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4 Types of Unconscious Biases that Directly Impact the Workplace

Unconscious bias is a preferential tendency of which we are unaware and that often operates outside of our control. It is an automatic judgment that is triggered in our brains and heavily influenced by our backgrounds, cultural environments, and personal experiences. It causes a filter that shapes the way we look at the world, how we think, how we speak, and ultimately how we act. It operates as a decision-making mechanism without our being aware of it. 

Science and numerous studies have shown that ingrained unconscious bias can be rewired. It starts with recognition and awareness. Below are 4 types of unconscious bias that research has found directly impact the workplace. Keep reading to learn what they are and how they may affect your organization.

1. Affinity Bias – The tendency to warm up to people like ourselves.

The benefit of Affinity Bias is that it is comfortable and easy. The real impact on an organization is that it excludes others and results in alienation.

2. Halo Effect – The tendency to think everything about a person is good because you like that person.

With the Halo Effect, we tend to put people on a pedestal. It cases us to make snap judgements. If you likeone aspect of something to do with a person, you’ll have a positive predisposition towards everything else; if you dislike one aspect, you’ll have a negative predisposition.

3. Confirmation Bias – The tendency for people to seek information that confirms pre-existing beliefs or assumptions.

The benefit of Confirmation Bias is that it helps form a resolute opinion and creates agreement to past beliefs without much thought to the matter. The impact on an organization is it all but stagnates innovation and creativity.

4. Group Think – Occurs when people try too hard to fit into a particular group by mimicking others or holding back thoughts and opinions.

Group Think can be comfortable and allows us to ‘fit in’ with whichever team/organization we currently find ourselves in. The impact, however, is a loss of personal identify, creativity and innovation.[1]

We do not have unconscious bias because we are bad or flawed people – we have it because we are human.

Empower your organization by gaining a deeper understanding of unconscious bias and fostering an inclusive and diverse workforce. The Leadera Disrupting Unconscious Bias: Recognition and Awareness course is an engaging 4-hour webinar that explores the depths and impact of unconscious bias in our personal and professional lives.

Through a series of interactive conversations and exercises, participants in this program will discover where these biases come from, their function, and how they can limit or expand our performance and connection with others.

By participating in this course, people gain an awareness and acquire a set of practices that leave them with a powerful choice as to the type of person they want to be and the type of relationships they wish to have.

For more information on this course, or other business challenges we can help you solve, contact us at Leadera Consulting Group. Kevin Cullen: kcullen@leaderacg.com, cc: acook@leaderacg.com


[1] McCormick, H. The Real Effects of Unconscious Bias in the Workplace. 2016. http://execdev.kenan-flagler.unc.edu/hubfs/White%20Papers/Unconscious-Bias-in-the-Workplace.pdf

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The One Simple Trick to Tackling Your To-Do List in 2021 (Hint: It Includes Your Calendar)

People have “too much to do.” Ask anybody, they will tell you. And now with continuous Zoom meetings and home schooling added in, it can easily seem as if there is more to do than you could possibly ever get done. 

However, consider this ~ you’re only going to do what you’re going to do today. That sounds obvious, right? But in reality, most people don’t relate to what they have to do as if that’s the case. For many, to-do lists have become lists of unrealistic expectations to accomplish in one day; they are full of things we feel we should do or have to do, which sets us up for failure by thinking that if it’s on the “list,” we’ll get to it. 

The truth is, you’re not going to do all the things you have to do just because it’s on a list. You’re really only going to do what you actually do. Clear as mud? The key to what you’re going to do is knowing that actions take place in time. Anything you’re going to do takes a certain amount of time, therefore if it’s not on your calendar, it’s not going to get done and it won’t happen

Spoiler alert: Here is the one simple trick to successfully tackling your to-do list

Schedule real time on your calendar to do the task, including scheduling an appropriate amount of time to do it in. Make a habit out of doing this one simple trick and you get ahead of the game in actually crossing that item off your to-do list. 

Everyone has a long list of things they want to do, should do, and ‘have’ to do. But when you get into that list, most of the items on it never get done, which causes many of us a lot of stress. Giving up the myth of the unending list of things to do, which occurs as a burden, is a powerful step forward in productivity. 

Being selective and rigorous about what goes into our calendars is the key. Plan and schedule the things you’re committed to doing ~ distinct from the things you want to do, should do, or ‘have’ to do. When you schedule items, be honest with yourself by allocating the proper amount of time for every aspect of the task. Otherwise it won’t get done. And while adding it to your calendar doesn’t guarantee the item will get done, it will significantly raise the likelihood if it’s “in existence.” Simply put – what is on the calendar has the highest likelihood of getting done. 

I am impeccable about my calendar. Given what’s on my plate, I have to be. Here is an example on my calendar of this practice I’ve put in place where I schedule what I’m going to do and give myself enough time to get it done; say I have a meeting at 10:00 am downtown. On my calendar is:

  • “9:15 – 9:30 pre-meeting briefing”
  • “9:30 – 10:00 drive time to meeting” (it only takes 15 minutes to get there)
  • “10:00 -11:00 attend and participate in meeting”
  • “11:00 – 11:30 drive back to office”
  • “11:30 – 11:45 debrief meeting”

That gives me the time to 1) brief, 2) travel, 3) sit down (as opposed to rushing in at the last moment), 4) participate fully in the meeting, 5) return to the office and debrief my notes from the meeting, and 6) send a follow-up to the client. So, while I am only going to a one-hour meeting, in reality ~ in real time ~ it takes two and a half hours to complete everything about that meeting. 

Of course, in COVID-19 times this schedule looks different, but the principles are the same. Instead of drive time, schedule time in to get up from your desk, move, stretch, get some water, and allow for any technical difficulties logging in. For those working from home, putting your to-do list on your calendar may be even more important, as the structure of the office changes as we balance new responsibilities and environments. 

We are paid to produce results with our time. Therefore, relating to and managing our time is a valuable asset that will make us more effective and more productive. Use your calendar as your best tool for effectiveness and productivity. I believe it is an essential skill for anyone in today’s workforce or otherwise, and a strong habit of successful leadership. 

The bottom line is, you’re only going to do what you do. And if it’s on your calendar, there’s a much higher likelihood you’ll get it done.

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Kevin Cullen is President of Leadera Consulting Group, specializing in producing breakthrough business results. For more information on this topic or other business challenges we can help you solve, contact us at Leadera Consulting Group.

Kevin Cullen: kcullen@leaderacg.com, cc: acook@leaderacg.com

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9-Point Formula to Deliver Powerful Messages and Create Buy-In

Most leaders got into the position they are in by being competent managers, making things happen, solving problems, and getting the trains to run on time. However, simply managing the present is insufficient when one is a leader. A leader’s job is really to focus on the future and create a vision for the future that inspires their people to make it happen. 

Job #1 of a leader is to have a vision that is compelling, inspiring, and achievable. Job #2 is to share that vision with their constituents in such a way that their people see that future has their name on it and not only want to be a part of it, but also will own it in such a way that it comes to fruition. 

People want to make a difference – they want to have their lives matter. As George Bernard Shaw said,

“This is the true joy in life, the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; the being thoroughly worn out before you are thrown on the scrap heap; the being a force of nature instead of a feverish, selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy.”

Creating the vision to engage others is tricky, because the vision needs to be articulated in such a way that people can hear it, identify with it, and want to participate in it. There are many examples from leaders in the last decade; Steve Jobs at Apple declared there would be “an Apple on every desk,” Jeff Bezos of Amazon had the originating mantra of “Get Big Fast,” and Elon Musk at Tesla is known for his vision of “Anywhere on earth in under one hour.” Each of them has demonstrated the importance of this vital aspect of leadership by stepping way out into the future, creating a vision for their company for what’s possible, and then going after it with gangbusters. 

Part of this brilliance has to do with the way they are able to present this vision to their employees, such that it’s almost tangible and certainly doable. By doing this, a leader ensures that people in their company become a part of implementing the vision. Most people know that 70% of strategic initiatives fail in corporations. Getting your people to buy into the vision gives you a huge advantage for success.

So, how do you do this? By walking people through the vision ~ what it will take, how it will unfold, and underlining the benefits and rewards. 

At Leadera, part of our ‘Being a Leader’ course teaches participants a 9-point, step-by-step formula in which we train leaders on how to deliver a powerful leadership message focusing on the future. When leaders design a message using these 9 points (in order), they find that their people are able to connect with the vision, making it tangible for them so that they want to participate in delivering it.

The 9 points (in order) include: 

  1. Background connection
  2. The vision
  3. Strategy
  4. Implications
  5. Actions needed
  6. Sense of urgency
  7. Benefits and rewards
  8. Hardball issues
  9. Appreciation and acknowledgement

Use these 9 points to get your people to “buy in” to your message and want to fulfill it. When done well, inspiration leads others into action. But keep in mind that message and that inspiration has no shelf life on its own. A successful leader will build regular and consistent reminders into the workplace that reinforce the message. Inspiration must be shored up with actions. Consider designing how to get your people “on board,” and how to keep them there.

Interested in learning more? Let us bring this 9-point formula to you and your leadership team. For more information, reach out to us at the emails below. 

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Kevin Cullen is President of Leadera Consulting Group, specializing in producing breakthrough business results. For more information on this course or other business challenges we can help you solve, contact us at Leadera Consulting Group.

Kevin Cullen: kcullen@leaderacg.com, cc: acook@leaderacg.com

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5 Practices for Building High-Performance Teams

Did you know that seventy percent of all strategic program initiatives fail? While there is nothing like watching a team that is operating at full capacity and succeeding despite the high odds against them, a high-performance team doesn’t occur by accident. To prepare for future success, organizations must build their teams intentionally.

Having worked with hundreds of organizations, Leadera has discovered that much of the breakdown in teams and initiatives occurs in the way people work together ~ the way they communicate to and from each other; the way they support one another. The level of integrity that’s present amongst the team and in the project, as well as the way in which they each regard one another, are all elements on which the success of an initiative depends.

Leadera has identified and built its 2-day course ‘Building A High-Performance Team’ specifically to address the five essential practices for building high-performance teams, including:

1. Authentic Listening

This is much easier said than done, as most people think they are good listeners ~ not true. Authentic listening requires the ability to get in another’s world; not just their words, but the place from which they are speaking and understanding what they intend to say. Two good habits to develop this skill are: 1) give the speaker your undivided attention and 2) repeat back to the person what you heard and what you think their intention is in what they said. This gives the speaker an opportunity to confirm or correct your feedback.

2. Talking Straight

This means getting things up on the table that are difficult or uncomfortable to address ~ and to do it in such a way that people are left feeling respected, honored, and empowered. At the same time, it’s essential to get the issue (the “elephant in the room”) dealt with head on. It’s a fine line between confronting something that is difficult to talk about and doing so with the sensitivity it requires. This takes courage and grace at the same time.

3. Working as a Team

Watch any professional sports team that is working successfully and this becomes apparent. It requires a “pit crew” mentality. Each person on the team backs up, supports, and empowers the others. Their win belongs to each of them. “Your win is my win. Your loss is my loss.” They work together in such a way that extraordinary results take place. They back each other up and they support one another in difficult situations and circumstances. No one gets toppled by little things. Nothing gets in the way. 

4. Honoring Your Word

If this practice doesn’t happen, you can forget the rest. This is simply working towards doing what you say you will do. It’s doing what you know to do, what’s expected, and what you know is right. Everybody knows how to do this ~ the question is, do they do it? Fundamental to this is cleaning it up when you don’t do what you said you would do. Clean it up immediately and move on.

5. Being Complete

The practice of being complete means that you don’t step over the trash. If something needs to be said, dealt with, or cleared up, it gets dealt with right away. The team understands that when you operate on top of issues, resentments, and things unsaid, everything comes to a grinding halt. This one is about getting things complete so they get clear, and there is a level of appreciation maintained by developing the practices of doing so. In sports, you see the guys in the dugout or on the court “high-fiving” each other with each little win throughout the game. This is no different than the importance of validating success and each win in the office.

Summary

Having these five practices in place provides you with the fundamental skills to build a high-performance team. We’ve seen that when teams have these five components working actively, the likelihood of success turns around dramatically from 70% likely to fail to 85% likely to succeed. 

Leadera has a proven track record for successful project implementation when these five principles are utilized and present. We welcome the opportunity to bring the ‘Building a High-Performance Team’ course to your team and align it with the vision and values of your organization. For more information, reach out to us at the emails below. 

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Kevin Cullen is President of Leadera Consulting Group, specializing in producing breakthrough business results. For more information on this course or other business challenges we help you solve, contact us at Leadera Consulting Group.

Kevin Cullen: kcullen@leaderacg.com, cc: acook@leaderacg.com

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The Either/Or Syndrome

We have become very polarized. Our country, as a nation, has become separated through divergent conversations, dialogues, and opinions more so than ever before. It seems to have been heading in that direction for some time, and the emergent participation in social media and less traditional news outlets has raised the volume on and exacerbated our differences. It’s actually gone beyond having different points of view ~ we have begun to dislike and isolate ourselves from those who disagree with us. We’ve become so divided that we’ve lost our ability to discuss, debate, and argue in a dignified way. It seems that we can no longer have differing points of view without it quickly spiraling into personal attacks and becoming offensive toward one another. I call this phenomenon “The Either/Or Syndrome.” How this translates as a practical matter is “it’s either my way (which is right), or it’s your way (which is wrong)” and there’s no room for anything else. We no longer look to find common ground and discover about what the other person’s thinking might be, and whether or not it has value for consideration. It is take it or leave it, and if you leave it, you’re an idiot and I’ll let you know that, too. We have become unsophisticated, awkward, mean, and sometimes vulgar with those whom we disagree. 

Disagreement and debate are at the foundation and traditions of our culture. It’s what has allowed this country to grow, thrive, and keep itself in check for centuries. Yet that is very quickly disintegrating right before our eyes. President Bill Clinton shared a snippet from a book he read called The Big Sort, in which he pointed to this dilemma for us as a nation. He says,

“I read a book a couple of years ago that I recommend to people all the time called The Big Sort by Bill Bishop who is a journalist and, as it happens, a pretty progressive Democrat from Austin, TX. And what provoked him to write this book was his neighborhood in Austin lost its only Republican neighbor. And he loved this guy. And he talked about how their kids played together, and they took walks together. And how much he learned from their arguments, because they didn’t see everything the same way and how much it meant to him to know there was somebody he liked and respected and cared for that he could actually have an honest discussion where neither one of them would be completely predictable. But, he said, I was the only one of our neighbors who was nice to him. Now in their neighborhood in the 2004 presidential election Senator Kerry defeated Pres Bush 3–1. So, the republican guy moves out and moves into another neighborhood in Austin, TX where President Bush defeated Senator Kerry 4–1. And Bishop said, you know both of our neighborhoods were poorer for that.

He pointed out that in 1976 when Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford had a razor thin election, which by the way ultimately culminated in a lifetime friendship between the two of them and lasted until President Ford passed away. But anyway, in that election ~ a 1% election ~ only 20% of America’s counties voted for one or the other of them by 20% or more. Which meant that in 1976, you could go into any coffee shop or hair salon or barber shop or bowling alley and have a conversation with people who didn’t necessarily disagree with you about what was going on in America.

By 2004, when President Bush won the closest re-election margin of any President since Woodrow Wilson in 1916, 48% of our counties voted for one or the other of them by more than 20%. That much movement. So, he said you know America’s making real progress, this Bishop guy said, we’re not as racist as we used to be, we’re not as sexist as we used to be, we’re not as homophobic as we used to be. The only bigotry we have left is that we just don’t want to be around anyone who disagrees with us.” 

The link https://youtu.be/5rjOSfYc5yA

My guess is that you have experienced what Clinton is referring to. We don’t talk and discuss anymore. We speak and don’t listen. And somewhere in all that we miss the opportunity to discover our amazing ability to come to an agreement that’s workable for everyone. It’s as though we’ve taken on a childish style, “If I don’t get my way then I gotta make sure you don’t get yours.”  

Everyone is familiar with the biblical story of King Solomon and the two women who had a baby and couldn’t decide to whom the baby belonged. The King, in frustration, offered his solution and told them they would just split the baby in half and share it. It was his way of showing them the absurdity of not being able to work it out or come to some acceptable solution. It seems that we are unwilling to consider any alternative other than “I’m right.”

For us, the solution to this lives in our ability to have a conversation in which we consider the other’s point of view as valid. Not right or wrong, just valid. In fact, just as valid as our point of view. And from there to begin to see what’s possible in a dialogue focused on what’s possible as the end result. Right now, our elected officials sit at a cool 15% approval rating, mostly because they don’t seem to get anything done, and this is because they disagree and won’t have the tough discussions that need to be had to get to a place where they can agree. So, the conversation shuts down and, just like children, they take their marbles and go home. We can’t let it be resolved as Bill Bishop, author of The Big Sort said, The only bigotry we have left is that we just don’t want to be around anyone who disagrees with us.” It must start with each of us taking a stand to transform the conversation and return to civility.

Kevin Cullen is President of Leadera Consulting Group, specializing in producing breakthrough business results. If you want more on this conversation or the firm, contact us at Leadera Consulting Group.

Kevin Cullen: kcullen@leaderacg.com, cc: acook@leaderacg.com