1. Know your personal values.
What's most important to you personally? When you know your values, you'll better filter new information and opportunities and can rely better on your intuition because you know what you're hearing and how it fits in with you.
2. Get candid input from at least 5 other people who know you well.
While it's nice to get input from experts, it's as valuable to get points of view from colleagues, family members, key employees who know you -- they know your tendencies, your moods, the way you think, your blind spots, your passions. Let them guide you.
3. Have a really big, big picture.
When you know your long term goals, have a vision or have a helicopter view of the current situation or opportunity, you'll be "seeing more" and thus have more information on which to base your decision.
4. Always have a Plan B, Plan C and Plan D ready to go!
You can improve your good judgment by having back up plans, whether you need them or not.
5. Don't put yourself in situations where you are forced to rely too much
on your "good judgment." This one is important. After all, shouldn't you be enough ahead of the curve to have been making good decisions along the way so that having "good judgment" doesn't become critical? Don't confuse good judgment with crisis management.
6. Separate the facts from the interpretation of the facts.
There are very few facts that aren't also coupled with someone's (even your) interpretation of the facts. Either sales are down 20% or they are not. An explanation is just that. There are great explanations, few of which are worth banking your business on. If sales are down, assume they'll stay down until you do something about it.
7. Always include a worst-case scenario -- and make it a really bad scenario.
For a decade or two, Detroit kept factoring in worst-case scenarios, yet they continually came up short because they took incremental actions based on what they wanted to believe would happen, not what was so clearly a long-term trend of foreign-made cars slicing up their market share. Living in denial is always expensive -- yet we all do it. A good way to get out of denial is to assume that sales will drop 50% in the next year (think Volkswagen) and "be ready" for that possibility. Just by including that option and developing options at that level, one will make a better decision about what is more likely to happen.
8. Always look at the downside of every decision you make.
If you're adding a new product, increasing the customer service budget, reducing overhead, permitting use of your name/trademark, entering into a co-venture agreement, make a list of the 10 potentially negative and even deadly consequences of even a no-brainer/excellent change. Everything affects everything today -- and unexpectedly. If you respect this ecological truth you'll realize that every decision affects, in some way, you, your employees, your shareholders, your profitability and your viability.
9. Seek to enhance your reputation first; bottom line second.
I used to base most of my decisions on whether or not my company would make more money. But than I realized that the future of my business came from my current customers, their word-of-mouth and from the press we were beginning to receive from the national media. At that point, it occurred to me that if I'd just invest more money in our reputation and make my decisions based more on reputation than quarterly profitability, I'd be a lot more financially successful --- and more proud of my company, too.
10. Hang out with others who have excellent judgment.
There are so many subtleties about acquiring and developing good judgment that most of the process comes best from friends, colleagues, competitors and staff who already have great judgment. Learn from them, in every conversation.
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