Sunday, October 12, 2008

Why judgment calls about people are the most critical to a team's success

What is the essence of good leadership? According to this book, it's "good judgment."

The authors contend that leaders should be evaluated on the basis of (1) their judgment calls about the people on their teams, (2) their strategies for achieving their goals, and (3) how they perform during a crisis.

Of the three, "judgment calls about people are the most critical ones that leaders have to make. This is because they have an impact on everything. A good team member can fix a call that is going wrong, and a bad one can mess up even the most brilliant decision. Virtually every leader relies on a group of trusted advisers. For most leaders, their team is the group with which they spend the most time."

Approaching it from the perspective of assembling a coaching staff, when hiring a coach, it's important to look for certain assets a coach can bring. The authors suggest asking whether the person you're considering hiring has...

-- Domain expertise, a deep understanding of a technical area or specialty.

-- Industry knowledge, the ability to diagnose trends or help place changes in historical context that helps to predict possible future outcomes. (A coach like Tex Winter or Hank Egan would seem to fit this description.)

-- Constituent knowledge, up-to-date information about and relationships with one or more key groups (in the case of a team, this might specific and unique information about players or opponents).

-- Access to information, such as personal networks, relationships, and know-how that enables the coach to get reliable answers.

-- External experience that provides him with a different perspective (e.g., coaching overseas).

Regardless, the authors recommend "hiring slow, but firing fast."

However, the key question, according to the authors, is this one: "Does this person help the team to make better judgments? Organizations are littered with technically competent people who possess poor judgment. Rather than contribute to the judgment process, they encumber their teams with false assumptions, opaque judgment processes, or indecision."

The book includes a great quote from Procter & Gamble (P&G) chief executive A.G. Lafley:

"I want to know everything I can about leadership. Because I don't believe leaders are born. I don't believe you spring fully armored out of the head of Athena to slay Hector in battle. I believe leaders choose to lead at some point in their life. And it's because they have a call to action. They have a calling. They have something they want to make happen. Be who you are. Be passionate about who you are and what you care about, and have fun."