One of the key components for any successful business leader; yet one rarely discussed, is judgment. I was therefore intrigued by a Harvard Business Review article on the topic by Sir Andrew Likierman, entitled “The Elements of Good Judgment: How to Improve Your Decision-Making.

Most of us have heard, been told or believe that you should always ‘listen to your gut’ and that ‘gut instinct’ is something you either have or you do not. As Likierman noted, “A lot of ink has been spilled in the effort to understand what good judgment consists of. Some experts define it as an acquired instinct or “gut feeling” that somehow combines deep experience with analytic skills at an unconscious level to produce an insight or recognize a pattern that others overlook. At a high level this definition makes intuitive sense; but it is hard to move from understanding what judgment is to knowing how to acquire or even to recognize it.”

Interestingly, Likierman finds it all starts with listening and, more importantly, good listening. Listeners to the podcast series 12 O’Clock High, a podcast on business leadership will recognize that as a key trait for almost any successful business leader. Yet, perhaps even more significant, is that he has found that “leaders with good judgment tend to be good listeners and readers—able to hear what other people actually mean, and thus able to see patterns that others do not. They have a breadth of experiences and relationships that enable them to recognize parallels or analogies that others miss—and if they don’t know something, they’ll know someone who does and lean on that person’s judgment. They can recognize their own emotions and biases and take them out of the equation. They’re adept at expanding the array of choices under consideration. Finally, they remain grounded in the real world: In making a choice they also consider its implementation.”

Likierman identified six key elements of good judgment. They are: (1) learning, (2) trust, (3) experience, (4) detachment, (5) options and (6) delivery. It is important to define each of them and have actionable steps to improve your judgment making skills and help you make some sense of not only ambiguous information but the data, data, and data which will become the basis of many corporate decisions in 2020 and beyond.