Through inspirational speeches, executive coaching, consulting and facilitated workshops, to transform leaders to take ownership and create impact. Singapore, Asia & global provider of self leadership programs, executive coaching and learning solutions. Self Leadership International is a leadership consulting company founded by Andrew Bryant.
Are we part of the same tribe? If we are, you are likely to agree with what I’m about to say, but if you consider me an ‘other’ or one of ‘them’ then anything I put forward will feel wrong to you, regardless of the logic.
Tribal Psychology & the magnification effect of socialmedia is at the root of the rise of political divisiveness according to Psychologists, Lilliana Mason and Dan Kahan.
From an evolutionary standpoint, being able to spot someone different or outside ‘the tribe’ had distinct safety advantages. So much so that our brain can be tricked into inclusion or exclusion with the smallest and most illogical of differences.
In the 1970s, a psychologist named Henri Tajfel developed social identity theory which say that when we define ourselves, we do so in large part by asserting our loyalty to the groups to which we belong. Tajfel developed this theory when in his research he discovered it didn’t take very much for humans to organize themselves into groups, and once they did, they immediately began to act like ‘assholes’ to people who were in groups that they were not. Tajfel’s experiments showed that humans can enter into us-versus-them thinking in seconds, and they will do so over just about anything.
The CAUTION therefore, is to look at discoveries or ideas on merit. Once an idea, however factual, such as climate change or gun control, is politicized, people will agree or disagree from their tribal filter rather than assessing the facts.
It seems we have always lived in a #posttruth world, it’s just now its 24/7 and on your smartphone!
The only antidote is Self-leadership and specifically self-awareness and critical thinking. So develop the habit of asking;
“Where’s the evidence?”
“In what context does this evidence hold true”
“Will this evidence hold up to scrutiny, regardless of what I currently believe?”
You are smart, really smart, your amazing brain can make judgments and decisions in milliseconds – unfortunately, you and the rest of us, are often WRONG!
What’s worse, is we don’t know we are wrong, and if it’s pointed out to us we are quick to ‘justify’ our decisions.
Your ability to achieve ‘lightning-fast’ decisions is achieved by your brain taking short-cuts and using pattern recognition. For our ancestors to survive, in a hostile environment, they needed to make quick judgments about friend or foe, food source or fatal, predator or pet. They made these judgments using, what Daniel Kahneman, author of the book Thinking Fast and Slow, calls System 1 Thinking. System 1 Thinking is fast, instinctive and emotional as opposed to System 2 Thinking which is slower, more deliberative, analytical and more logical.
Our brain has not had a ‘firmware upgrade’ to help it operate in a modern, multicultural and diverse workplace, and so we regularly see the effects of System 1 Thinking or Unconscious Bias when it comes to hiring, team-building, recognition and promotions. We can also fall prey to cognitive bias when we are making other types of decision such as investments.
Self-leadership is the practice of intentionally influencing your thinking, feeling and actions towards your objectives (Bryant & Kazan 2012), and to achieve this, the Self-leader develops their Self-awareness.
By definition – unconscious bias is usually ‘out of’ awareness, so how do we develop our awareness of that which is often hidden to us?
1. Start with an Inclusive Intention
Let’s use our Type 2 Thinking and analyze the cost of poor decisions and the benefits of diversity and inclusion.
Bias is a prejudice in favor of or against one thing, person, or group compared with another usually in a way that’s considered to be unfair. Biases may be held by an individual, group, or institution. But what are the consequences?
Ignoring diversity and inclusion is negatively impacting you and your company’s financial performance!
According to McKinsey’s ‘Delivering through diversity’ report (Jan 2018), gender, ethnic, and cultural diversity, particularly within executive teams, continue to be correlated to financial performance across multiple countries worldwide. What appears to drive this correlation is that more diverse companies are better able to attract top talent; to improve their customer orientation, employee satisfaction, and decision making; and to secure their license to operate.
Setting an intention to be more diverse and executing on it reaps tangible rewards!
2. Address the FEAR
Our ancestors developed bias against people who didn’t look like or sound like them. This acted as a defense mechanism, because threat was more likely to come from strangers than the close-knit tribe. Working for an international or global company, that tribe could consist of a huge variety of people of different genders, ethnicity, nationality, language and social group from you. Are you afraid of these people?
FEAR can be an acronym for False Evidence Appearing Real. The false evidence here is that difference is a threat rather than an opportunity. This fear can be multiplied if we don’t feel secure in our own worth and confident in our abilities.
Self-leadership training or coaching addresses the importance of unconditional self-esteem and the ability to be confident in one’s ability and the self-efficacy to try new things and take the feedback.
3. Build Self-Awareness
We all tend to judge; the trick is to catch ourselves and challenge whether this judgment is logical.
Last month I needed some emergency dentistry. It was after-hours and I took an appointment with the first dentist available. As I sat in the waiting room, I looked up at the name on the dentist’s door, Abdul Rashid. Living in Asia for 14-years, this was of no surprise to me, but I did notice a slight apprehension that the dentist was from a different tribe to me. After a short wait, the dentist came and introduced himself and although his ancestry was from Pakistan, his accent was pure London. His familiar speech pattern immediately put me at ease.
The important lesson here, is that both my apprehension and subsequent ease are a result of bias. Neither emotion is logical, they are psycho-logical. Neither coming from Pakistani heritage or London upbringing are logical indicators that Dr. Rashid would make a good dentist. Thankfully, for me, he is excellent, and he is now my regular dentist!
Do you notice your psycho-logical judgements? How can you increase your self-awareness?
By answering this question:
“What criteria am I using to evaluate this person?”
4. Create a Culture
I know a man of no culture, I don’t mean he is uncouth, just that you can’t label him with nationality and that makes him a great leader of diverse teams.
Nadim, was born in the USA with a Dutch Passport, but his origins are German. In fact, his Grandfather changed his nationality from German to Dutch whilst living in Indonesia to ‘fit in’.
Nadim moved to France aged 9, then to Switzerland and then Africa (The Ivory Coast) at age 13. At 18 he was living in Rome but spent some time in Holland. By 22 he was in London where he studied Business and then a Masters in African Studies.
After moving back to Ivory Coast and then the USA, he was leading a business in Thailand aged 24.
Nadim speaks English, Dutch, French, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish and Thai.
If you ask Nadim where he’s from, he gets a bit embarrassed because he doesn’t want to tell you his life story.
What impressed me about Nadim, is that with this diverse experience, he didn’t develop a diversity or gender bias. This means, when he builds a team, he chooses the best person for the role, regardless of gender, nationality, ethnicity, orientation or which university they went to. Sometimes, according to his manager, he makes surprising choices – but they always work out – and work out well.
So, the goal is to create a culture where bias does not play a role. To do that we have to have the conversation, we must challenge ourselves and each other to make better decisions.
5. Making Good Decisions
Cognitive Bias plays a huge role in how we make decisions. Psychologists have labels for over 180 types of cognitive bias, but they can be generalized into:
How we remember – memories are not facts, how we recall depends on how we emotionally coded the memory at the time of creation and what we added or deleted from it over time.
Too much information – because we are overwhelmed with information, we tend to believe things that confirm or own bias or notice things that are primed, repeated, or stand out as different.
Not enough meaning – we tend to add our own meaning to information, adding our own stereotypes or simplifying the complex to make it fit our world view. Add to this the tendency to ‘mind-read’ what other people are thinking creates a potent brew of intoxication.
The need to act fast – because of the urgency to get things done, we tend to focus on the information that is immediately in front of us and fail to ‘step-back’ and take a strategic perspective.
As I mentioned before, people are not logical, they are psycho-logical and so making good decision requires a great deal of training and discipline to overcome the limitations of our fast but lazy brain.
The good news is that intentionally influencing your thinking, feeling and actions (Self-leadership) is something that can be learned and practiced.
As a people manager, one of your most important and impactful activities is the conversation you have with your staff about how they are doing and how they can develop themselves. With this level of importance, it is therefore surprising that so many of these conversations can end up leaving both parties unsatisfied.
Prior Planning Prevents Poor Performance, is a maxim I’m sure you’ve heard; well in the case of scheduled performance and development conversations this is very true. So how and what to plan?
1. Behaviors Matter
When a human mind has a clear goal and feels motivated to achieve that goal, it rewards behaviors that move it towards that goal with little hits of the ‘feel good’ chemical, dopamine. In addition, when behaviors that move us towards a goal are recognized and acknowledged, we feel more motivated and are likely to increase our efforts.
This realization of human psychology means that before a conversation with a staff member, you must be clear about what goal or goals were set and what behaviors the staff member has been engaged in. If the behaviors are resulting in goal achievement, closing the gap towards the goal, or missing the target.
Unlike values, which are inferred, behaviors are observable and so make sure you have clear examples of what you staff member has been doing or not doing, prior to the conversation.
2. Unconditional Positive Regard
In addition to preparing your observations, you should also prepare your mindset. A negative or positive bias by a manager has been shown to significantly impact future performance.
Unconditional positive regard (UPR), a concept developed by the humanistic psychologist Carl Rogers, is the basic acceptance and support of a person regardless of what the person says or does. Whilst this mindset was developed for therapy, it is extremely powerful in development conversations.
UPR means that you respect each person as a human being with agency to choose how to respond to their situation (Self-leadership) and that no matter how they are currently performing, they can choose to improve.
3. Start with Questions
The majority of people have a fairly accurate perception of how they are doing relative a goal, and if they don’t, you need to know that. Starting with a simple question like, “how do you think you are progressing towards you goal/targets?” will open up the conversation and let you get an idea of their perceptions.
4. Give Effective Feedback – Not Criticism
Effective feedback allows us to confirm behaviors that are working and adjust those that are not. Using the formula F.I.F. will enable you to establish the Facts of a situation, invite your staff to consider the Impact of their behaviors and choose to make any required behavioral adjustments in the Future.
The FIF Feedback Model
5. Co-Create Future Targets
It’s a fact that people are more motivated to achieve goals that they set for themselves or have buy-in to; so, it’s smart to ask your staff. “what a stretch-goal would be for them in the coming year or quarter?”.
You may need to encourage the stretch or add some direction to the goal, but always insure UPR and buy-in.
Talk about specific behaviors the individual will engage in to reach these goals and offer support and accountability to achieve them.
6. Be a People Leader
As a manager you are likely unconsciously-biased towards your staff performing so that you reach your objectives, but as a People Leader your attention should also be on what these people want to achieve in their career that may not directly benefit you at all.
Show genuine interest about what aspirations your staff members have and actively support them in developing their abilities. Who can you connect them with? What courses/reading can you recommend? Do they have a mentor?
Be the sort of person that positively impacts, and you will not just perform, but you will leave a legacy.
Effective Self-leadership is only possible with self-awareness of our personality or psychometric. To effectively lead people it is essential to understand how your ‘leadership style’ influences different personalities, and how different personalities interact in teams.
The word personality comes from the Latin persona, which refers to the masks once worn by actors to give clues as to the emotions driving their behavior. Today the term personality refers to the sets of predictable behaviors by which we profile a person. These sets of behaviors are known as types or traits and profiling tools are known as psychometric tests.
Personality profiling goes back 2400 years to Hippocrates. Hippocrates suggested that one’s persona is based upon four separate temperaments (Air, Fire, Earth, and Water). This was probably the first 4-box personality type profiles which are still popular today – you may have come across tools such as DISC (Marston, 1987), or Herman Brain Dominance.
Psychologist Carl Gustav Jung, (1875 – 1961) categorized mental functioning into sensing, intuition, thinking, and feeling. The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) is a 16-type indicator of Carl Jung’s Psychological Types (1940’s). MBTI has been one of the most enduring of the psychometric tests used by organisations.
The weakness of MBTI is that as a ‘Type’ indicator it assumes that people are one of opposites, they are either extrovert or introvert, there is no in-between. The majority of organisational psychologists and common sense, suggest that personality is a ‘Trait’ and is more like a sliding scale (standard distribution) where your personality can be at any point on the scale (1-10).
At Self Leadership International we use the latest Neuroscientific profiling tools developed by Dr. Nigel Guenole, of Goldsmiths, University of London and Dr. Colin De Young, of Personality Lab, University of Minnesota.
Perspectives measures the ten aspects of personality identified by De Young et al. (2010), and can be aggregated to form the big five, and the higher order personality dimensions of stability (alpha) and plasticity (beta).
Perspectives is a self-report inventory. It is 90-questions long, makes minimal reading demands, and can be completed in under 15 minutes. Reports can be generated instantly for selection and development purposes. We use Perspective for Executive Coaching and for Team Alignment Sessions.
Limits is a measure of a person’s least flattering personality characteristics, commonly referred to as ‘the dark side’ or ‘derailers. Designed to predict job performance and diagnose counterproductive behaviors that might interfere with interpersonal work relationships and might prevent a person achieving their work goals.
Limits measures six maladaptive personality traits associated with extreme scores on the Big 5 personality model, these are: Competitiveness, Reserve, Negative Emotionality, Disinhibition, Diligence, and Unconventionality.
The Limits Report highlight areas of high risk and provide probing questions and development recommendations.
Contact Us for pricing and more information on using Personality and Psychometric tests for Leadership Development or Executive Coaching.