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Managing Uncertainty

Q&A with NOEL TICHY and WARREN BENNIS
Authors of Judgment: How Winning Leaders Make Great Calls

Q:  Why did you decide to collaborate in writing this book?
A:   Our plan was to de-mystify the leadership process, and to explore and understand how and why having good judgment is the essence of leadership. The judgment calls made by world leaders and executives are being called into question every day. But there’s no central book that provides some ground rules for leaders and helps them have greater success in exercising good judgment.

Q:  What themes in the book are most relevant to today’s leaders and CEOs?
A:    The single most important things that leaders do is make good judgment calls. Judgment’s domains are: a) Making judgments about who is on or off your team (People judgment); b) Making judgments about your organization’s strategy (Strategy judgment); and c) Making judgments when an organization faces a crisis (Crisis judgment).

Q:  How important is it to have TPOVs (Teachable Points of View) when making judgment calls?
A:  Good leaders transform their organizations so they can maintain success in changing environments. Winning leaders are also teachers. They drive their organizations through teaching, and develop others to be leaders or teachers.

Q:  Why are some leaders better equipped to deal with crises than others?
A:   The most effective leaders prepare for crisis even before knowing what kind will occur.  They have built aligned and trusted teams and have clear Teachable Points of View and storylines. When a crisis does arrive, leaders respond immediately and engage the appropriate people with the needed knowledge and mobilize their team for quick execution.

Q:  What are the reasons for some of the bad judgment calls regarding CEO succession?
A:  Selecting a CEO is the most critical people judgment call.  Bad CEO judgments happen because there aren’t any good candidates and because the building of appropriate leadership “bench strength” hasn’t occurred. Reasons for this can include family nepotism, the lack of a disciplined succession planning process, board neglect, poor understanding of changing world, talent requirements and ego issues.

Q:  What makes General Electric a great case study in good judgment?
A:    GE is the world’s most complex multi-business company and the world’s number one producer of business leaders running other companies (e.g., Boeing, Honeywell, Intuit, Polaris, Chrysler, Pfizer, The Home Depot and Amgen).  GE also invests in developing leaders through its leadership center in Crotonville, as well as being highly effective in its succession planning and attention to how its leaders exercise effective leadership.

Q:    How did New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and School Chancellor Joel Klein transform and revitalize the city’s school system using good judgment calls?
A:    Bloomberg took his well-honed leadership judgment capability and applied it to the New York City School System.  His first judgment call was to frame and name the issue, which was a leadership problem that needed to be fixed to impact outcomes.  His TPOV included an assumption that organizational performance depends on a good leader. He also made a bold judgment call and recruited Joel Klein, a noneducator to be school chancellor, who in turn brought Bob Knowling aboard to head the Principals’ Academy. Leadership judgment in schools is about shaping the capacity for good judgment in our children. The stakes are high. But today, a higher percentage of New York City high school students are graduating now at any time in decades.

Q:    Why do some people make a better percentage of good judgment calls than others?
A:    It’s not how many calls a leader gets right, or even the percentage of calls he or she gets right, but how many of the important ones a leader gets right. Good leaders not only make better calls, but they are able to discern the important ones and get a higher percentage of them right. They are better at the whole process – from seeing the need for a call, to framing issues, to figuring out what’s critical, to mobilizing and energizing the troops.

Q:    What does it mean to have character?
A:     To have character means to have values. It means having a moral compass for what one will and will not do. It’s also knowing right from wrong and having worked those issues out long before facing tough judgment calls. Character also means putting the greater good of the organization, or of society, ahead of self-interest.

Q:    In your opinion, who are the three most respected modern-day leaders who have exercised exemplary judgment and why?
A:   a) Mayor Bloomberg, who reformed the New York City Public School System.  Along with Joel Klein and Bob Knowling, who delivered on the strategy that the next generation of children in New York are the key to the city’s future.  b) A.G. Lafley, who turned around P&G in a crisis; and c) Jim McNerney, who transformed both 3M and Boeing.