On Monday, we talked about bias, which is the tendency for our decisions to be influenced by a perspective that we hold. We outlined five biases that often tempt us:
- Confirmation Bias
- Conviction Bias
- Appearance Bias
- Group Bias
- Blame Bias
We use the word “tempt” for an important reason. These biases are universal, but as leaders, we may not succumb to the same ones. For instance, Becky is less inclined to be tempted by Group Bias. She enjoys hearing divergent thoughts and opinions but doesn’t usually feel a pull to accept those ideas, even if she’s the only person in the room who doesn’t hold them. However, she is tempted by Conviction Bias, especially when people share their beliefs as tears rise in their eyes. In Becky’s world, that conviction has to mean something about the belief’s veracity, right?
Regardless of the bias temptation that snares us, one thing is certain—as leaders, we can’t allow our biases to influence our decisions. So how do we minimize their impact?
Know the Temptation.
Monday’s article invited us to explore which biases may tempt us. If you haven’t done so yet, now’s the time to try those exercises. We can’t guard ourselves against a bias that is outside of our awareness. Knowing what tempts us is the beginning of being able to guard against it.
Seek Disconfirming Information.
When we hold beliefs about people or ideas, we should intentionally seek evidence that disconfirms those thoughts. Think Michael Jordan is the greatest basketball player of all time? Watch some videos of Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Jerry West, Kobe Bryant, and Lebron James. We may not change our opinion, but we may find that we hold it more loosely.
Examine What’s Being Said.
Flowery speeches and fiery discourses often mask poorly conceived ideas. Don’t get entranced by the show when someone is sharing their idea. Focus on what’s being said. Ask questions about how the person arrived at their conclusion—test whether it’s supported by evidence. Assess whether a global application of the idea would be healthy.
Focus on Actions, not Appearances.
Appearances can be deceiving. Especially when we allow them to influence our entire opinion of others. Try to avoid making global observations about people, especially in the first meeting. Instead, watch their actions over time. If they consistently demonstrate compassion, then it’s probably safe to say they are compassionate. If they consistently lose their temper, then it’s probably safe to say they struggle with that issue. We shouldn’t let a first impression shape our entire perception.
Get Comfortable with Disagreement.
When we find ourselves disagreeing with others, live in that space for a moment. We often disagree because we have different experiences shaping our opinions. When we too quickly seek points of agreement, we miss a unique opportunity to explore the story behind our disagreement. Those stories are often enlightening, and they allow us to embrace why someone may hold a different belief from us even if we don’t embrace the belief itself. Living in the disagreement also encourages us to explore the story behind our own belief, which is a first step in determining whether our opinion comes from a healthy place or a toxic one. We may find that we should discard a belief, not because we need the validation of the group, but because the belief itself isn’t valid.
Practice Deep Introspection.
It’s easy to blame our mistakes or failures on everyone and everything except us. To avoid that temptation, look at every situation through this lens first: “How would I tell the story if I were the only one responsible?” That’s not to say that other people and circumstances didn’t influence the outcome, but it encourages us to thoroughly explore our role first. That level of introspection is what allows us to identify our mistakes and learn from them.
What’s Next? Revisit your prioritized list of tempting biases and focus on the one that tempts you most. Over the next few days, note when you are tempted by that bias and practice the appropriate minimizing technique.