Is unconscious judgement killing the creativity in your organisation?

This article is aimed at today’s leaders of organisations, teams, institutes and even nations.

It is aimed at those leaders who are challenged by the complexity, inter relatedness and unpredictability of today’s world: this world in which the pace and pressure of everyday business is at an all-time high.

Stakeholders and shareholders are shouting for “more, more and MORE”. They’d like to see their wishes and ambitions fulfilled with lightning speed… And when that’s delivered… More again!

Leaders operating in this kind of environment find it challenging to remain very centred and focussed on how to inspire the people around them to bring the very best to work every day.


Are you conscious of the impact of your judgements?

As leaders, we are required to manoeuvre between a) delivering targets b) coping with pressure and c) inspiring the people around us to deliver these very same targets (or better still, exceed them).

It can very easily happen that we become drawn into the space of being overwhelmed by the stake/shareholder pressure which leads us to judge the performance of people around us.

We hear ourselves saying things like: “Not good enough.” or “Why did/didn’t you do this?” or “Why did this happen?” The focus is more on the past and why things didn’t happen the way they were supposed to rather than using the past to look forward.

Mostly unconsciously, the pressure we feel and experience draws us, as leaders, into subtle or even very unsubtle judgements.

Have you ever felt judged? Have you ever been told that the things you did weren’t good enough? I believe we all know that feeling. We all react differently to it, but there are two main categories of reaction:

  • Feeling challenged to do it better next time (an effective reaction)
  • Feeling numb, disappointed, frustrated, not valued and rewarded, even angry (a less effective reaction)

In our experience the group of people that become less effective once confronted with judgements by far outnumber the group that feels inspired and challenged by judgements. Those that fall into the latter category are unlikely to perform more effectively – as a leader, you are reinforcing ineffective behaviours, rather than inspiring them into doing their best.

As Parrhesian we have come across many leaders with different levels of consciousness around this topic. Ask yourself these questions:

  • How conscious are you of your levels of judging?
  • How conscious are you of the impact of your judgements on the people around you?
  • Do you know who is motivated and who is demotivated by your judgements?
  • Have you ever had a conversation about this with the people surrounding you?


Moving On

Step 1 – Start to break the cycle

If you want to be an effective leader spend some time reflecting and figure out if you are unconsciously judging (we all are!) and to what extent. A very simple way to do this is to take a couple of minutes at the end of every day or even at the end of a meeting to rewind the movie and pay attention to what it is you have literally said. Write it down on a piece of paper (this is very important as it becomes visual) and per sentence have a thorough look at it and see if you can discover a judgement in it.

This is an easy step to start becoming conscious of your level of judgements as a leader. Be very honest about it, but DO NOT judge your list of judgements! (Even when it appears to be longer than you expected).

Step 2 – from judgement to inspiration & creativity

Now you have a clearer idea on how often you fall into making judgements, subtle and unsubtle, the next step is to start a conversation with the people involved. Reach out to them to find out to what extent and how they are experiencing your judgements.

Make sure you create a safe environment for these conversations. The idea is not to come across as if they are being evaluated, as it is you who is evaluating yourself as a leader.

It may be difficult for some colleagues to answer honestly, especially in a one-to-one situation, so listen carefully to their responses. Make sure you keep asking until you feel you have some authentic answers with examples.

To make it easier for them to speak courageously, you might even bring up your own examples from the list you created in step 1.

The conversation could sound like something like this: “I am working on becoming conscious of my level of judgement as a leader and I would appreciate your help in making me a more effective leader. When I said ………, in this morning’s meeting, what was the impact on you? How did it make you feel? On a scale of 1 to 10 how did it stimulate your creativity and/or productivity? (1 being very little and 10 being a lot)”

I promise you, you will get a lot of unexpected insights on your impact on other people. This will be highly valuable input to start working on step 3 and ultimately in becoming a leader that inspires and challenges for creativity: the type of creativity that is necessary to reach and exceed the ambitions of stakeholders and shareholders and the type of creativity that is necessary to set straight what might have gone wrong in the past.

Step 3 – insight leaders to more effective leadership

Now that you have gained consciousness around when and how much you are shifting into judgement modus, and you have gained insights on how this impacts the people surrounding you, you have a clearer picture of the effectiveness of your leadership.

It will be no surprise to you that through the many experiences we have encountered with leaders, we can clearly state that the more a leader operates from the judgement modus, the more ineffective that leader becomes. In fact, the leader actually drifts further away from the targets to be reached.

Rather than judging, an effective leader can inspire by asking questions that trigger creativity. By suspending judgement, you will awaken in yourself a more effective leader. You might still hear the judging voices in your mind yet if you will be able to translate that judgement into an open question it will have a great and positive impact not only on the people surrounding you as a leader yet also on yourself. You yourself as a leader feel more satisfied and more fulfilled.

Example open questions to promote creativity in your team:

  • What can you come up with to come back on track, given current reality?
  • What can you think of, to stay within budget ?
  • How do you think we could deliver more promptly with the next project; What do we need as a team?
  • What will you do differently next time?

Be a creative, inspiring leader

The first two steps are certainly a challenge, and will require you to be courageous and speak freely about your leadership skills, something that will probably feel uncomfortable at first. At CEC, one of our core beliefs is that Courageous Speech is the only way to make an authentic transformation.

Following these 3 steps consistently and with discipline will ultimately transform you from a judging leader to an inspiring leader. A leader who sparks creativity and positive mindsets, leading to forward-thinking, more effective performance resulting in solutions and exceeding targets. A leader of an effective organisation. Happy leader, happy employees, happy stakeholders and happy shareholders.

CEC has facilitated many leaders and organisations on this journey with genuinely extraordinary results. We are more than happy to have a conversation with you to see if there is a match to start facilitating your journey.

If you would like to hear more, please contact us