Is your Team falling behind?
Maybe leadership blind spots are to blame…
Have you ever wondered what you don’t see? All those things that we are blind to because of our ‘norms’? Our brains have about 10 million pieces of information hitting them at any one time, it would be impossible to filter and sift through all of this information without our biases. Out of these 10 million, only about 7 are properly processed, so you have to wonder, what are those 9,999,993 bits of information that we don’t see? And why only those 7? In our upbringings and childhood the brain learns and is conditioned as to how to respond to situations, and this forms these mega filters that then make our judgements for life, heavily influenced by our upbringings.
So how do these mega filters impact on or lives, and in particular, our leadership styles?
For a start, variation in biases across different cultures can be seen in Deloitte’s 2016 Human Capital report. When participants were asked how important they considered leadership to be, over 80% of all respondents identified it as an important/very important trend. Of these, West Europe and North America indicated they felt it was less significant. Our cultures in places like the UK and the US regard leadership as a less important trend than other countries. Perhaps we see leadership as ‘sorted’ and not in need of improvement. Or perhaps we just see it as less important to our working lives than other cultures do.
Biases can be looked at in relation to their impact on leadership by looking at the neuroscience behind bias. Neurology tells us that our brains do not deliver an accurate representation of the truth to us all the time. During childhood, the association areas in our brains are particularly active. Neurons called mirror neurons are activated both when we observe someone doing something, and when we repeat it ourselves, showing these actions to be copies of actions previously witnessed. These mirror neurons lead to the pre-frontal cortex, where associations are gathered, and our perception is created. In this way, the way that we see things hangs on biases we were exposed to while growing up, and so the version of reality that we see will be marred by the filters created in childhood.
This bias is what influences us every day, and it’s what can lead to a biased leadership style…
One particular example of how bias affects our leadership styles is the ‘mini me’ bias. This bias causes us to be more likely to recruit somebody most like ourselves, either in personality, upbringing, attitude etc. Ourselves, being successful, will be inclined to try to find someone who can achieve similar success, so this belief in the success of their own attributes leads to the recruiting of the subject most like them. Of course what this means is that we end up with an almost ‘one size fits all’ approach to leadership, where everyone is thinking in the same way, and there is no diversity in mind-set or outlook meaning failure to perhaps consider different routes to the goal which may be more beneficial or effective.
In a new piece of research, it was found that a leadership with both wide inherent diversity (diversity you are born with, such as race or gender) and wide acquired diversity (diversity you pick up through your life through visiting different cultures and meeting different people etc.) helped their firms to out-perform their counterparts. The more diverse firms were 45% likelier to report that their firm’s market share grew over the previous year and 70% likelier to report that the firm captured a new market. This diversity promotes ‘outside of the box’ thinking, and ultimately benefits the company. So the benefits of scrubbing clear the blind spots that the mini me bias and many other biases may have painted in our perspectives and judgements are clear.
Diversity = success.
So trying to overcome the mini me bias, or even just being aware of it, will hugely benefit the company.
Thoughts to Reflect
Think about these questions in relation to your own life:
- When have I demonstrated or been impacted by the mini me bias?
- What was the impact that it had?
- What could have been different?
- How would that difference have changed the outcome?
- What would you do differently now?
Everybody is affected by bias; it’s the way we are able to make judgements quickly and filter information- skills which we couldn’t live without. However when biases make judgements too quickly, and perhaps inaccurately, we need to have the ability to see beyond our filters, and to see what we don’t see.
Nobel prize winner Daniel Kahneman put forward the idea of ‘thinking fast and slow’; the idea that the biases are our ‘fast’ thinking, and in order to see beyond them, we have to think ‘slowly’. So being aware of the biases that we are prone to being influenced by and stepping back, to make an informed choice on, for example, who to hire, may overcome the ‘mini me’ bias and create a more adaptable, diverse, and versatile leadership team, better equipped for the present and the future.
To learn more about biases and to make sure you are not letting them get in the way of your leadership skills get in touch with OnTrack today…
Written by Kate McKay, research associate for Beth Chadwick.