Running your own business means making a number of judgment calls all of the time. How do you develop and exercise good judgment while trying to do everything else?
One difference between running your own business and working for someone else is the comparative number of judgment calls you need to make. Unless, in your previous life, you were actually a High Court judge or maybe a CEO of a big firm (and even then), running your own business means you have to successfully make a greater number of judgement calls which have a greater impact. But, how do you do that?
Developing that kind of judgment involves three key things. The first is listening. Listening, firstly to others. But then also listening to yourself. There’s been a lot in recent years about the horrors of self-doubt and how conquering said self-doubt is a big key to success. The clients I see in my professional practice confirm the fact that many people are held back from taking risks or trying different things professionally by unhelpful limiting beliefs which have no basis in reality. Recognising and replacing these inaccurate ideas and the discouraging self-doubts they throw up is often a professional game-changer for clients.
However, I would argue that there is such a thing as healthy doubt; those internal alarm bells which tell you that you are indeed heading in the wrong direction. One way of making a judgment as to which sort of doubt about the business you’re feeling is to tally up your feelings against the facts. Expose those doubts to the fresh air of some key questions. Questions like: “What exactly am I worried about/ afraid of?” (don’t be afraid to be specific). Maybe follow up by asking, “How long have I been feeling like this about this?” Then try asking yourself, “Which people or situations (real or imagined) tend to cause me feel like this?” (again try and be specific). And finally, ask, “Is there any hard data to back up my feeling?”
Then, if possible, share these doubts about the business with a few honest people committed to your wellbeing and professional progress – maybe friends, maybe family, maybe appropriate colleagues and – if possible – a good business coach and see how your doubts about the business stack up.
The second key to developing sound judgment is reviewing. In your business, looking back at which approaches have worked and which haven’t may well help you see some useful patterns that will form the basis of sound judgments going forward. This is not because the future is the same as the past but because the past inevitably informs the future and you are the common denominator. Looking back at your week, your month, your last big contract and asking, “What worked well? What didn’t work well? What do I wish I’d known then? What might I do differently” is a very useful exercise. Schedule in regular rigorous reviews. It’s the kind of things good companies have built into their systems but is all too easy to neglect as a founder/ business owner with all the other hats you’re wearing.
The final key to good judgement is time in two senses – taking your time and the passage of time. One of my favourite proverbs in the Bible comes from the Wisdom book of Ecclesiastes; it says, “The end of a matter is better than its beginning and patience is better than pride.” Sure, sometimes we have to make quick decisions but few things are really that urgent. Give it 24 hours, do something in that time other than pro and con lists, get another perspective. A surprising number of issues resolve themselves if we take a beat and, even if they don’t, we’re much better equipped to have good judgment when we’re not panicked. Good judgement in business is like a muscle which builds as we practice it over the passage of time – experience is a good teacher. However, the passage of time will mean nothing if you don’t use it wisely – to listen attentively, to review reflectively and to put what you learn into practice.