Ideas and Insights


Unconscious bias: how to become more aware of personal bias.

The perception of one’s age, gender, gender identity, physical abilities, religion, sexual orientation, weight, and many other characteristics are subject to bias by the [erceiver. None of us are immune to having biases, both consciously and unconsciously. In workplaces, it is everywhere but can be particularly impactful with respect to recruitment, and in performance management.

Unconscious or implicit bias is an automatic reaction we have towards other people. Everyone holds unconscious beliefs about various social groups, and these biases stem from one’s tendency to organize social worlds by categorizing. These attitudes and stereotypes can negatively impact our understanding, actions, and decision-making. They can lead to instinctive assumptions such as a nurse must be a woman, or an engineer must be a man, that men are more credible leaders or those of another race or skin-tone are untrustworthy. In extreme cases it leads to reactions such as the ‘Black Lives Matter’ social movement driven by the perceived bias against black people in the US that they are more likely than not to be criminals. In many cases it is so deeply woven into our cultural fabric that it is hard to be aware of it.

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The vexed question of performance appraisals

Jill has written a short paper to help leaders and managers clarify their thinking when it comes to performance appraisal.

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Feedback: the how

Many companies try to help managers navigate this minefield by standardizing a feedback/ review process, even going so far as to have printed out mandatory questions with blank spaces for the recipients’ answers….  And in doing so they are trying to equip managers with a tool to help them succeed in the conversation (and avoid HR complications). 

People take feedback differently, in terms of their emotional reaction, subsequent motivation, engagement, input, openness, honesty, follow up output and much more. Feedback is not a one size fits all or each performance review and coaching session would be perfect every time. 

Unfortunately, this way of thinking often addresses the dimensions of content and formal process.  There’s another, equally important focus to consider… the ‘how’ – the informal, hidden or tacit process.

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Going beyond information exchange: good questioning skills

As far as we are aware, humans are the only creatures that ask questions. This shows a level of self-insight: that we don’t know or understand everything about a situation. Questions take us beyond the obvious.

Generally, questions are seen as ways to elicit or exchange information, but much more importantly questions can,

  • unlock learning
  • fuel creativity and innovation
  • reveal how another person ticks, and
  • build relationships

The use of carefully framed questions is an undervalued tool in organizations and teams. Unfortunately, our education system does not seem to recognise the value of questions or the skills required to construct and use questions. Questioning is a skill to be honed. Our education systems emphasize advocacy at the expense of skilled inquiry.

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Receiving feedback

It was Ken Blanchard who supposedly said that feedback is the breakfast of champions. Here are 8 simple tips for receiving feedback

Above all else breathe! Move your body (significantly), avert your gaze momentarily, and then take two deep breaths.

Do not look at the person. Do not maintain eye contact. Look to the side and nod your head in acknowledgement to the rhythm of the other person’s speech. Despite everything you have been told to maintain eye contact it is actually counter-productive when dealing with volatile information. It will only male you tense and slow down your thinking and do the same for the other person.

Never argue; just say thanks. Remember, another person’s feedback is about their experience of you not about you.

Don’t let any clarifying questions you have turn into a defense of your position.

Think carefully and slowly about what they have said to you. Don’t immediately reject or immediately reject what the other person has said

Go ask someone else whom you know for their frank honesty with you about how they see the issue and be careful when doing this not to “lead the witness”. In other words, triangulate the feedback.

Look for opportunities to stop doing or start doing critiqued behaviors.

If you feel the criticism was justified and you are better off for it, don’t forget to close the loop and share your progress with the feedback giver.

If you don’t know to change the behavior then ask for help or seek a coach.

Cathy Taylor

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The key – knowing what outcomes you want

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In framing work with an individual, team or meeting it is always critical to know your outcomes first. This is especially important if you are engaged in repetitive social activity with a purpose in which the sheer repetition can, at times, cause you to lose sight of fundamental purpose. Realizing that the majority of work we do in organizations is with, and through, people it is important to recognize that there are three broad types of outcomes: rational, emotional and social.

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Behavior change – lessons from the health sector for all leaders

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Creating the conditions for, and facilitating, behavior change is a core competency of great leaders and managers. It is also perceived to be one of the most difficult things to achieve and requires approaches and skill that, although may be intuitive to some, the majority find challenging and perplexing. However, research and experience have shown us that there are some clear frameworks and simple skills that can be taught to give leaders and managers huge assistance in more elegantly and successfully influencing behavior change. The health sector provides us with a useful example and model for this. Read more…

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Performance: The Holy Grail of Leadership

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Click here to view or download a paper exploring useful concepts related to how leaders can approach the sometimes elusive improvement of performance of their organizations, teams and  people. It describes the nature of changes that need to occur for breakthrough performance to be achieved.

Jill Tideman

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Communication patterns predict for high performance in teams

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There has been some interesting work over a number of years at MIT’s Human Dynamics Lab and MIT Media Lab under the leadership of Professor Alex (Sandy) Pentland. Back in 2008 Professor Pentland published a book, Honest Signals: How they shape our world, which introduced the research of his group. With advances in technology they developed a measurement tool, called a sociometer (wearable digital sensor linked with wireless technology), which allows them to map at a very detailed level the non-verbal behavior of large numbers of people as they go about their normal workday lives. They demonstrated that people’s behavior such as tone of voice, body position in relation to others, gestures, body movements and nodding is much more than a complementary system of communication to the words we use (our conscious language). Read more…

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Checklist Manifesto: getting it right!

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All of us are working in a world of ever-increasing complexity and information overload. Technology and know-how is evolving to help us better manage this complexity, but we continue to be plagued by avoidable failures.

 

Atul Gawande, a surgeon, in his book of 2009, The Checklist Manifesto, describes a remarkably low-tech approach – the checklist – to manage the complexity of decision-making – consistently, correctly and safely. He developed this approach in the high stakes world of surgery. His very readable book tells the story of how he explored how the construction industry and airline pilots  use checklists to make better decisions particularly when under time pressure. At the behest of the World Health Organization he refined and tailored the approaches he had uncovered, tested and improved them until finally he came up with a version for surgical teams. Read more…

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