Each time I update my know-how on unconscious bias with Wikipedia, it seems like they’ve added more categories and refined the definitions further. I’ve given up trying to remember them all…
…And now the Nobel Peace prize-winner for cognitive biases, Daniel Kahneman, has introduced a new concept, which he calls ‘noise’.
Put simply, ‘noise’ is inconsistency in decision-making.
It’s linked to bias in that more experienced people are more prone to it. They think they’re better at decision-taking, and consistency, than they actually are.
It takes me back to the reason why I’m so passionate about organisational development generally, and leadership development in particular.
My early experiences of corporate life were filled with examples of inconsistent decision-making. It disengages people – and costs an inordinate amount of time as people invest emotionally in trying to understand why a decision has gone the way it has.
Yes, there was sexism, lack of cultural diversity and all the biases that are now better-acknowledged in society generally, and the world of work in particular. I cringe when I glimpse those 1970’s TV revivals, as it brings back so many moments I’d rather forget.
My belief is that a need for consistency is linked to our innate desire for ‘fairness’, which most of humanity seems to share. If we apply a rule consistently we’re perceived as ‘fair’, even when everyone appears to ‘lose’ as a result.
Even peace negotiations have run successfully on this principle.
Kahneman’s book (yes, called ‘Noise’, to be published October 2016) talks about the estimated costs, versus the actual costs, to an organisation of this interference. Leaders assumed that inconsistency was costing around 5-10%, when actually the costs are more like 40-60%.
So I’m delighted that Kahneman, and his team, have done all the heavy lifting in terms of scholarship, research and validity.
I can see the particular relevance of ‘noise’ to talent identification and performance management.
If we can improve the quality of our decisions around identifying, filtering and selecting talent for management and leadership roles, we’ll reduce the costs of staff turnover, improve the leadership culture, and raise employee engagement levels too.
What’s particularly interesting to me is that the solutions are simple. Just identify the practical variables and find a way to apply them systematically. And that’s it.
Don’t wait for outcome data. Don’t apply weight to one practical variable over another.
The implications of this approach are issues such as:
At Forton we support clients to identify the relevant variables to their talent pool selection, and performance management processes. Then we provide the training and skills support to create a culture of fairness.
And we don’t stop there; our 4D model includes the practical support leaders and managers need to apply these skills, consistently.
This delivers more effective and productive teams,and higher employee engagement scores too.
At Forton we change cultures and support leadership development through bite-sized, half-day and week-long events. And if you need to demonstrate return on investment (ROI) evidence, we can show you how.
To experience this for yourself pick up the phone. You’ll find us at +44 (0) 845 077 2980 option 1, or email firstname.lastname@example.org
It’s human nature to want to keep our relationships simple. Yet it’s a key leadership task to keep on top of the complex interplay of different relationships. Put simply: our team members, colleagues, bosses and the wider stakeholder network. It’s no wonder people find it difficult.
And of course, all this focus on others means that we neglect our own needs in this complex mix.
One solution is to analyse these groups and assess them by their power, influence or interest in your work. A neat process, but one which doesn’t take human factors into account.
And it’s often in those that things can go horribly wrong. Misunderstandings, lack of acknowledgement or recognition for good work, resentment of others.
Here at Forton, we regularly get asked to design workshops and programmes that help leaders and managers with ‘problem staff’: those ‘difficult conversations’, performance management; or customer relationships.
People typically ask us something like “What can I say when….?”
At the heart of these requests is the desire to have a single solution; a silver bullet. But silver bullets only kill werewolves; sorting out relationships requires a more human approach.
Too often, when we go into organisations with these kinds of issues, we find that the basics for better relationships – at all levels – aren’t in place.
Here are three steps that you can put into place and share today:
Step 1: Make sure managers are putting their own needs first, so that they’re better able to deal with others’ needs too.
An insurance client told us a fascinating statistic recently: dentists who work fewer days each week earn more money. This is because they have better relationships with their patients; plus they make better clinical and business decisions too.
If that’s what we need from our leaders and managers, investing in smarter working – not longer hours – is the easiest and first solution.
Step 2: Ensure that managers and leaders know about the need to give regular acknowledgements of their team’s good work.
People need a higher ratio of praise to criticism than managers typically think. The Gottman Ratio is 6:1 for organisations (5:1 for personal relationships if you want to improve that area of your life).
Step 3: When it’s criticism that’s required, use a consistent feedback model that works – both for the giver, and the receiver of feedback.
The best way to give (and receive) feedback is to make it future-focused around what success looks like. Most people look backwards and focus on what went wrong and who’s to blame.
The other step you can take, is to give your leaders and managers some perspective – and distance from the day-to-day – by investing in a leadership development workshop.
At Forton we change cultures and support leadership development through bite-sized, half-day and week-long events.
Whichever behavioural framework you use in your organisation, our programmes will align with your goals. And if you need to demonstrate return on investment (ROI) evidence, we can show you how.
To experience lasting performance improvements in your organisation, try us out. Attend our next open leadership Ignite event – on 5/6 December in the heart of England.
Or bring this workshop in-house with 6 people or more.
Pick up the phone at +44 (0) 845 077 2980 option 1, or email email@example.com.
If, like me, you’re an experienced coach working with executives and leaders in corporate settings, you may be wondering why you need to invest in specific leadership coaching training. Of course, you may be about to renew your credentials, which is a great reason to do this!
Here at The Forton Group, we provide a wide range of flexible ways of getting the CCEUs and supervision hours you require for ICF renewal.
But what’s different about leadership coaching, why should you add it to your kitbag and why The Forton Group? Continue reading
This is a good news/bad news story. The good news was having the fun of working in Accra, in Ghana, for a week, running development centres to focus on leadership behaviours. The fact that it was in the midst of the worst weather in England for a long time was a bonus. The bad news was coping with an infected foot, which left me only able to limp along very slowly and for short distances. Continue reading
What’s the one thing about leadership you need to know? What is it your boss needs to know you know?
It’s got to be said: everything a leader says or does creates an impact. Body language, the way he or she walks into the room; what they say and the way the say it. The leader has the single biggest impact on driving performance: up or down.
Team members are looking for direction from our leaders, explicitly or otherwise; and our leaders hand down that direction in the subtlest of ways. The team will pick up on a vocal nuance, a raised eyebrow, or the way papers are shuffled at the beginning of a meeting. The interpretation they make of these actions will impact upon what happens outside that room as they apply the direction they’ve ‘heard’.
I’m hearing this feedback from the leaders I coach and members of their teams, as well as from directing my own teams. The good news is that their experience is backed up by organisational research evidence. To remind myself of these sources, I turned to the work of Daniel Goleman, the ’emotional intelligence’ expert, Richard Boyatzis and Annie McKee, who together wrote a book published in the US under the title ‘Primal Leadership*’ and in the UK as ‘The New Leaders’.
Their focus is on the ‘resonant leader’ and they used a “global database of 3,871 executives in which several factors that influenced the working environment were assessed”. Two key findings were that “leadership styles affected financial results, such as return on sales, revenue growth, efficiency, and profitability”; and “leaders who used styles with a positive emotional impact saw decidedly better returns than those that did not”.
What this tells us, regardless of whether you work for the private, public or not-for-profit sector, is that your bottom line – however measured – is impacted on by your leaders.
Cutting to the chase, what’s the one thing we can do as leaders to improve our bottom line (however measured)? Find out what motivates the people who work for us – one by one – and play to their strengths. Leadership isn’t all about us; it’s about a successful team and we unlock that success when we know what their strengths are and what really motivates people.
Watching the Australia/England cricket highlights this week I heard a great line which I’m paraphrasing here: ‘play to your team’s strengths, not to the opposition’s weaknesses’. We can only do this when we truly get to know the people who work with and for us.
So if you’re having a tough week at work and the signals you’re getting from your boss are driving down your motivation and performance, print this out and leave it in a prominent place. Your boss needs to know how to unlock your success and he/she needs to know that you know it too.
*Quoted from: “Primal Leadership: Realizing the Power of Emotional Intelligence”, Goleman D., Boyatzis R., McKee A., Harvard Business School Press, 2002, pp53/54. The reference to the original database is set out on p.265.