss:

  • The importance of being decisive.
  • A three-step process for creating a framework for being decisive in your life.
  • Considering who you are and what fits you when making a decision.
  • How to prevent the problem of information overload.
  • Accepting the possibility of being wrong when decision making.
  • The educational value of making a wrong decision.

Allison Williams: [00:00:11] Hi, everybody, it’s Allison Williams here, your Law Firm Mentor. Law Firm Mentor is a business coaching service for solo and small law firm attorneys. We help you grow your revenues, crush chaos in business, and make more money.


Allison Williams: [00:00:26] Hi Everyone, it’s Allison Williams here, your Law Firm Mentor. And on this week’s episode of The Crushing Chaos with Law Firm Mentor podcast, we’re going to talk about the topic of being decisive. So I have talked about the power of decision on this podcast several times, and it’s come up in a lot of interviews that we’ve had. A lot of our guests recognize the power of decision, but I think a lot of lawyers struggle with actually how to be decisive. And so I wanted to give you a framework to actually help you to learn how to be decisive in your day-to-day lives. And really at the, at the core of this is making the decision that you actually want to become more decisive, that you recognize that there’s a value to that that will serve you in business and in life that a lot of people overlook. So first, we want to talk about why being decisive is so important, and then we’re going to give you the framework for actually how to do that. So the first thing is recognizing that the power is in the decision because decision is what moves things forward in life, always, right? We, we don’t, we don’t get the goals accomplished that we have set for ourselves without making a choice. We don’t create the relationship that we desire, we don’t create the business that we desire, we don’t make the money that we require, we don’t move ourselves forward in life until we decide to do something.


Allison Williams: [00:01:52] And a lot of times circumstances happen, right? Like we’ve all had situations where we delayed decision for a long time and then life happened to us. A couple of my clients are in a situation where they were working as partners in a law firm and we’re not at the full point of satisfaction. They weren’t at true dissatisfaction, but they could be happier and had contemplated what it would be like if they owned their own firm and then miraculously, circumstances happened that the owner of their firm ultimately decided to close the firm and gave them very little notice and poof! They were suddenly displaced and had to decide, do we go out and get jobs or do we start our own law firm? So in that situation, one might say that they were not being decisive about life circumstances, right? Life kind of landed on them. But really and truly, they still had to decide to open a law firm before they could own a law firm. They had to make the decision to move themselves forward in that direction because, at some point, life circumstances happened. They had to choose whether they were going to go one path or another. Whether they were going to become someone else’s employee. Whether they were going to do something completely different with their lives or if they were going to open a law firm. So we know that decision is at the core of forward movement and life.


Allison Williams: [00:03:16] The other thing to remember is that a lot of times people don’t make decisions, not because they don’t recognize the value of making a decision, but because they are so afraid of making the wrong decision. And I see this time and time again. I can’t tell you the number of clients we have in Law Firm Mentor who decided to sign up with us and then undecided. They said yes and then got the contract and said maybe not, maybe now, maybe later, maybe after I hire my secretary, maybe after my husband changes jobs, maybe after I feel more confident in the number of clients I have. And there is always a rational basis for the decision to not decide, right, and so it becomes really challenging because if you start getting into a duel with someone about their objective reality, the problem that you are always going to encounter is that you’re not in their reality. They are in their reality. So what has to happen in order for them to change their course is not that you suddenly debate them down about their reality or you cross-examine their thoughts, but rather they have to come to awareness on their own of why their perception of their reality is skewed. And that often requires a deeper level of decision, which oftentimes goes into the framework we’re going to talk about a little later, but the decision, the decision and then the un decision, the moving forward and then holding back, right?


Allison Williams: [00:04:49] Yes, I want this new office space. But no, I don’t want to say yes, I want to hire this new person, but no, I don’t want to pay payroll for the amount that they will require. Yes, I want to buy the house, buy the dream car, move into the new development, change cities, change practice areas. I want to do all these things, but here are all of the things that will rationally tell me I should not do that. And the scary thing is, is that for just about every decision, there are a few that are exempted from this but for just about every decision that a law firm owner will encounter, there is a reason to do and a reason not to do. And what is almost always at the core of the decision-making process for the lawyer is if I make this decision and I’m wrong, what is the consequence? Right, because in their minds, they’re having the thought, if I make this decision and I’m wrong, there will be something that is less desirable than the outcome of having simply a wrong decision, right? If I just have to deal with the outcome of the wrong decision, the outcome of the wrong decision could be I have to make a new decision or I might have spent money that I now can’t get back, that I have to make in the future or I have to change my life or change my plans or change my perspective in a way that I hadn’t planned to do.


Allison Williams: [00:06:17] All of those things then become the, the immediate outcome. But there is a greater outcome on the other side of that outcome that is lying underneath the surface and it oftentimes deals with the fear of being judged negatively by others, fear of losing relationships, or being in a negative state in relationships as a result of making a choice that someone else does not agree with. Fear of abandonment, that when you make this choice, people in your life will leave you, fear of lack or loss, meaning if I make this choice, I’m going to have less than I have right now rather than creating more. So a lot of these underlying fears are not something that people contemplate, rather, what we do is we rely on the rationality, those thoughts that come to our mind that say yes, we should or no, we shouldn’t. And then we try to debate the data, right? And there’s always going to be a proliferation of that. There’s never going to be a dearth of data about any decision that we will have to make because we have grown in our knowledge base as humans to such a degree that the extent of information is always ever-evolving and it’s always omnipresent. So if you try to simply rely upon data, the challenge is always going to be that you’re going to find yourself with more information than you could ever possibly consume.


Allison Williams: [00:07:39] And the time at which you will be able to make a decision is going to be delayed and more importantly, your mind is going to be filled with so much information that typically you’re going to find that you won’t make a decision. So you will quote-unquote decide and then you will undecide, you will step in the direction and then you will say, no, you will wait a year or two or three suffering needlessly in the process, waiting for the right time and oftentimes the decision is not made on the data, it is made on the intuition. So you’ll say, I’m ready to go out on my own. I’m ready to start a law firm and what happens? You have all of that data going around in your head, so the confused mind does nothing. You stand still, you don’t make the decision and then two or three years later, all that data that’s in your head starts to kind of part ways. If you think about it, like the parting of the seas, right? Or like the fog, the dense fog outside lifting. When that lift happens, you allow yourself in a moment, oftentimes completely unconscious, most of, most of this is not conscious. You allow yourself to have a feeling and then you center in on the feeling and you start to get excited about the possibilities on the other side of the decision that you’re making. On the other side of leasing that new space or starting that law firm or stepping into a new relationship.


Allison Williams: [00:09:05] Right? So you start thinking about what’s on the other side, you get really excited about that. And then all the data that was still there, right? The data didn’t change, every once in a while, you might learn a new fact that says, ah yes, this is what I needed but the reality is it’s rarely that you learn a new fact that really brought clarity to your decision. It’s often that you learn a new fact and now you’re using that to justify the decision that was already the right decision for you deep in your heart and you just got stuck and we all get stuck right. We all get stuck in making decisions, especially if we don’t have an intentionality around being decisive before a decision is presented to us. Right? If we have to decide in advance that we are going to decide at a certain time, like before we leave the call, before we leave the office, before we go home and stew in the juices of our indecision, we are going to make a decision as to how we’re going to deal with this if we reframe that, it really helps us to get clarity on how we can move forward in a place of being resolved. Being resolved, that if it’s the right decision, great, we have advanced our lives and if it’s the wrong decision, great! We have learned something valuable.


Allison Williams: [00:10:22] Not if it’s the right decision, great! I get to have what I want. And if it’s the wrong decision, oh, shoot, I’m now an idiot, I’m now scorned by my community. I now lose everything the value that I value and I now have a much more negative experience in life. So how do we calm the mental chatter and get to a place where we can be decisive? So in other words, how can we be decisive? So I want to give you a three-step process for creating a framework for how to be decisive in your life, so that you don’t have to wait two or three or 10 or 12 or 15 or twenty-five years to get to what you desire. You can get yourself on the pathway to create that now. So the first thing that you have to do to learn to be decisive, to actually live in the energy of being decisive. If you do have to create a framework for your decision making, creating a framework for decision making means simply that you are going to decide in advance what it is that you are going to evaluate over what period of time you’re going to evaluate that thing and what variables are most important to you to make a decision. Now, hear me. I did not say what are all the variables that go into making this decision? I asked and specifically referenced, what are the most important variables for you to consider. And I frame it that way because a lot of times when we are deciding how to decide in the future, we think, OK, here is all this minutiae.


Allison Williams: [00:12:02] Right? If I’m thinking about this globally, these are the twigs on the leaves on the, on the trees in the forest, right? We’re not even talking about the trees versus the forest, we’re even getting more granular than the trees. And because particularly the lawyers, we, we live in the data, we live in the facts, we live in the information. We know that cases are often won on the strength of our facts and our command of those facts. So a lot of times we go into that that analytical framework for how to decide everything and we stay in our heads. And there’s nothing wrong with using your intellect and using your thought process to come to the right decision for yourself but you have to consider more than just how this makes me think about a situation, but also how do I feel about the situation, right? We oftentimes undervalue the importance of using our intuition and making decisions in life. So when you are creating that framework and you’re thinking about the most important variables, how you feel about the decision should be there, right? Not just how other people will look at you or how other people feel about something, external data, social proof, but how do you feel, how do you feel in the experience? How do you feel when speaking to the person who’s going to lease you the property? How you feel when you contemplate being the owner of a business and having your name on the door? How do you feel when you contemplate stepping into coaching and having someone to facilitate and help you every single week? How do you feel about going into a new practice area and having people guide you or ultimately choose you as a result of your new service? That is something that you actually want to practice and that’s something that maybe you started with or had exposure to when you work in someone else’s law firm.


Allison Williams: [00:13:56] How does that make you feel? And when you’re thinking about how it makes you feel, you have to marry that to what the thoughts are, right? So what are your thoughts about this situation and not just what is the data telling you, but who are you as a person in that data? Right? So sometimes a decision is analytically correct on paper, but it’s the wrong decision for the individual. And I’ll give you an example, once upon a time when I was actively litigating child abuse and neglect cases across the state of New Jersey, I would go to court and I had a very bombastic personality in court because a lot of the bravado that would capture the judge’s attention would suspend the judge’s focus on other information provided by adverse parties because I could command the attention of the courtroom. And so I would go in and I would present my information.


Allison Williams: [00:14:48] And sometimes it would be very matter of fact, but many times there would be some showmanship involved, and when I was, when I was in a highly contentious case, I would often plan to have documents ready to tell the court I mean, they’re going to get what I want when I leave this courtroom or we’re going to the appellate division and we’re going to have an emergent application filed and that was often enough to have the court at least be more diligent in the facts and information they would rely upon because they didn’t want to get overturned on appeal, so I would have more information to counter later in proceedings down the road, right? So it was kind of a strategic line-up, like a domino effect. But many times I would actually take an emerging appeal and I was very successful at them and I would announce the fact that I was going to do that and I would do so very aggressively, you know, I would throw the papers up in the air, I would wave my arm around, I would announce in a louder tone of voice that that was the plan if my client did not have his or her child returned that day or if my client’s child was placed in foster care or what have you. And I remember when we had a new lawyer join our office, this is when we were much smaller, we had like maybe four lawyers at that time. We’re more than double that now.


Allison Williams: [00:16:06] And I remember the new lawyer asked me what strategy that I would have used or I would be inclined to use with a particular set of facts and I said, knowing the judge, knowing the adverse attorney, knowing the attorney for the child, knowing the facts of the case, I would go in bombastic, throw my hand in the air, wave around the emerging appeal documents and I kind of laid out a strategy for what that would look like. But I ended with, but I don’t think you should do that and the lawyer looked at me and said, well, why not? And I had to very gingerly say to the lawyer, I don’t think that you have the gumption to pull that off, right? So right facts, right data, right information, right parties, right landscape for a very aggressive strategic approach that I have used successfully many times before but with another person coming in, that person wasn’t going to be as committed to that strategy because that person didn’t have the same type of personality that I do. And that doesn’t mean that that person would be wrong. That person just would not have been authentically in the energy of that particular strategy had she or he used it. So it was an interesting conversation because you had to have that conversation without saying, I don’t think you can pull this off, right? And, and, and so and having that conversation, I kind of use myself as kind of the flip side and said, listen, this is not about putting you down.


Allison Williams: [00:17:37] There are definitely some times where a very soft approach is necessary in order to strategically move a negotiation, right? It requires a certain level of emotional intelligence, a certain level of mental dexterity, a certain level of tolerating challenging personalities and things like that, and I and I would clearly say that’s, that’s not my jam, right? That’s not, that’s not where I excel. So I would not necessarily want to spend my energy in that type of transaction because I don’t think my client would get the best result if that was how I chose to approach that transaction. You, however, have the kind of personality that could pull that off and do it artfully and do it successfully for a client in a moment, right? So I use that as an example so that you see that it’s not just having the idea of the framework of what you’re going to consider, but it’s important that you consider who you are when you were making a decision. Right. So just like when you’re choosing a marketing company, if the marketing company is going to recommend that you do some very outrageously themed advertisements, maybe they are in your face aggressive. Let’s say they comport with your rules of professional conduct and they are funny, maybe a little risque, maybe a little offensive and they have super bright colors and super flashy design.


Allison Williams: [00:19:04] And that’s what that marketing company is recommending. Some people can pull that off and do it very well. Other people, if they put that out there, they’re so embarrassed by it that they can’t even engage with the person who calls about it because they have a certain level of fear about how they’re being perceived. So if you are a person that would be turned off by that message or feel very triggered by that message, even if you had all the right facts, all the right data, all the right information, the right landscape, and a marketing company was saying to you, this is what we have found will be successful in your market, with your practice area, with your brand. You can still say all of that makes sense, except it doesn’t fit with who I am as a person, right? It’s not it’s not something I can pull off. So that’s, again, strategy number one, create a framework for decision.


Allison Williams: [00:19:56]  Strategy number two, is that you need to determine the critical information in advance. And this is going to help you to, to prevent the problem of information overload. Right? This will allow you to think strategically about what are the pieces of information that you need to have answered going in. And I see this problem over and over again that a lot of times lawyers are so busy that when something catches their eye, when they’re thinking about a new marketing initiative or a new hiring company, great companies that help with assessments and things like that or perhaps its new office space.


Allison Williams: [00:20:32] Right? They kind of go in with a discovery mindset, right. I’ll hear it all, take it all in, stew on it and then I’ll have a better framework for how, how much information I need. And then I’ll start doing comparative analysis but if you think about it when you go into any type of conversation, whether it’s a sales conversation or just an information session and you don’t know what information you’re looking for, then your mind can’t focus, right? So there’s always going to be, again, a proliferation of information. There’s always going to be more than you could ever possibly consume and more than you will need. So if you go into an encounter where there’s more information than you need and you start getting information thrown at you that you really don’t need to consider because it’s not as applicable for you or it’s not particularly important, what you’re often going to find is that you will have challenges with disintegrating information, taking pieces of information out of the fabric of your, of your decision. And as a result, again, the confused mind does nothing, so more and more information being available to you, especially because lawyers often feel more intelligent, more capable and more well reasoned when they’re asking a lot of questions. So you’ll say, well, what about this? What about this? What about this? What about this? What about this? What about this? And you get all that data in and at the end of the day, all of those questions get you information, but they don’t necessarily get you information that you’re going to make your decision by, because decisions are made primarily at the level of emotion.


Allison Williams: [00:22:14] Right? We make an emotional decision and then we justify it with our mind. Even when you have a highly rational person who believes that they are thinking critically and logically about a problem, if they did not have some resonance with the solution that’s being offered to them, even if the data said yes, they would, they would feel that there’s something off. So I want you to think about that, when you think about what information you’re going to require going into a conversation, ask yourself, you know if you’re evaluating a service, what does that service need to accomplish for you? If you’re evaluating a product, what does that product need to provide for you in order for you to say that this was a successful purchase? What is it that you need to have on the other side of that decision? So what is the outcome that you’re ultimately looking for? And when you think about the outcome that you want, when you’re asking questions and you’re seeking information, that information should be tailored toward answering the question. Will the information I’ve been provided lead to a likelihood that I will achieve the outcome desired? And if it doesn’t, then you can certainly ask more questions.


Allison Williams: [00:23:22] But I would be very direct and confronting. I am hearing A, B, and C, what I need to know is D, E, and F in order to know that I will be able to achieve a certain outcome and if I am incorrect that D, E, and F are required, then let me know how A, B, and C are sufficient because I think we also need the A in the equation, right? That then becomes a matter of not just I mean, I know what I know and I’m and, and I know it now, so in other words, you’re not being, you’re not being rigid or dogmatic in saying this is the only information I need but you’re asking people who are presenting you with information. Hey, I think I need some more information here. I need to know these things and you’re asking them to either give you that information so you can make your decision or explain to you how what they have already given you is sufficient. And any person offering you any service or any product should be able to do that with relative ease and dexterity or else you might be getting a snow job, right? And of course, the, whether you’re getting a snow job, is really, truly a matter of intuition, even though there are some markers for whether someone is being truthful. More often than not, it’s about how you feel about what the person is telling you.


Allison Williams: [00:24:37] OK, strategy number three, how to be decisive. Strategy number three. You’d have to be able to sit with the possibility of being wrong. Now, I know this is a big trigger for a lot of people, a lot of people very much fear being wrong and being perceived as wrong, looking less than certain, right? Looking less than capable, looking less than able. And there’s often a great fear that we have that if we make the wrong decision, our mind goes into a spiral. We don’t just see the first consequence that may or may not happen as a result of being wrong. We see 50 consequences that snowball that tell us this would be a travesty, a travesty beyond all travesties if we were wrong. So I want you to think about this. If you are going to go out, let’s say, hire a new employee, new paralegal. You know that you need that role. You know what it’s going to look like. You’ve done the numbers. You’ve run the metrics on it, and you are interviewing candidates and you’re, you’re down to the wire. You’ve got maybe three viable candidates, and now you have to make a decision. Well, if you choose any of them and they all meet your minimum criteria, there is a possibility that you bring them in and they’re fabulous. But just as a person who meets all of your criteria could be fabulous, a person who meets all of your criteria could also be destructive. That person could also be problematic. That person could also need to be terminated.


Allison Williams: [00:26:14] On the flip side, if you met a person who didn’t meet any of your criteria, there’s a greater likelihood that, that person would be catastrophic but there’s also a possibility that the person could work out. So when you think about how then do you decide when you are looking at the candidates that are in front of you, when you make that ultimate choice. You have to again, you’re going to have to reframe what information, how you’re going to decide, what information you’re going to draw upon, which variables are most important and you’re also going to decide the critical information that you have to have in advance. Right? So you’re going to decide those things going into your decision, but then ultimately, when it’s time to decide, you have to be resolved in yourself that if you make the quote wrong decision, you get something out of that. There’s something valuable to making wrong decisions, because, frankly, that’s how we learn. That’s how we advance in business. That’s how we advance in life, right? It wasn’t that you put your toddler on his feet and he miraculously was able to put one foot in front of the other, stabilize himself, balance himself and move himself fluidly forward, that led him to walk. It was all those times of standing up and not quite knowing how to balance and falling back down or standing up and holding on to something.


Allison Williams: [00:27:30] And the first time you let go, having that lack of equilibrium and then toddling and either falling or leaning or having to grab on again, right? It was a process, and every wrong action led to a positive outcome on the other side, which was gaining the knowledge that got him to the place where he could walk. So it’s the same thing with us, right? And that process never changes, right? We never stop growing, we never stop evolving, we never stop shifting and moving forward into better decisions because hindsight is 20, 20, but also knowledge is cumulative. So there’s no way that you can avoid the accumulation of your mistakes. Now, certainly, you can make better choices when you align yourself with the right people so that you can avoid a lot of catastrophic mistakes, and you can learn from the mistakes of others, and you can make smaller mistakes, so the mistakes will cost you everything, and they won’t stop you from moving forward. But a lot of that, the decision and decision fatigue and not making decisions oftentimes gets to this third strategy, which people are not implementing, which is, you have to be able to fit with the fact that you might be wrong. But here’s the thing. If you know that going in, then you don’t marry yourself to the idea that if someone doesn’t work out, if something doesn’t work out, if a process doesn’t work out, if a procedure doesn’t work out, if a new service doesn’t work out, you don’t marry yourself to the idea that that says something about you as a person.


Allison Williams: [00:29:04] You are not less of a person because you made a choice that was not ultimately to your greatest good. You are not less of a person because you chose something that ultimately you continue to get information after you made that decision and you started to get a different type of perspective about it. There are so many times in our lives where we stop ourselves from forward movement because we are simply not able to contend with the possibility of being wrong. So I want to give you the gift of sitting with the possibility of being wrong as a part of the three-step process for being decisive because it will make a world of difference and is ultimately going to help you grow your business faster and be more successful in your business and create the business that you actually desire.


Allison Williams: [00:29:50] All right, everyone, I am Allison Williams, your Law Firm Mentor and today we have talked about how to be decisive in your law firm. And if you need help with this principle. If you are struggling with how to make decisions in your law firm and there’s a decision that you’ve been sitting on and you just haven’t been able to pull the trigger and you don’t know how to get yourself out of that downward spiral of information overload, reach out to us. We can help you with that. All right. See you on the next episode.

Allison Williams: [00:30:30] Thank you for tuning in to the Crushing Chaos with Law Firm Mentor podcast. To learn more about today’s guests and take advantage of the resources mentioned, check out our show notes. And if you own a solo or small law firm and are looking for guidance, advice or simply support on your journey to create a law firm that runs without you, join us in the Law Firm Mentor Movement Free Facebook group. There you can access our free trainings on improving collections in law firms, meeting billable hours, enjoying the movement of thousands of law firm owners across the country who want to crush chaos in their law firms and make more money. I’m Allison Williams, your Law Firm Mentor. Have a great day!

Allison Bio:

Allison C. Williams, Esq., is Founder and Owner of the Williams Law Group, LLC, with offices in Short Hills and Freehold, New Jersey. She is a Fellow of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, is Certified by the Supreme Court of New Jersey as a Matrimonial Law Attorney and is the first attorney in New Jersey to become Board-Certified by the National Board of Trial Advocacy in the field of Family Law. 

Ms. Williams is an accomplished businesswoman. In 2017, the Williams Law Group won the LawFirm500 award, ranking 14th of the fastest growing law firms in the nation, as Ms. Williams grew the firm 581% in three years. Ms. Williams won the Silver Stevie Award for Female Entrepreneur of the Year in 2017.  In 2018, Ms. Williams was voted as NJBIZ’s Top 50 Women in Business and was designated one of the Top 25 Leading Women Entrepreneurs and Business Owners. In 2019, Ms. Williams won the Seminole 100 Award for founding one of the fastest growing companies among graduates of Florida State University.

In 2018, Ms. Williams created Law Firm Mentor, a business coaching service for lawyers.  She helps solo and small law firm attorneys grow their business revenues, crush chaos in business and make more money.  Through multi-day intensive business retreats, group and one-to-one coaching, and strategic planning sessions, Ms. Williams advises lawyers on all aspects of creating, sustaining and scaling a law firm business – and specifically, she teaches them the core foundational principles of marketing, sales, personnel management, communications and money management in law firms. 


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00: 01: 21 (30 Seconds) 

So the first thing is recognizing that the power is in the decision because a decision is what moves things forward in life, always, right? We, we don’t, we don’t get the goals accomplished that we have set for ourselves without making a choice. We don’t create the relationship that we desire, we don’t create the business that we desire, we don’t make the money that we require, we don’t move ourselves forward in life until we decide to do something.