Exercising good judgment vs. being judgmental

There is often some confusion about the potential connection between exercising good judgment and being judgmental.   Our experiences and learning help us develop the skill of exercising good judgment to a point where we can lead change and use expertise to influence others in a positive way. Although there is a seemingly subtle difference between the words judgment and judgmental, expertise and good judgment can unintentionally be transformed into being judgmental (the judger mindset), which will interfere with positive relationships, effective decision-making and can lead to resistance instead of change.

I want to share a scenario that illustrates this point.  Imagine a talented leader who is very knowledgeable in his area, has a passion for learning new things and is committed to motivating others and helping them change their practice.  His talents as a knowledgeable leader and skillful practitioner earn him a promotion to a leadership position where the expectation is that he will impart is knowledgeable and innovative approach to his colleagues. He is delighted to be in the position of working with others to promote their professional growth, especially in an area where he feels he has a great deal of expertise.  This highly motivated leader thoughtfully prepares tools and resources that he thinks will support his colleagues to learn these innovative strategies.  He is aware that this approach is a new way of doing business, which will meet with some opposition but feels his expertise and passion will override any potential resistance.  By clearly articulating the rationale for the changes and evidence of how they will lead to greater success, he is confident that his colleagues will see the opportunity for professional growth and he will be able to support them through the changes.

The outcome of this approach was not positive; it actually became a very stressful situation where the talented leader began to doubt himself and developed a narrative in his mind about the passive resisters he had encountered.  How could they be so close-minded? Why are they so stuck in their old ways? What was wrong with them? Why couldn’t he get through to them? What was wrong with him?  With these judgmental thoughts in his mind, the excitement and confidence that he felt during presentations and meetings was replaced with insecurity and uncertainty, to a point where he felt the situation was becoming hopeless.  He had tried everything he could to convince them that this was the better way but some of them just did not want to change.

This scenario illustrates how important your mindset is in determining how you make meaning in your world.  From a judger’s mindset this was a hopeless situation because the assumption that passive resisters are impossible to deal with, and that the talented leader couldn’t reach them had taken over the thinking. To get back on track the talented leader realized that he was being sidelined by this judger mindset and started to ask himself some different questions.  What assumptions am I making about this situation? How is this impacting my thinking?  How else can I be thinking about this? This brought him to the realization that adopting this new approach was not about him, it was more about the colleagues and he needed to know more about them, what they were doing and how they were viewing their professional growth. Was there more than one way to look at this change? What are the facts? What else needs to be considered? What could he learn from them?  The thinking is now connected to a more curious, self-aware place, where the talented leader has created a relationship that values the skills, thoughts and experiences of his colleagues.  With a learner mindset the assumption is that everyone has something of value to contribute and it is important to create opportunities to allow them to share their thinking.

This scenario can be applied to any situation where there may be a perceived imbalance of expertise, knowledge and status, where one person may feel they know more that the other.  I’m sure we have all been in this situation.  How do we present our ideas in a way that others will consider them? How can we stay in a learner mindset so that we continue to learn from others?  What role can we actually play when we are trying to impact change in others?

For any parents of teenagers, consider how this might apply to building a meaningful relationship with your son or daughter!!