Five Minutes That Can Change Everything

As you leader you need good judgment. You also cannot afford to be judgmental. That’s never more important than when considering the potential of the people on your team.

If you’re like most leaders you’re always watching your team to determine how effective they are in their roles. That’s good leadership. But good leadership is not good enough if your goal is to grow your organization. 

Growing an organization requires great leadership and great leadership requires more than simply watching your people. It requires consistent two-way communication. 

If you’re not “out there” interacting and talking with your people in an intentional manner then you’re probably missing out on the information that you need to advance from good to great leadership. 

When I say “intentional” I mean very very intentional. You must make it a point to invest time each day, every single day, to learn something about someone on your team. Here’s one way to do that:

Every day invest the time to conduct an innerview, no I didn’t mean interview, I really meant innerview. An interview is what you do when you’re hiring someone. An innerview is what you do when you’re interested in keeping them, and building their success. You must see their motivations and lives from the inside to truly understand why they do what they do.

Invest five minutes a day, every single day to innerview at least one member of your team. Ask about them personally, about their goals, their challenges and most importantly, how you can help them get to where they want to be. 

Way too many leaders have told me that the “innerview” is a nice thought but that they just can’t afford the time. This is often right after they have told me that their people are their most important asset. 

If you want a great organization then you are going to have to be a great leader. Put your time where your mouth is and don’t just say your people are important, show it. Show it by using the innerview to make certain that when you’re making judgements about your people you know exactly who you are judging. 

When you use your point of view to judge your people you’re almost certain to be judgmental. When you use your people’s point of view you can leave the “ment” behind and more clearly judge.

It requires just five minutes a day but it’s five minutes that can change everything about how you evaluate and lead your people. 

5 Cents

It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so. – Mark Twain

Nobody can be right all the time but the best leaders are indeed right far more often than not. They are right more often than not because they best leaders have good judgment. The simple definition of judgment is: an opinion or decision that is based on careful thought or the act or process of forming an opinion or making a decision after careful thought.

Both of those definitions have the term “careful thought” in common. A decision based on careless thought is rarely a good decision and never as good of a decision as it could have been. 

A ball and a bat together cost $1.10. The bat costs $1.00 more than the ball. How much does the ball cost? 

Research says that 79% of the people who just answered that question instinctively, without careful thought answered that question wrong. 

Great leaders think and they think carefully before making a decision. They consider the consequences of their decision and the consequences of those consequences. Like a chess master they think several steps ahead of most people.

Great leaders think bigger.

Most importantly they know what they don’t know. They don’t assume much if anything. They verify their facts, they have people who they can bounce ideas off of, they count on those people to tell them the truth, not just what they want to hear.

The best leaders know that they can find out about the things they don’t know. They also know that their real problems come from “knowing” things that just aren’t true.

I think most people actually have the potential to have good judgment, they appear to lack good judgment because their decisions are instinctive rather than informed. They sometimes seem to think that a quick decision is better than a delayed decision. Great leaders know that a delayed right decision will beat a quick wrong decision every single time. Every single time.

I know I’m likely to get hundreds of tweets and responses saying I should go back to school and study math because they believe the answer to my earlier question is indeed 10 cents. 

I thought about telling you why 10 cents is wrong but I’m not going to. Instead I’ll tell you this, if you’re willing to pay attention, really pay attention, then all the information you need to make good decisions and show good judgment is readily available to you. 

You only need to pay real attention, you must linger on the words on the person you’re speaking with until you truly understand what they mean. You must read every word in a sentence because words matter, if you don’t your brain will play tricks on you and make you think that $1.05 is really $1.00. 

Your judgment improves when you think bigger, listen intently and observe with both your eyes and your mind wide open. You have good judgement, the question is will you develop the skills you need to make use of it. 

When you do, you’ll know without a doubt that the ball costs a mere 5 cents.

One Question, Three Answers

Over the weekend I had a reader of this blog ask me a question. It was one question that asked if I could share three qualities that make a leader successful. I did not respond immediately because I wanted to put some real thought into my answer. I answered his question later in the day but I didn’t stop thinking about my answer. 

Hence this blog post.

The three qualities cited in my answer were integrity, a caring nature, and good judgment. Some people will automatically assume that I believe those three qualities should be “ranked” in that order. The fact is that they don’t have to be ranked at all because they are intrinsically linked. 

Let me explain.

In many cases the lack of integrity comes directly as a result of poor judgment. Someone in a leadership position does something that they expect will turn out well but when it doesn’t they lie to hide their poor judgment. 

Lying destroys credibility. Not sometimes, not usually, lying ALWAYS destroys credibility. Even lying that comes about as a result of poor judgment destroys credibility. The bigger the lie the greater the destruction.

Liars don’t lead, they manipulate, they coerce, they maneuver, they twist and turn, and they disguise. They can even sometimes project the appearance of success but they do not lead, they never never lead. Some people in leadership positions who lack integrity believe that they can force people to follow them…that is the ultimate in poor judgment. 

They may trick people, they may force some level of compliance out of people for their personal gain and to some that may even look like progress but none of it is leading. Leading requires at least a minimal level of commitment on the part of at least a few followers. People cannot commit to people that they do not trust. 

Wondering which comes first, lack of integrity or poor judgment, is like asking which came first, the chicken or the egg. The reality is it doesn’t matter, both the lack of integrity and poor judgment are killers of leadership potential. 

Whether or not to maintain your integrity is of course the ultimate decision that someone in a leadership position must make. Their judgment when making that decision will determine whether or not they truly have an opportunity to be an authentic servant leader. All leaders should know this simply fact: no one can steal your integrity, you can only give it away.

People without integrity AND good judgment might have a leadership position, but that doesn’t mean they are leading.

Which brings us to a caring nature. Leadership is about people and only people. You manage stuff, budgets, plans, and processes but NOT people. People cannot and should not be managed, they must be led.

If you don’t care about people you simply will not make them the priority that they need to be in order to lead them. When you truly care about someone they can see it in your actions and hear it in your words. They will know you care.

When you don’t actually care they will figure that out too. When your people know that you don’t care they will quickly determine that your motives are all about you. They will feel used. This happens even faster when they sense a lack of integrity because when they don’t trust you, they doubt your motives from the very start.

Caring for others is a choice. It’s a choice you must make before you choose to lead. Lying to someone for your own benefit shows not only a lack of integrity, it shows a tremendous lack of caring. 

As a leader your success is completely dependent on the success of your people. Not caring for or about those people shows terribly poor judgment. 

So what’s more important, integrity, caring or judgment? I’d say it’s irrelevant because having two without the third still makes it very challenging to lead.

 

How Much Does Good Judgment Matter?

Noel Tichy and Warren Bennis are both well known business authors and both are considered experts on the topic of leadership. They also both agree that a leader’s most important role, regardless of the organization, is making good judgments. They define good judgments as well-informed, wise decisions that produce the desired outcomes. They say that when a leader shows consistently good judgment, little else matters.

They also have this in common: they are mistaken. Seriously mistaken. They are mistaken because lots of other stuff matters, lots and lots of other stuff.

Clearly good judgment is vital for all leaders. If we’re talking solely about effective leadership then I may even put it at the top of my most important leadership characteristics list. However, if we’re talking about Authentic Servant Leadership then many other characteristics come into play and they are equally as important as good judgment.

Let me attempt to struggle once again with the difference between effective leadership and truly Authentic Servant Leadership.

Think of it like this: effective leadership can settle for the good of the one over the good of the many. Authentic Servant Leadership will consistently, willingly, sacrifice the good of the one for the good of the many, even when they are personally the “one.”

If that’s an accurate description of the difference, or at least a difference, between “effective” and “authentic” leadership and I believe that it is, that makes effective leadership a whole lot easier than authentic leadership.

There is just a lot less to be concerned about. There are less “inputs” to consider when a merely effective leader is making a judgment.

So if Tichy and Bennis are talking about only effective leadership they could have a point. But merely effective leaders are limited in their ability to earn the commitment of their people. That limitation lessons their influence and prevents them from ever achieving a Level Five Leadership Status.

Authentic Servant Leaders must have integrity and they must care about their people. They celebrate the success of others before their own. They don’t spend time on their people, they invest time with their people. Authentic Servant Leaders don’t just build a strong following, they build strong leaders. Yes, they have outstanding judgment but they know that there are very few things that “matter little” and many things that matter a lot in leadership.

Here’s where I can agree with both Tichy and Bennis: they say when a leader consistently shows poor judgment, nothing else matters. I believe that is mostly true. It’s true because you can care for people, you can have boatloads of integrity, and you can genuinely love it when other people succeed but if your judgment is always lacking, you may be a wonderful person but you won’t be a leader for long.

So judgment matters, it really really matters. To say that little else matters however is to diminish the legacy of many of the greatest leaders who ever lived. Judgment is a critical component of leadership, but it’s not the only one, it’s only one of many.

Live Your Own Life

I am what I am and that’s all that I am.Popeye the Sailor

Are you living your own life or are you living the life that other people or some other person, expects you to live?

It’s a big question. If you’re living your life the way you want to live it then you have the opportunity to truly succeed. If you’re living the life of a poser, trying to be something or someone your really not, then despite what you may gain in life you’ll likely have trouble thinking of yourself as a true success.

Popeye had it figured out. He lived his life, his way, and that was that. If that wasn’t “good enough” for someone then they didn’t need to be part of his life. He was perfectly fine with that. No person’s opinion of him mattered more than his own.

That is a pretty healthy way to live.

Now, a few caveats. Living your life your way doesn’t mean you get to ignore all societal norms or the laws of the land. It doesn’t mean you aren’t required to share the planet with all it’s other inhabitants and it doesn’t mean you don’t have to use the resources of the planet responsibly.

Living your life your way just means that you don’t have to “adjust” your core values to meet the expectations of others. It means that you don’t have to look a certain way or believe anything that you don’t want to believe.

It means that you get to be you. It also means you get to have everything that comes with being whoever you want to be. Of course it also may mean that you don’t get to have some things that you might be able to have if you were different than you are. But hey, we all make choices.

No one can take your self-respect unless you’re their accomplice. Other people can think what they want of you but they can’t make you think less or more of yourself … unless you let them. So don’t allow other people to judge you; ignore the haters and naysayers and live the life that you choose for yourself.

Now, here’s the part of the post that’s meant as much for me as it is for anyone else. You might not like the second part of the post as much as the first.

If you’re not going to let other people judge you and you’re going to live your life as YOU see fit then you must stop judging other people and stop trying to get other people to live their life the way you think they should.

You’ll be better off in most every way if you stop judging people and start trying to understand them instead.

The moment you judge someone your judgement about them becomes clouded. You’re using your life experiences and your life values to determine how they should look, act, and behave. But they ain’t you. It’s highly unlikely that they view life through the same lens that you do. It’s their experiences, background, issues, hopes and goals that make them who they are. And they ain’t you!

So stop thinking they should be, or worse, that they need to be. You will find it far easier to accept who you are when you learn to accept others as they are.

Just accept it!

Authentic Leadership Doesn’t Pigeon Hole People

Authentic Leadership is a balancing act. 

An authentic leader must understand the strengths and weaknesses of their people. They must make judgments about their people and make certain that they are giving their people the best chance to succeed. 

It’s a balancing act because authentic leaders can’t afford to be judgmental while making the judgments required to help their people succeed. Authentic leaders know better than to apply their own life’s circumstances and values to the situations and decisions of their people. Authentic leaders accept most everything at face value. 

Authentic leaders know that judging a person does more to define themselves than it does the person they judge. They also know that every person is in someway unique and gifted. Authentic leaders invest the time to discover what those gifts are and find a way to put them to use.

Authentic leaders are realists and they are fair. There will always be a person or persons who a leader “prefers” working with but that preference shouldn’t mean “extra” benefits or opportunities for that “preferred” person. Rules and policies apply equally or they don’t really apply at all.

Most of all, a leader should never pigeon hole their people.  For those of you unfamiliar with the term “pigeon hole” it means to decide that someone or something belongs to a particular type or group, especially without knowing much about them.

This is where authentic leaders really separate themselves from the more common leader: They know their people. They know what motivates them, they know their challenges and goals. They see their people as PEOPLE and not merely a resource to be allocated. 

They invest the time everyday, yes everyday, to understand them as people. They work to understand their environment, backgrounds, past successes and failures. They can make judgments without being judgmental because they know where their people are coming from. 

If you’re a leader who believes (accurately) that your own success is dependent upon the success of your people then don’t judge what you don’t know. If you’re a leader who believes that your organization’s greatest asset is it’s people then invest your time with your greatest asset. 

People want to matter and when they know that they matter to you then and only then will you have the opportunity to truly lead.

Do Leaders Really Need Good Judgment?

There was a time when that question would never have been asked. It was a foregone conclusion that sound judgment was a prerequisite for effective, authentic leadership.

Today however there are some leadership “experts” who are in fact asking that very question. They point out, correctly I might add, that today we have terabytes, and megabytes of data. We have charts and graphs and grids with every color of the rainbow looking at every possible situation from every possible angle. All the data, some experts say, leads the leader right to the proper decision. No real judgment is needed.

I’m not sure I can say crap in this blog but let me tell you, that “expert” thinking is a load of crap in there every was one. Today, as in every other day in history and as in every day in the future, judgment mixed with discernment, or as I prefer to call it “judgcernment” is as vital as it ever was or ever will be.

The experts point out that using data takes the personal bias out of a leader’s decision making and thought process. Well isn’t that just swell; we no longer need a leader who thinks, they just have to be able to read a pie chart. That’s just crazy!

Data may provide facts but wisdom comes from judgment.

We need wise leaders. I want a leader who applies their “life lens” to a situation. I want a leader who uses their experience to make a decision. If the right person is doing the leading I even want them applying their own bias to the decision making process.  

Good leaders have good data but great leaders use their experience and knowledge to judge what data to believe. It might be possible to manage using pure data but people won’t be managed, they want to be led. When you attempt to remove the “human element” from leading human beings the result is utter leadership failure. I’ve never seen a person’s life illustrated on a spreadsheet but there are empty cells in everyone’s history. Judgcernment is required to fill in those blanks.

Is good judgment still a prerequisite for leadership success? Decide for yourself but know this; your answer likely will speak volumes about the authenticity of your own leadership approach.