What if I told you that - as a leader - you were delusional, prejudiced and unable to make any kind of objective decision? You would probably take offence.
And yet, these adjectives apply to me on an almost daily basis.
Is this where you worry about me?
Not at all, as we could also describe the above state as being human.
In fact, if you talk to smarter-than-me-scientists, our brain ensures that all of us:
If you dig deeper, you can find even more quirks in our personality, yet I propose we keep it civilised 😉.
But while 100% human, this inaccurate perception can be costly.
Here are a few examples I picked up in a quick search and scroll:
Or on a more personal note: In the recent past, I've caught myself:
Luckily, I caught myself on each of these occasions. But as we cannot switch off our own perception filter, this requires continuous vigilance.
Here’s three ways I (try to) do this. Perhaps you find them useful too.
At the personal level, I try to catch myself every time I use words like good/bad, right/wrong, beautiful/ugly, etc. Typically, these are warning lights for bias. If I really want to be brutal, I consciously try to prove myself wrong about the decision or assumption I just made. Only if I fail at doing this, I can allow myself to feel right.
At the team level, I regularly remind myself that different individuals can have wildly different interpretations of the same decision, situation, or piece of data. So I try to avoid assumptions and double/triple-check agreement on important topics. Nodding doesn’t mean that everyone is on the same page.
At the organisational level, I look at every transformative project as a shift in perception. Going from product/process- to customer-centricity requires people to exchange their own perspective for that of the customer. Pivoting from a sales to a subscription model means shifting minds from transactions to relationships.
Empowering employees means learning to let go of control. Without this change in perception, any transformation will only be skin deep and culture will eat that fancy new strategy for breakfast.
I’m not saying I’ve got it sorted I still buy into most of my ego-PR. But I have noticed that systematically trying to catch myself on delusions, bias and subjectivity has made me more aware of my perceptual quirks. I also makes it easier to backtrack and repair past poor decisions.
At least that’s what my brain tells me 😜.
PS. Correction: The ‘wonderfully irrationally decision making’ I mentioned above is actually a myth. If you see someone behaving irrationally, it only means you’ve failed to fully understand their perspective and behavioural drivers. Once you know those, everything will be 100% sensible.
Don’t worry, I’m not trying to become your therapist or bias-counselor.
But I am offering a chat on the assumptions your business would need to change to complete that transformation you’re thinking of. I can’t promise the conversation will always be comfortable, but I’m sure it will be interesting.
So shall we have virtual coffee?
Alain Thys is an experience architect who helps organisations drive profit and transformation through experience.