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Judgements In Management & Coaching, Good or Bad?!

Judgements have their uses. Especially when you want polarity, the ‘yes’/’no’ options for an answer. For example, Judgement in logical decision-making or Project Management contribute massively to success. But do they always? No. So why do I celebrate Einstein as a genius of ‘letting go judgement’ in order to find brilliant solutions? Find out here. Yes, judgements are useful to executives. But we also need to look at the ‘con’ side of judgemental habit and how this habit can restrict team-work, lead to poor flexibility and, a lack of creative-solutions.

In teams, a culture of judgement is a recipe for poor performance. So, how could that be right when so many business-models are predicated on systems and judgements? I’ll provide an example. One of our international clients builds multi-billion dollar projects over 5-7 years or more. The careful systems-management within projects was seen as too heavy-handed and the best and most successful senior managers are the ones that are able to work around the system ‘to make things happen’. The art of doing this while still meeting stringent safety and quality criteria is highly evolved. Many of their most impressive talent simply do not have what it takes to lead at this level.

I found myself coaching one Project Manager who in his first coaching session declared that he was headed for a $20 Million progress-default fine, as, in about six weeks time, he and his team would fail a critical milestone. All his talent and experience of managing highly skilled talent could not find a way forward. Naturally, he selected this as an issue to work on, doubting that anything would make a significant-enough difference to make the crital marker on the calendar. He was resigned to losing the £20 Million and had advised the Board of that too.

What happened? In short, his new thinking from our session led him to go away and meet with his team and significant key stakeholders. One month later he was confident that the milestone would be met. It was.

What this taught us and the organization, was that there was too much reliance on yes/no systems and not enough on how to work with the systems (or against them) to get the job done safely and to specification. It also taught us that coaching can provide the most staggering Return on Investment in certain circumstances! Could the system be changed?

Changing the System and Flexible Thinking

A senior collegue of my coachee was charged with looking at the systems. He decided to create a phantom project. This would mean that the organization would design, pilot, test and build a new project without actually making anything. What would it cost to make nothing, but go through the paper formalities of ‘due-process’? This innovative approach led to an astoundingly (high)  figure for chasing paper: From memory, of the order of some $350 Million. He took this figure to the Government and told them that the organisation could reduce this on-cost substantially, save lead-time in development and reduce costs. They listened.

Einstein & Flexible Thinking

There is no doubt that Einstein was a genius of physics and mathematics. His theory of relativity was a mindboggling advance, so far-reaching that the proofs of his genius came many years later. Two atomic clocks sat on a bench. Their accuracy was in-step to 100 millionth of a second in a thousand years or so. One clock was sent on a US mission to fly around the Earth. When it returned, Einstein’s predicted time-shift had occurred. Of course this has been checked and proven many times since. I believe (yes, I am guessing) that Einstein, for all his academic brilliance, was unlikely to reach a solution on the basis of logic and what he knew: in other words by making judgements about whether one idea fitted experience or not. I believe he had to let go of judgement in order to achieve something radical, to go with that radical idea (in spite of academic reservations) and to keep digging deeper until something resolved. Now that is genius!

Judgements in Teams

There are more human aspects of judgements in teams – these worry me too! When we are quick to judge, we can be quick to prejudice.

We can alienate creative thinkers with our closed minds.

The quality of our relating with colleagues and stakeholders becomes inefficient, some of the time.

We close ranks with other similar judges and become siloed. The organisation becomes inefficient.

Worse than that, judgemental mindset closes off what is ‘dynamic and potential’ in ourselves. At worse, we become anachronistic, left behind, odd.

So, in organizations, we need the mix between ‘judgement mode’ and ‘open-minded mode’. Not just a mix of traits by combining people within teams: two judgemental thinkers and one creative person in a team or three for example. But rather the ability of all staff to flex from one state (of judging) to the other (open-mindedness), consciously and flexibly! Here then is the solution to judgement-cultures within organizations and one that leads and contributes towards strategies improved team-working, better communications, improved understanding, better motivational-management skills and raised productivity.

Judgements in the Coaching Manager and Coach

As coaches, judgements are best left to one side nearly all the time. Then we can hear and see what people are saying and read and adapt to them better. When we do have a sense of what is happening, rather then judge, we need to ask a question that will add perspective and self-learning for the coachee. This allows them to make the ‘Einstein Leap’ in thinking. And these coaching skills can (and are) learned by managers to adapt and grow their personal management styles in training. And that is exactly what AMA has been doing in organisations since 2004. We have worked with Surrey County Councils and with Kings College Hospital, and more.

For more information on culture change and isolating the key ‘tipping points’ of organisationa- change, contact us!

Angus McLeod, 2012.

Meet Angus McLeod and Prof. David Clutterbuck in November. This is a wonderful programme called ‘The Coach’s Journey’. More information here.