How to manage your Judgements

February 5th, 2014 by Douglas McEncroe · Leadership

I couldn’t help being a little taken aback Judgmentwith the crowds booing of Rafael Nadal during the final of the Australian Tennis Open in Melbourne. It is true that a lot of people were a little annoyed with Nadal during the semi-final with Federer because of his continuous infringement on the time allowed to take to serve and because of this time absent from the court. Even the temperate Federer complained.

Being that as it may, it does not explain the rather extreme act of booing a player who is actually pretty popular in Australia. Clearly what happened was that certain members of the crowd, with limited information, made a rather harsh judgement, gave way to negative feelings that come from that judgment and allowed themselves to get carried away by those feelings, to the point of booing. Later when the extent of the injury suffered by Nadal became clear those people who had booed must have felt pretty sheepish, I even bet they would have loved to have taken it back, but unfortunately, it was too late. Once it is out there, it is out there.

It is true that part of the blame must be assigned to the match referee who did not share the information either with Nadal’s opponent nor with the spectators. That however doesn’t change much, for it was clear that nobody besides the referee and the people in Nadal’s change room had the information and people still made a judgement knowing that they didn’t really know what was going on.

Managers who make quick value judgements often pay the consequences

This happens every day in business, managers with limited information jump to conclusions, allow these judgements to create negative feelings and then act on them. Sometimes it is in regard to what senior management is doing, or the performance of a collaborator or the reaction of a client, in almost all cases those managers later regret what that consequently did or said.

Leaders have the responsibility to get the information

Anyone who exercises leadership cannot afford themselves the luxury of making these quick types of judgments. Here are some things that you can do to avoid judging and reacting too quickly:

Recognize that you don’t have all the information.
Invest energy and time in finding out more.
Generate some alternative interpretations and look for data to support those.
If you do have to say something, start by recognising that you don’t have all the facts.
Actively try to distinguish between verifiable facts and interpretations of those facts.
Think of the consequences of saying or doing something and then finding out later that you completely misread the situation.

It is human to judge

I remember back in 1980 getting sucked in by the police, rushing to get a quick conviction and by the press, experts of condemning without the facts, whipping up public sentiment against Lindy Chamberlain whose baby was taken by a dingo.

I remember celebrating along with most other Australians Lindy Chamberlain’s murder conviction. Thirty-two years later the Northern territory Coroner Elizabeth Morris found that the baby Azaria had actually been taken by a dingo and that Chamberlain’s conviction was based on faulty forensic work. Years before, in 1988, Lindy Chamberlain was released from jail as it was clear that she had not murdered her daughter. When that happened I, along with many others felt ashamed of the lack of rigor and generosity of spirit in making such a quick and harsh judgment. I said to myself that I will never let that happen again. To this day I have tried to honour that decision, but it is not easy for it is human to judge.

If you want to avoid feeling that, think twice, get the information and use one of the most important qualities in leadership, generosity.

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Know Thyself

August 29th, 2013 by Douglas McEncroe · Leadership

Last weekend I attended our 4Oth year class reunion. Having been away from Sydney these last thirty years it was for me an especially pleasant occasion as I had not seen the great majority of my old school mates in over three decades.

Sitting with one of my best friends towards the end of the evening after having mingled energetically to catch up with as many of my old classmates as I could, we commented on what a great group of people they were. The great majority had enjoyed loving relationships with their wives, had seemed to have been committed and warm fathers, had worked hard and above all were open and friendly people. My friend and I commented that the Jesuits who educated us would have been pleased with their work for here was a group of men who they could be proud of, a group of men who shared a solid set of values and who had made a contribution to the societies they had lived in. These men knew who they were and what they believed in.

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New Beginnings

August 22nd, 2013 by Douglas McEncroe · Leadership

A week ago today my two little girls had their first day at school. It was not their first time in an educational setting having attended day care two days a week since they were two. Now however at the age of only three and a half they have a new beginning full of challenges. It’s school, not day care, they have to go five days a week and it is nearly all in French. My wife has always spoken French to them so they understand everything, but now they have to function in that language too. When I saw them sitting at that little table I must admit to feeling a little guilty throwing them into such a challenge at their age. And yet, a week on, they seem to be thriving, just as my wife told me they would.

I too am experiencing a new beginning. After having lived in Europe for thirty years and having built up a very successful business in Spain, a year and a half ago I returned to my native Sydney to start again. I don’t regret our decision to move to Australia and yet I must recognize that it is full of challenges and rather daunting. I think that in this modern world in which the old paradigm of lifelong employment with one company is a thing of the past, many people have to face new beginnings. So, what have I learnt from mine?

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What we can learn from the great Speeches

July 30th, 2013 by Douglas McEncroe · Leadership

1. The Ten Commandments

Today I am writing the first of a series of posts that will run over the next twelve months, based on the book Speeches that changed the world. I will focus on what people who have to exercise leadership in today’s organizations can learn from history’s great speeches or declarations.

The Bible tells the story of Moses coming down from the mountain with Ten Commandments that supposedly came directly from God. They were meant to be a clear guide of how Moses’s people should live.

Stephen Covey did a doctorate on the fundamental messages of all the major religions. He found that they said very similar things. I myself have studied the three classical stoics, Epictetus, Seneca and Marcus Aurelius and found that they too promote similar ideas with regard to how does one lead a good life. So, there does seem to exist a universal wisdom that perhaps is interesting to reflect upon.

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How to get information like Roosevelt did

July 18th, 2013 by Douglas McEncroe · Leadership

I have just finished reading a great book titled, Rendevous With Destiny, by Michael Fullilove. The book tells the story how Roosevelt thought out of the box in order to gain the knowledge he required to do what he needed to do.

In 1940 with the fall of France Roosevelt knew that the survival of Western Civilization was at stake. He needed to know first hand the true situation of Britain who was left to fight the Axis powers alone. Could they survive? What was the leadership like? What did they need?

Public opinion in United States was still against entering the war, so Roosevelt had to find a way to help Britain and to edge the United States slowly to direct involvement in the war.

An unorthodox approach

Roosevelt didn’t trust the his ambassadors or the State Department to get him the information he needed, so he took the very unorthodox route of sending personal envoys in order to get the picture first hand and to build the relationship with Churchill. He used, personal friends, a businessman, a first world war hero and a political rival to do the job. This drove the State Department and his ambassadors crazy, but Roosevelt did what he had to do to get the results he needed. These envoys never had official titles, and the press never knew the exact nature of their mission, but they got the information Roosevelt needed, helped him build a trusting relationship with Churchill and assisted in getting the Lend Lease legislation through Congress and manage the logistics of getting the material to the British. The Germans may never have been turned back without this assistance.

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Get the Gettysburg Effect

July 7th, 2013 by Douglas McEncroe · Leadership

This week, one hundred and fifty years ago the battle of Gettysburg raged on in Pennsylvania. The battle was important, perhaps marking the turning point of the war, but of more lasting importance was the speech President Lincoln made five months after the battle ended.

What it was remarkable about the speech is how it redefined the meaning of the war. Basically, Lincoln identified two reasons for which so much sacrifice needed to be made, one was to defend the idea that all men were created equal. The second reason was to defend the very essence of democracy, making sure that  “government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth”.

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How to Avoid Politicking

June 30th, 2013 by Douglas McEncroe · Leadership

The recent change of leadership of the Labour Party in Australia ends three years of internal politicking. In that time, two elected Prime Ministers have been wrenched from power and much of the energy within the Labour Party was been diverted away from the primary task of governing the country and looking out for the interests of the Australian people.

Even in the rough and tumble world of politics this has been a very destructive dynamic. And yet one does expect politicians to politick. What is less acceptable is that this practice is allowed rage out of control, like some demonic bush fire, destroying much of the primary task of business, which is to produce top quality products and services, which add value to their clients, contributes to society and gives meaning to the work of the people who populate those companies.

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Lead Like Roger Federer

July 16th, 2012 by Douglas McEncroe · Leadership

A week ago I, like millions of others, celebrated Roger Federer’s latest achievement. What is it about this tennis player that makes him so popular? He has in fact won the ATP World Tour Fan’s favourite a record nine times straight between 2003 to 2011 and I have little doubt he will win this year’s as well.

Obviously success attracts and Roger’s success is phenomenal, Rod Laver goes so far as to say that he is the greatest player that ever lived, certainly no one has ever won 17 grand slams before, but it is more than that, for he is also popular with all the other professional tennis players as evidenced by winning the Stefen Edberg Sportsmanship Award, which is voted for by the players, a record seven times between 2004 and 2011. So how does he do it and what can people who want to exercise leadership learn from him?

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Courageous Leadershiip

July 4th, 2012 by Douglas McEncroe · Leadership

I recently heard an interview on ABC radio with American author David Frum talking about his new book, “Patriots”. Frum was a speechwriter for George W Bush so you would expect his book to applaud recent Republican politics. Nothing could be further from the truth. His novel is a Satire on how the Republican Party has played politics these last eight years, its manner of doing things that, according to Frum, has little to do with the values his party has traditionally held dear.

Just as you might expect, criticism of his book, and of him personally from many of his ex-colleagues has been virulent, especially from Tea Party members who try to portray Frum as a traitor, ironically the opposite of the title of his book.

But just who is the real traitor and who is the real patriot? Is he a patriot who remains loyal to his country no matter what direction it takes or he who remains loyal to the values on which the country was founded?

Is loyalty a value in itself?

This question actually begs another. I often hear people applaud loyalty is if it were a value in itself. Many Germans remained loyal to Hitler even when it became clear just what an insane monster he was. Was this loyalty good? I personally believe that there are some ideals on which most democracies are built and some values that are based on a renaissance understanding of humanism. I believe these things to be good. I also believe that there are things that we just know are right and things we just know are wrong. If someone or some political party remains true to these, then I believe it is good to be loyal. If they betray these things than betraying them is good. On this basis someone like Willy Brandt who was sent to a concentration camp for his beliefs is a patriot and a hero while the SS Guards in Hitler’s Bunker who executed those that looked for a way out of Hitler’s disaster, were loyal traitors to everything that Germany had stood for.

Companies who betray their founding values

Following these ideas, how should a manager behave when he sees his company or his bank betray the original values or their long followed ethical practices? I believe that if they want to practice the type of leadership on which the world’s truly great companies were built, he needs to be critical even if it leads to his eventual exit from the company.

We need this type of leadership today more than ever for so many organizations seem to be losing their way. Bob Diamond’s defence of Barclays Bank’s fraudulent practise is a recent example, saying that they followed those practices because “they believed that other banks were doing the same”. I hear this type of phrase and I wonder if these guys even know the difference between right and wrong any more. This is not the way to build a company that deservedly makes good profits by creating products and services that add value to people’s lives. Going down the wrong track, as most of the “great” financial institutions seen to have done these last fifteen years, starts with a small but intentional lie, a ruthless act, a seemly insignificant betrayal. Good leadership blows the whistle on these types of action.

David Frum remains a conservative, he does not share the Democratic Party’s philosophy of how to run a country and improve the life of its people. In fact I personally don’t agree with his politics, and yet I respect his opinions and could probably even find some common ground, for he is an honest man practising honest leadership. By criticising his party for turning their back on the great majority of Americans and by practising politics that spread fear rather than hope he his is doing his party and his country a great service. He is being loyal to its original values. He is for me a patriot.

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How Leaders can be objective

June 22nd, 2012 by Douglas McEncroe · Leadership

I am often rather disoriented when reading some of the comments about the future of the Euro. Firstly because a lot of people seem to want the Euro to collapse or even disappear, and secondly for the lack of objectivity. This lack of objectivity is dangerous for anyone who has to lead people, particularly so, if they are not aware of it.

To explore our example of the Euro, I am not sure how many people understand just how central the Euro is to the whole architecture of the European Union. If the Euro disappeared then the whole European Union project could collapse. How this could possibly be good for anyone I find difficult to understand. Having myself been born only ten years after the end of the Second World War my world-view has logically been shaped by that momentous global struggle. Steven Spielberg goes so far to say that World War II was essentially a war for the survival of Western Civilization. I myself often stop every now and then to quietly give thanks to all those soldiers who gave their lives so that the rest of us could have peace.

And what a peace it has been. Western Europe after two thousand years of constantly tearing itself apart has enjoyed 60 years of uninterrupted peace and prosperity. The cornerstone of this prosperity is the European Union, a union that has helped the values that lie behind Western Civilization continue to influence the world.  Not a bad thing, if you ask me. The EU’s most solid pillar is the Euro. Seen in this light one has to ask; who does it serve to have it collapse?

The discomfort of thought

What is behind this I believe is a lack of objectivity and behind that lie emotional reactions that are not recognized for what they are and therefore not thought through. These emotional reactions are often handed down from generation to generation and become automatic, and therefore escape the rigor of rational analysis. As JFK said, “For the great enemy of truth is very often not the lie–deliberate, contrived and dishonest–but the myth–persistent, persuasive, and unrealistic. Too often we hold fast to the clichés of our forebears. We subject all facts to a prefabricated set of interpretations. We enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought.”

This is precisely what anyone who exercises leadership cannot afford to do. Returning to our example of the European Union, so much criticism of it, especially from English people, for whom I must say I feel a deep affection, is dressed in rational language but is, I believe, mostly emotional in origin, perhaps coming from understandable sense of loss of Empire. The point is these opiones don’t often seem to be not subjected to “the discomfort of thought”. The first step to being objective is sincerely recognizing that you are not being objective. And it is fine not always being objective,  however it is important be aware of when your are being objective and when you are not.

Anyone who manages other people would be well served constantly working on their objectivity. The people who you manage will recognize your efforts, will perceive you as being fairer and open to dialogue and the quality of your decisions will exponentially improve.

Some tips to help being objective when exercising leadership

  • Be in touch with your feelings, they are the clues to your thoughts.
  • Once you recognize the thought, ask if it is really true? What evidence supports it?
  • Know your values, what assumptions lie behind them? Are they still valid?
  • Know what your “red button” topics are. Work even harder on being objective when you are dealing with these.
  • Do all of the above often. Understand that it does not come naturally and is therefore an effort. It is like mental yoga for leaders.

This is a struggle for anyone, I for one find it difficult. But it is an important endeavour and one that will reward you in many different ways.

What ideas do you have for improving objectivity?

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