Judgment is a quality that can be difficult to define precisely, but we certainly recognize when it isn’t present. The fallout of bad judgment has been front-page news during this year of economic despair.

Even if the consequences aren’t as dramatic, inadequate judgment on the part of leaders results in losses – in profits, morale, jobs and market share, just to name a few.

What does it look like when leaders exhibit skillful judgment, and how can you do the same?

Understand what makes people and groups tick. First, be a good listener (see our Sponge blog post). Regularly ask open-ended questions. Book smarts about group dynamics help, but you can be an expert on the topic and still not know a thing about what is really going on with your people.

Know when to fight and when to compromise. Fight for guiding principles and high standards. Compromise when the alternative being suggested is a viable way of reaching the organization’s goals, even if it isn’t your favorite way.

Make decisions based on facts. You may be more swayed by emotions than you think (see our Decision-making blog post). Seek out other perspectives, especially ones that contradict your position. Make sure your facts are inclusive and not just gathered to justify what you have already decided to do.

Analyze risk/benefit. Don’t always be a no-holds-barred risk-taker. Go for it when the potential payoff is high and the risks are low. Talk about  risk-taking with others, so that your direct reports know when it’s not only appropriate, but required, on their part.

Understand the implications of decisions. Carefully consider the chain of events that will follow your decision before it’s implemented. How will the decision affect other people or groups? What do you need to do to mitigate the effects of this decision?

Act in ways that are consistent with your principles and values. The foundation of judgment is rock solid adherence to your values. What is important to you? What will you never compromise?

Judgment might best be summarized as discernment – the ability to make sense out of  the obscure. Judgment is evidenced when leaders take in a broad array of opinions, facts and experiences and integrate these into a strategy. Not all moves will pay off, even with most wise, astute judgment. Most well-reasoned decisions will bear fruit – in the form of results achieved or lessons learned.

Have a question or want some input from Humanergy about this topic? Contact us and we’ll get right back to you!