Recognizing Hidden Biases

Everyone has hidden biases. Often we don’t recognize them because they sneak into our minds when we’re not paying attention. Similar to more overt biases, they surface when triggered by particular stimuli.

Example: I met with a new client who was convinced that feedback she had received was inaccurate. After asking a few questions, it was clear that she had some misconceptions about the person who provided the feedback. By dismissing the feedback (because of her hidden bias about the source), she missed some insight that was beneficial for her.

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Is Your Staff Demoralized?

Your leadership style has a direct impact on your employees. Unknowingly, your actions may demoralize your staff. Your best intentions can backfire if you push so hard that you leave everyone in the dust. Alternatively, if you don’t challenge them enough they may only do the minimum work just to get a paycheck.

I have clients whose philosophy spans the spectrum from “good is good enough” to “we expect nothing less than perfect”. Not surprisingly, both ends of this continuum are weak positions.

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Are You in Your Own Way?

Sometimes we get stuck in a groove and keep doing the things that prevent us from moving forward. This is OK if you don’t need to move forward, but that’s rarely viable for a leader.

I’ve found that the biggest excuses for getting stuck range from “I have too much on my plate” to “I’m putting out fires every day” to “I’m overwhelmed”.

All are good reasons, and they have one thing in common: you!

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Make Your Own Luck

“Beware the ides of March.”
– William Shakespeare

Are you superstitious? Do the ides of March make you nervous? Are you careful about what you do whenever it’s Friday the 13th? These are examples of superstitions that have been around forever, perceptions that have no grounded or logical basis.

Silly as these superstitions may seem, plenty of people still take seriously images of bad luck, negative omens, and baseless premonitions. But any time you feel that something is bad luck, you set the stage for a self-fulfilling prophecy.

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Celebrating International Women’s Day

International Women’s Day (IWD), is a global celebration of the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women. This year’s theme is #PressforProgress, a call to action to press even harder for gender parity.

I thought we should join the global celebration, so I picked a cross section of stories that honor the day. The more I scanned, the more interesting it became. I selected a handful of links that were a bit out of the mainstream coverage, so enjoy!

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When Anger Hits, “Smart” is the First Thing to Go

“You will not be punished for your anger,
you will be punished by your anger.”
– Buddha

Have you ever watched a conflict unfold from a distance? When you’re not a participant, it can seem completely irrational, even though it is deadly serious to those in the midst of it.

One of my colleagues says that when anger hits, ‘smart’ is the first thing to go. It’s a great observation, because when emotions take over, if you aren’t paying attention your reasoning mind can begin to shut down.

Anger often comes without forethought. You can be in the middle of a conversation with everyone from a co-worker to your teenager, and suddenly the heat of anger comes to the surface. If you let it get to you, you dig in your heels and become inflexible.

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Don’t Drag It Out

At one time or another, every manager struggles with how to handle a weak employee. Perhaps she has adequate technical skills but lousy interpersonal skills. Perhaps he just doesn’t want to be there and creates a toxic environment complaining about everything that is awful about your company.

Make a decision. If the pros don’t measurably outweigh the cons, take action. Whatever you do, don’t drag it out.

This isn’t easy, especially when the person has positive attributes that everyone recognizes. But the damage caused by delaying the inevitable is bad for everyone: for the employee, for the co-workers, and for you.

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Clarify Your “Ask”

How effectively do you communicate requests to your employees? Do you ask for something on the fly as you run off to your next meeting without allowing time for clarification? Are they saying (probably behind your back!) that they don’t have a clue what you asked?

Unclear communication often comes from not thinking through what needs to be said. For example, you may say that you need help on a project. If you don’t articulate your specific need, people may perform different tasks that are not necessary or are counter-productive.

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Walking the Line Between Manager and Friend

One of my clients, Simon, was impressed by one of his young direct reports, Joe. Joe showed great potential during the first few years he worked for Simon. He stepped up to any challenge, went the extra mile, and garnered favor from Simon as time went on.

They spent more social time together, went to lunch, and shared their love for baseball. In short, their professional relationship also became a friendship.

Eventually Joe’s professional limitations caught up with him. His work became sloppy, he missed deadlines, and he became expert in making excuses. He hid behind his friendship with Simon to avoid accountability.

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Does Anyone Talk Any More?

Remember telephones? There has been such a shift away from using them that many companies discourage calling. Email promotions are sent without including phone numbers for more information. You need to click through the contact page of some web sites to find a phone number.

The irony of this, of course, is that the smart phone is the dominant communication device and it’s used far more for other things than for talking. Curiously, making calls is the fifth most used app on a smart phone.

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