I’ve been having a lot of conversations lately about judgment, specifically about how to teach it or instill it in others. Merriam-Webster defines judgment as “the process of forming an opinion or evaluation by discerning and comparing.”

One of the clients for whom I facilitated leadership and training workshops had a module on judgment (it’s one of the attributes that’s most highly correlated with the most effective, entrepreneurial project managers), and we were never totally satisfied with where we landed. Most of us learn good and better judgment with experience. It’s hard to accelerate experience, especially because, as much as we talk about learning mindset, fear of failure is rampant.

I think you can make learning faster if you target the judgment people need to develop and create and instantiate processes as guardrails around those decisions. We all have a finite amount of mental energy to devote to getting work done, and there’s a school of thought that advocates concentrating that energy on the highest value things. It’s the reason that President Obama pared down his suit choices to blue or gray.

I recently did a project for a client who runs account management for APAC for her company. Many of the account managers are new, and she believes that as a result, account churn is higher than it needs to be. Sales is one of those places where success can depend on judgment – where and how should I spend my time with customers to maximize the likelihood they’ll renew their license with my company’s product?

That’s a complex question that could have any number of answers, some of which work and some of which don’t in an environment where being wrong can mean you don’t hit quota and may lose your job. So we tried to take as much of the complexity out as possible by creating a process that everyone has to follow. It will likely feel burdensome and excessive at the beginning, and we’ll need to do some work to refine them for the personalities and hidden realities involved. But for a new account manager who isn’t sure where to start, it should provide some breathing room to be able to think ahead and learn, rather than to react and chase deadlines.

Consistent processes provide breathing room to be able to think ahead and learn judgment. I’m convinced that reacting and chasing deadlines and operating in a miasma of adrenaline makes learning judgment impossible. What do you think?