Managing your Ugly Ducklings...with Respect and Objectivity
As one of the elements of the Core 6 principles, Management & Leadership deserves regular coverage in this monthly missive, and on the Core 6 blog. Good, solid leadership means learning how to temper personal bias and apply objectivity in the decision making process. It is not possible to eliminate personal bias during business hours because it’s human nature to make immediate - and constant - assessments about those with whom we interact.
Another challenging universal law states you’re not going to like every single person on your team. Some of your peeps will have personalities that immediately click with you; some will wear certain clothes you find appealing; many will even share some of your hobbies and passions. And of course, some don't and won’t.
How you excel as a successful Manager and Leader is largely based on your ability to nourish, respect and counsel all of those under you with equal treatment and consideration. The best managers are those who successfully fight emotional impulses and reactions when making key decisions.
You’re not supposed to like everyone on your team, and you’d by lying if you said you did. Bias knows no bounds whether or not we’re at work or play. And of course, it’s our flight or fight instinct formed over a bazillion years ago to thank for our inherent bias. (Click here for interesting insight from Wikipedia about the fight or flight human response.)
For now, let’s examine the reality of what we can do to eliminate bias from decision making so that objectivity and high truth can dominate. After all, most of the recipients of our business decisions are human beings, and they deserve our best thinking. Even those ducklings that don’t have shiny, yellow, perfect fur!
1. Take your time. Do you spend enough time analyzing facts and input necessary to aide in the decision making process? It is important to realize that the pace of business can effect the time you need to make good decisions. Stepping away from problems and giving thoughtful consideration to potential outcomes can help eliminate emotion in your thinking process. A five-day week goes fast and offers a natural break on weekends to be used to slow down and take that mental vacation that often leads to clarity. If you struggle by making decisions too quickly, you may want to apply the rule of doubling the time you normally take to make the decision (especially when the consequences are high regarding your peeps). Finally, don’t be the show-off who runs around claiming, “I make decisions fast and move quickly” because sometimes that strategy doesn’t allow full consideration of all that’s needed to make the right decision. When able, take your time.
2. Prudent reliance on your broad team of advisors. Do you rely too heavily on the same people to feed you advice? Getting diverse perspectives is a key that will enable you to consider multiple ways of clear thinking. Soliciting input from someone who does not work inside of your company and industry segment will often render perspective that you have not considered. Blindness occurs in each of us when we are too close to the challenge, so it stands to reason that clarity comes from those who have zero interest in the issue. Your buddy Joe who is really smart and wise might not be smart and wise regarding the situation you’re experiencing. But he might be, so make sure you qualify him as a worthy "advisor". And don't forget, your buddy Joe is biased himself, so try to understand his slant before soliciting his help.
3. Use data actively and wisely. While #2 is important, are you relying too much on what people tell you? Remember, your buddy Joe is biased. Facts are not. Push yourself to collect as many facts as possible and use those facts as the foundation for what you need to learn in order to make the best decision. It was David Byrne who prolifically sang in the Talking Heads hit “Cross-eyed and Painless”: “Facts don’t come with points of view, facts don’t do what I want them to.” Yes, that’s the point: facts never lie. Learn to make facts your friend.
4. Use a pen to write an analysis. Ok, maybe not a pen, it could easily be a spreadsheet or a word document (or a written piece of paper?? Egads!), but the point is that you will learn a lot when you express your thoughts through writing. You could use a spreadsheet to literally list the pros and cons, or, you can construct something on a Word doc. Either way, you will gain perspective when you write. The implications of your potential decisions will become clearer when you take the time to translate thoughts to the written word. You’ll see things differently when you write. And, when using the “take your time” method discussed in #1, you’ll really see a change in how you think about things.
5. WWJD? What Would Jesus Do? (Huh? Chillax, just seeing if you're awake. Ping me if you are. This is a religious free zone.) But perhaps we should use this acronym and motto: WWSD? What Would Superman Do? (Superwoman counts too!) Well in these instances, you ARE Superman/Woman. You’re the one who is paid the big bucks to make difficult decisions. Step away from yourself for a moment and consider what would you do if you were Superman? Because, to be Superman – the executive who makes good decisions in a consistent manner – you have to think like a Superman. For you to push your thinking beyond how you regularly think, you have to actively put yourself in the shoes of those who are able to leap tall buildings. Perhaps that’s someone who mentored you, or an old boss, or someone who’s a titan of business in another sector, but either way, try to step away and assume a different, elevated persona for the decision making process. In other words, force yourself to think broadly and differently. Be Superman/Woman!
Each of the above hit at the central theme of being conscious of the emotional elements that can creep into the decision making process. Being aware of where your bias lies may help you make better assessments and ultimately, better decisions. Everyday in business, decisions are made that have an impact on real human beings who are trying hard to perform. All of your people deserve fair and unbiased thinking when assessments are made about things that affect their professional lives.
In the August issue of SELLING.2.YES, we’ll examine how to fight through some of the personal stigmas that could inhibit our decision-making abilities. Again, the goal of this column and the next is to equip you with tools that create an equitable and just process so that everyone on your team gets a fair shake! Happy 4th.