Tag Archives: judgement

The one with the single version of the truth

If like me you studied biology in school you will likely remember the Kreb’s cycle. It’s a rather nifty process through which the body converts sugars into more accessible forms of energy. At the age of 15/16 I could likely have drawn the Krebs cycle blindfolded and tell you how many molecules of ATP were formed at the end. I can’t anymore.

Fast forward a few years and I was University studying Biochemistry and on getting into a discussion about the Krebs cycle during a tutorial all that I held to be true was dispelled with one comment from a Professor who shared the truth that what we had been taught at school was “a simplified version to enable you to pass your A-Level”. I was crushed and soothed my angst with some glucose diluted in strong continental lager. The more we continued with our studies the worse it became in that there were very few absolutes but many theories, speculations, conjectures and a myriad of things still unknown.

Once I joined the world of work life reverted to a ‘school Krebs cycle’ kind of mode. Opinions of others in the organisation were generally based on those of my boss. Firstly, because I didn’t really have much to benchmark them against, secondly, because I didn’t really trust my own judgement and thirdly because most serious interactions with others outside our team were generally initiated by my boss. Life was easy.

Then I started working in recruitment and my opinion was suddenly part of my trade. But (and there had to be a but) what made it easier was I wasn’t actually providing judgement, I was providing a viewpoint in response to requests for data (interview questions) and then allowing other people (initially clients and latterly line managers) make decisions. Life was slightly more complex but still relatively easy.

As my career has progressed I realise (and mostly with reflection) that my ability to form a view point on other people is probably one of the key elements of my role and here’s where life gets so much more difficult. There is not right and wrong there is only the subjective reality (or as some like to refer to it opinion). I have written before about the confidence required to express your own opinion here and the vagaries of the winners and losers internally here but a conversation last week has made me think more about this and I realise a few things:

1. It’s important to control for emotion in the formation of your opinion

2. Context is of course important but in forming your own judgement experiment with different contexts – it may help you frame a situation/person differently

3. When listening to other people express their judgements realise that they are of course being subjective. Try and articulate (to yourself) the factors that will have driven the formation of that opinion

4. Remember that everyone has good days and bad days…and so do you!

5. Act within your own personal values and the values of the organisation in how you enact your opinion

6. Be prepared to accept new data and allow that to impact your judgement (there are very few hills to die on)

7. Realise that at times your opinion may be a lone voice – that doesn’t make it wrong but it may make expressing it a courageous act

8. Understand that your opinion has value and so do other people’s. Treat theirs with respect and expect them to do the same

9. I know this is a values point but it’s worth expressing – don’t be a conniving political snake (technical term) in how you express your opinion

10. If you want to know someone elses opinion of you, ask them but be prepared for some home truths

Despite the fact that life is rarely easy and the transition to many versions of the truth has left it’s scars I think effectively managing your opinion, it’s impact and that of others is what makes what we do worth it. Otherwise it’s just a holiday spreadsheet….




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The one with the cool kids

So no one likes Coldplay, right? Well if you believed everything you read on Twitter it would seem no one does but I was fortunate enough to be 1 of 20,000 people who on Friday very much liked Coldplay when they performed live at the O2 in London.

Having experienced a gig of that standard there are several posts I could write, amongst them:

  • Operational excellence with regard to the production
  • The passion and commitment of those performing
  • Tribes and how/why they follow people
  • Creating complete brand experience for consumers
  • Adequacy of resource, clarity of role and task (both for production and performers)

and probably a few more but it was in reflecting on the drive home that I decided to write this post…

In the pre-gig hanging around I did a little light tweeting and in killing time clicked the hashtag #coldplay and was shocked at some of the vitriol that was being expressed – not criticism of anything specific just “I hate Coldplay” and similar. As I stood there I felt this nagging feeling that I regularly used to experience as a kid, that of having put my opinion out there (I like Coldplay) and waiting for someone to disagree or rubbish my opinion. As a kid I was very reluctant to commit to liking/enjoying music, films, books etc for fear of being judged by those I perceived as cool.

I will admit at times dodging this nagging feeling resulted in me subjugating my opinions and preferences to those of others and on a few occasions making poor decisions and acting against my own better judgement not to stand out or be excluded from the cool kids.

As my career began to develop I found the nagging feeling returning, not with respect to music or entertainment but actually with regard to colleagues. Working in Human Resources colleagues would regularly express opinions (both positive and negative) about other colleagues and there I times I can clearly recall I didn’t speak up for what I thought or believed but went with the flow either to not be the odd one out or to avoid confrontation. The cool kids had now been replaced by the powerful kids…

As managers and leaders within organisation I believe it’s incumbent on us to be thorough and objective with respect to the judgements we make. As human resource professionals (as some of you reading may be) I think it’s incumbent not only to be thorough and objective in forming our own judgements but also to actively challenge those around us and those in the business we provide service to not just go with the flow or take the easy route.

I am not for a moment saying that everyone should be given a free pass to do what they want… I suppose what I’m saying is there are very clear structures for forming judgements around both conduct and capability but actually taste and personal preference should have very little to do with this. I still at times struggle to remove my personal opinion of an individual from the process of forming a judgement but I believe I am far better at doing it than I used to be and hopefully ever-increasing awareness and empowering those around me to challenge me on objectivity will see further improvement.

As for Coldplay, both their conduct and capability was impressive and if their music or them as individuals aren’t to your taste then that’s fine and dandy but I will say here that it wasn’t an argument I felt inclined to initiate with anyone on Twitter!

In the spirit of fighting my inclination not to express my tastes I would say doing a radio show that anyone on the internet can listen to is a great leveller but to complete my exorcism here are 5 confessional nuggets that show how ummmm ‘diverse’ my taste can be:

1. The first live gig I ever went to was Gloria Estefan & the Miami Sound Machine

2. I know all the words to “I’ve got a golden ticket” from the film ‘Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory’

3. I own the Greatest Hits CDs of both Barry Manilow and Bananarama

4. The 3rd most listened to track on my iPod is “Shine” by Take That

5. My favourite music to listen to when feeling fragile through hangover is ‘Adiemus’ by Karl Jenkins

Anyone else got anything they would like to confess?



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The one with the books and covers

My brother was talented and dedicated enough to go to Music College when he finished his A-Levels. Anyone who thinks getting into Oxbridge or getting a job is a tough gruelling process, then try and get into one of the top 10 music conservatoires in the world….it’s tough. Following 4 years of study under a world class professor he graduated to flog his wares as a freelance musician in London….it’s tough. He ended up sharing a house with 3 fellow freelance musicians, 2 of whom were seasoned professionals (and seasoned drinkers but that’s another story) and 1 was also a recent graduate who it’s safe to say was fairly enamoured of himself.

He was ‘caught’ on several occasions parading around the house/his room in full evening dress (white tie & tails), admiring his smartness in various mirrors. His bubble was burst somewhat by one of the older lads calling him something far too rude for this blog and adding “it’s just a boiler suit”. When he received in response a quizzical look he added, “If you worked at Kwik Fit, you’d wear a boiler suit but you work in an orchestra so you get to wear that”. He went on to add that the individual should stop being….well, he should stop being a something.

There are some jobs, like orchestral musicians, that have very defined modes of dress and even more jobs that have stipulated uniforms but outside of those is a whole load of ambiguity. I was at a dinner with other HR professionals recently and a senior HR Director was bemoaning the amount of noise and nonsense is caused by the organisation’s dress code; her take on it being “if you’d wear it on a night out or to the beach then don’t wear it to the office”.

Having been told early in my career to ‘dress for the job you want not the job you’ve got’ I’ve fought the temptation to dress like an eccentric billionaire and am decidedly conformist in that I suit and boot. My thinking being that you never feeling uncomfortable being too smart (although being asked if I was a banker by a checkout lady at Waitrose did make me chuckle) and it’s easier to take a tie off, roll up sleeves etc to dress myself down if I am seriously ‘over smart’.

That being said I am not what you define as fashion conscious and had always thought I paid little attention to what people wear. I was wrong. Having reflected recently on several situations I’ve been in I have realised that maybe just on a subconscious level like everyone else I am prone to judging books by covers and in my judgement clothing and what it possibly says about the individual is definitely a component.  So how am I being judged? And do I care?

The reality is that impressions are formed quickly and intuitively we all make them, but was Mark Twain right when he said, “Clothes make the man”? (Although the rest of the quote is “Naked people have little or no influence on society”). Am I any better at my job in a pinstripe suit and double cuffed shirt than I would be in a pair of jeans and a polo shirt? Or does my ‘boiler suit’ just help me feel internally valid to do my job?

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