Effective leaders are effective decision makers.
In this special edition of the Tough Things First Podcast, Essential Leadership Episode Three, Ray looks at what it means to exercise sound judgement and what the alternative looks like.
Rob Artigo: Welcome to a special edition of the Tough Things First podcast with Ray’s new series Essential Leadership. This is episode three on sound judgment as a leader. I’m your guest host, Rob Artigo writer and investigator in California. Hi Ray.
Ray Zinn: Hey Rob. This is always wonderful to be able to do these podcasts with you.
Rob Artigo: This is a great topic. I’m very excited about being able to do this and continue this. I mean, this is episode three, got a few more to go on this. Hopefully we’re going to do about 10, maybe more depending on how thrilled we get about continuing this, but I hope people are getting a lot out of it. I know I am. I do think it of value to the listeners, particularly those who haven’t spent a lot of time thinking about their own leadership skills and where they can go from there.
Yes. You can develop skills. Yes. You can learn them and you can implement them if you just practice them basic daily habits that are good and positive. Let’s talk about what does it mean to exercise sound and judgment? In your evaluation as a leader, what is sound judgment?
Ray Zinn: It’s wisdom. It’s being wise. You can make a judgment on anything, but sound judgment requires knowledge and experience. There’s no substitute for either of those. Knowledge without experience, is just learning, having experience without knowledge means it’s just trial and error. You want both, you want to have both, knowledge and experience if you’re going to exercise sound judgment.
Rob Artigo: Is that being an educated decision versus an uneducated decision? Is that part of that or is that the same thing?
Ray Zinn: Well, it’s the same thing. We talked about the two components that you have to have to make a sound judgment is knowledge and experience. You have to have both. One without the other, as I said, you can have knowledge, but without experience, you’re just learning. With the experience, you’re learning, but without knowledge, you’re just all trial and error. You want both, make a good wise decision, sound judgment as you would, you want to have both knowledge and experience.
Rob Artigo: Well, in the last podcast, we talked about making the same decision over and over again, or trying the same thing over and over again, and expecting a different result, which is insanity. The idea behind fixing that is that when you make a mistake, you’ve gained some knowledge and experience that work together to prevent you from making that mistake in the future. Correct?
Ray Zinn: Right. Well, that’s the experience, that’s trial and error. That’s the try, try again, that’s the experience part. With knowledge, you can limit the number of times you have to repeat the same mistake. You’re not just doing trial and error. With knowledge, you actually minimize the experience part. With the adequate knowledge and good experience, you’re just going to make fewer bad decisions.
Rob Artigo: Can you be over confident in your knowledge and experience?
Ray Zinn: Sure. I mean, that’s what we would call lacking humility. A humble person is a good listener. That’s all humility is. If you’re a good listener or a good person who can learn from their experiences, then that’s a humble person or somebody who’s a good listener. As they say, you got two ears and one mouth for a reason, use them proportionally. So listen is how you learn. You don’t listen when you’re talking.
Rob Artigo: Well, let’s talk about a dividing line between knowledge and experience, because you can get a great deal of knowledge from either learning from a mentor or in the classroom. Then there’s the experience side of it, where you’re out in the real world doing something. I think that there’s sometimes there’s a problem with people thinking, “Oh, if the area of knowledge is not big enough, then it’s not important.” Or, “If I’m not, if I’m not getting the experience at Google, I’m getting the experience at Home Depot”, type of thing. You might say, “Hey, one’s more value than the other.” But in reality, if you don’t have a certain level of experience, just interpersonal communications, you need to get it. And it can come from in your either big or small areas.
Ray Zinn: Well, again, you want your education and your experience to be in the area in which you’re going to develop your company. Having the experience as a construction home builder, as you would, doesn’t necessarily going to give you the experience you’re going to need to run your company, and vice versa, if you had a great experience running a company, doesn’t mean you can start building your own house. Your experience has to be in the area in which you want to develop your leadership skills. And the same thing with your education. You want to be educated in the area that’s going to help you become a better leader.
While there are basic tools for all leaders, irrespective of the industry, you want your experience and your knowledge to be in the area in which you’re going to develop your company.
Rob Artigo: Is there a way to expedite any aspect of this? Either knowledge or experience if I’m looking at an industry, if I’m pondering my idea, trying to come up with a plan for everything, but in the process I’ve got time. Can I make use of that time to gain knowledge and experience if I’m not working in that world, but looking at the information that’s available to me?
Ray Zinn: Well, in my book, Tough Things First, of course, we do actually give you the basics as you would for becoming a good leader in how to run a company. And that’s the whole concept and purpose of the book Tough Things First, is a textbook as you would in a few universities.
You could read a book like Tough Things First, there’s other good leadership books you can read. And then I have a list of four subjects that I believe are essential to running a company. And you don’t necessarily have to get a degree in them, but find some curriculum that you can take that’ll… Or some school or service that you can get this education. And so learning those four topics will help you immensely in running your company.
Rob Artigo: I was thinking about… I’m a big fan of Food Network and a show called Restaurant Impossible with Robert Irvine. And he goes around the country to different restaurants that are failing, and he helps them out. In about two days, he walks them through how to improve their businesses.
And a lot of times he walks into a business that is just run down and he talks to the owners and he finds out they decided to go in the restaurant business in 2019 and they bought a restaurant for a certain amount of money, and it was making a certain amount of money. And then within a month after they got there, everything began to go haywire and they were losing thousands of dollars a month and then come to find out, they’d never run a business before.
They had never run a restaurant before, they’d never worked in the restaurant industry before. They’d never cooked restaurant food before. There is a learning curve to these things and they could have saved themselves a lot of hassle, albeit they were going into a very difficult industry to begin with, but they could have saved themselves a lot of hassle if they had found a book like Tough Things First on the restaurant industry. And I think even if you were getting into the restaurant industry, you could probably get something out of Tough Things First that will help you. But at the same time, we’re talking about being able to pick up a book and read about how to do something so that you’re prepared for having to do it when the time comes.
Ray Zinn: Now I’m not sure if we’re going to cover this in another podcast, but the four subjects that anybody that’s going to run a company is the education you’re going to need to do that. So is this in another series run?
Rob Artigo: We are going to come… Go ahead and mention it and we’ll circle back around to that so that people are aware that upcoming we’ll be able to cover these subjects.
Ray Zinn: Right. Basic economics, basic business law, basic accounting, and then financial and managerial counting, those are the four subjects. And I don’t care if you’ve never run a restaurant before, if you just learn the basics, educational wise, it’ll help you in your learning process. You now develop that restaurant business or whatever business you want to go into.
Ray Zinn: I have a friend owned two McDonald franchises and just listening to him and I said, “Well, how did you do that? Did you have any experience?” And [Donny 00:10:30] said, “No, but my wife did. She worked at McDonald’s for… And starting from the basics, she started cleaning the floors, as you would, and worked for them for 19 years” and before she even bought the franchise. So she already knew how to run the business. And that experience thing that I was mentioning is that having that experience is key to running your company successful. If you’ve never run a beauty parlor, as you would, or never run a restaurant, don’t try to jump into it until you learn how to do it, until you get that knowledge.
That’s where that knowledge and experience are key to running a successful business. Just because you’re a good engineer or you’re a good doctor, or you’re a good lawyer or whatever, doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re going to have a successful business.
Rob Artigo: This subject, of course, for this podcast is sound judgment. In order to get to sound judgment, you have to have knowledge and you have to have experience, which is what we’ve covered most of this podcast. Circling back around to sound judgment, there’s a huge difference, a huge difference, right, Ray? Between having this knowledge and experience for making judgements in your business. It’s not sound and it’s flimsy, really, if you don’t have the knowledge. It’s like steering a ship. If you decide you’re going to go one way, but you don’t really know how to turn the ship that direction and you end up drifting another direction. That’s not sound judgment.
Ray Zinn: Well, it’s just like, what person who doesn’t have the education or the knowledge and experience would get into a 747 or a 767 or whatever, and then just take off and try to fly the plane? It is going to be a disaster. If you don’t have that training and that experience that certification to do that, then, doing it will end up with a catastrophe.
Ray Zinn: This fellow friend of mine who had those two McDonald franchises had to go through a couple of years of training by McDonald’s before they would even let him take over that franchise. This is how this is how important having that knowledge and that experience is to having a successful operation.
They could have thrown him to the wolves and then they would’ve had two franchises that collapsed and that doesn’t benefit them at all.
Ray Zinn: Exactly. Right.
Rob Artigo: Let’s talk about that real quick and then will wrap up. And that is that when we’re talking about a hierarchy here, you’re running a business, maybe if you’ve got a couple of teams that are working on development and other aspects, development and sales, helping them to exercise sound judgment is making sure they’re educated and knowledgeable, right? Or knowledgeable and with experience.
Well, a good leader is going to make sure… And we’re talking about not just a [inaudible 00:13:40] the best leader, is going to make sure they have the knowledge and experience before they tackle the project like the example of… Unless you had the proper training and experience to fly that very large commercial air airplane, a best leader, as you said, would not even attempt to do it because they know it’ll be a catastrophe.
Rob Artigo: Essential leadership is what we’re talking about here on this special edition of the Tough Things First podcast. This is episode three talking about sound judgment and I do think that it’s just the very definite of essential leadership to have sound judgment and great advice, Ray. Really appreciate today’s podcast.
Rob Artigo: If you haven’t had a chance yet go to toughthingsfirst.com, can also use whatever podcast service you’re on right now. Go and make sure that you click on your evaluation and follow this podcast so that we can get the word out about the Tough Things First podcast. As we continue to grow, raise Tough Things First following, which is vast here in the Silicon Valley.
Rob Artigo: Join us next time as we continue the conversation on essential leadership in this special series with the Tough Things First podcast and Ray Zinn. Make sure you give us your questions and comments at toughthingsfirst.com. Ray is on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. And of course get the texts of Tough Things First the book. Zen of Zen and Zen of Zen II. Thanks again, Ray.
Ray Zinn: Thank you, Rob. Appreciate it.