JUDGEMENT CALLS
Dee Chadwick
06 Sep 2020
.... Something that we are called upon to make – either instant calls or calls for which we have time to ponder, reflect and then come to a decision. We face both types either directly when made by ourselves, or indirectly when made by others, but affect us. What are the implications of something that we generally take for granted?

MORE OF THOSE IMPLICATIONS –

It was a judgement call that went awry that led me to my ruminations on the subject. It happened recently – a container of goods and chattels was being delivered to an address in Cheshire. The company had been told that there was NO WAY that any lorry with a container could make it down the narrow cul-de-sac to a house at the bottom. Said company arranged for two vans to meet with the lorry to decant the stuff and transport to the house. Presumably there was a break down of communications between the transporters as sadly, the lorry driver made a judgement call. A judgement call that he could get down the avenue. I wonder how much time he spent considering his option of waiting against continuing on with his cargo. Long story short – the information that had been emphasised was correct. The lorry (or container) demolished a mature birch tree, in full leaf, which then had a ‘misunderstanding’ with a parked car. Ten minutes later, the vans arrived. Along with three police cars! Quite a stir caused by that one poor judgement call.

Many of us who are drivers are called upon to make judgement calls, including if your vehicle – hopefully not as large as that container lorry – will fit into a parking space, leaving space for you to get out; will you be able to pass a vehicle before you get to the double lines that you can see in the road ahead etc etc. I remember going to a car rally many years ago. One of the tasks was to direct someone a few meters away to set four posts that would allow you to park your car between them. It was interesting how many had to have the posts moved further apart before they could get their car into the space. Fortunately, drivers had to go very slowly and each post was being held by someone ready to edge it further away from the car. No cars were damaged in the process, and as the event took place in the middle of an RAF airfield, no trees were harmed either. One of the other tasks was for the driver to have a bucket over their head, whilst the navigator – in all cases their wife or girlfriend – gave instructions for getting round an obstacle course. Lots of shouting including some very bad language echoing from inside the buckets and demands from the navigators were seemingly non-stop. Demands such as ‘Straighten up – no I said straight not turn right’; ‘left hand down – no, not that much’, resulting in one guy abandoning his car and storming off, carrying his bucket and heading for the bar!

WHAT OF A DEFINITION OF JUDGEMENT CALLS?

Collins online dictionary says ‘If you refer to a decision as a judgement call, you mean that there are no firm rules or principles that can help you make it, so you simply have to rely on your own judgement and instinct.’

Many of us are having to make such decisions at present as we endeavour to find a route into our changed ways of being, following lockdown. Do we send our children back to school, do we resist requests to return to work in a busy office, do we go to a restaurant for a meal, do we have people into our homes etc etc. For each person, each family, very personal judgement calls are being made, with no precedent or rigid sets of rules to make the decisions easier. Calls which could well have far wider reaching effects. Calls made using a complex mix of knowledge that tends to be somewhat scant and fluid, topped up with our gut feelings and instincts.

I admit that it took me some time, but I have begun to venture out from the security of my home. I do make judgement calls to exit stage left if I begin to feel that the place I am in is becoming too busy for me to feel comfortable and safe. I guess that like others, there is a quick weighing up of pros and cons in that decision making for that particular situation. A consideration that regularly takes place to inform us of a way forward, an action to be taken – whether COVID related or not.

In some instances our judgement call allows for time to consider. The pros and cons of changing jobs, moving house, buying a different car. In such cases, the judgement call could well include many factors requiring our consideration. In such cases, it can help to get those pros and cons down in a written balance sheet format. The decision has to be one that is right for you – and anyone else directly involved. Having said that, that good old gut instinct could well eventually over-ride other factors. On occasion, the most influencing factor may not be the most obvious. I go back to a university lecture over 50 years ago. OK, so my mind can work in odd ways in its remembering! We were being asked to consider what factors could influence the location of certain industries – we listed the obvious things such as communications, water, a decent sized suitable plot  etc. We were then told that often the tipping factor could be something far less important. It could be down to whether the site was near to a decent golf course for the boss. I wonder how many of our judgement calls are influenced by something that others would consider to be of little importance?

WHEN OTHERS MAKE WHAT WE SEE AS POOR JUDGEMENT CALLS

As with many things in life, our judgement calls don’t affect just ourselves, though frequently the thoughts and feelings of others may not be taken into consideration. Some years ago, I went down to London specifically to watch someone running in a race. He left on his own with myself and his girlfriend to follow on. I was ready to leave, though I had no idea of the length of time it would take to get to the location of said race. The girlfriend however saw fit to make phone calls and take ages to get ready. Long story short, we arrived to find the race finished and the runner past the finish line waiting for us to arrive! Disappointment for at least two of those involved due to the poor judgement call of one. I imagine that most of us can think of more than one occasion when someone we know made a judgement call that made us think ... what on earth? Or words to that affect! As the decision made went against our views, opinion, even our beliefs or understanding of similar past happenings that had affected us. As the saying goes, hindsight is a wonderful thing. Though I imagine for one particular lorry driver in the text, and another in the picture, their current hindsight is making painful viewing!

For those in the public eye, poorly made judgement calls can come back to bite them on the backside in years to come. Leading to questions such as ‘why on earth did she wear that’ when photographs emerge years later when fashions have altered and people have aged. Things that the vast majority of us got away with with any photographic evidence tucked away in old albums or crammed into a box in the back of a cupboard.

Then we have the referees, the umpires who have to make instant judgement calls – I am assuming here that a virtual assistant referee (VAR), or any other electronic support is absent. A penalty given or not given with the subsequent slow motion replays seen by viewers at home leading to many moans and groans against said referee. Grudges carried forward by some fans who seem to have amazingly long memories for such events.

We all have to rely on leaders – leaders of industry, commerce and political leaders. I realise that I am leaning on a very open door here, but I have to say I do have great concerns about the judgement calls made by some of the latter. Judgement calls based on a seemingly poor (at the very least) ability to make such decisions. Decisions on which the future of so many depends. Guess it then comes down to judgement calls made by the masses when it comes down to voting such leaders in or out.

To counter-balance the negative, for me, a shining example of a very publicly made excellent judgement call was the one, very speedily made by Captain Sullenberger flying US Airways flight 1549 back in 2009.  A bird strike shortly after take-off led to engine loss and a swiftly made judgement call that they would be unable to reach a diversion airfield. Instead, he brought the plane down safely onto the Hudson River. His judgement call was called into question but was subsequently proved to be the absolutely right call to have made as, allowing for reaction times, it was shown that the plane would have crashed before reaching any runway.

ACTUALLY MAKING JUDGEMENT CALLS

Some of us seem able to take in more information and at a greater speed than others. In some professions – such as the afore mentioned pilots, there can be a requirement to make those split second judgement calls which have life-changing implications.

We possess filters through which we take in information. We all have our preferred methods of taking in such information that is constantly bombarding us. Without our filters, we find it hard to focus on a task in hand, let alone make judgement calls. We also have the filters of our belief systems – influencing our judgement calls around the people we meet, the places we visit, the music we listen to, the clothes we wear etc etc. These filters contribute a great deal towards making us the wonderfully unique individuals that we are.

Some of us struggle with making judgement calls, through being indecisive, uncertain. An article in Chopra.com suggests ways in which this can be improved, including not changing your mind once you have made that decision, and reminding yourself of previous good judgement calls that you have made – thereby accentuating the positive! 

Remember if you are thinking back to previous seemingly similar experiences that often the differences are more telling than the similarities. You will probably have changed, you have more information and experience, and you could well have more confidence which can make a huge difference in both the decision making process as well as the actual decision made. Also bear in mind that although our judgement call may seem spot on to us, to others it could well seem to be well off the mark. Captain Sullenberger certainly had to stand his ground and insist on tests being re-run when his judgement was being questioned. It is something we have to accept as others could well have different belief systems or there could be conflicts of interest, different priorities leading to them putting an alternative spin on your call.

LOOKING FORWARDS

It is important that we prepare our children, teenagers for making judgement calls by encouraging them to take responsibility. Initially have them make small decisions involving consideration of just a few options. You may well need to begin by suggesting things that they hadn’t considered, but first ask if they think they have thought of all options that could be open to them. I love getting children involved in out of the box thinking, especially when you see them transferring that learning to other situations. It is so important to support children with developing how they think rather than simply focusing on fact based what they think.

Remember that they learn a lot by observing how you handle such situations, even when you don’t realise that you are being watched, so wherever possible set a positive example!

Here’s to you making judgement calls that are effective and positive ones. You won’t always get it right, so don’t beat yourself up if this happens. Rather learn from how you tackled the situation in preparation for the next time that you need to make a judgement call.

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