Managing Trances in Leadership
-Mark Haeussler, CEO
Everyone in leadership is eager for the new idea, the one that challenges the current thinking…right up to the point where it does not align with what we already think. This tendency, to listen for and give greater validity to information that confirms existing beliefs, is known as confirmation bias. No one is immune from this bias. Essentially, anyone can find themselves in a trance, anchored by a current thought. Multiple scientific studies prove it, even if you want to disagree with it.
When we watch a sporting competition, the fans of each side are convinced that the other side committed more fouls. When we listen to our child’s music recital, of course, they were the best. To quote Warren Buffett: “What the human being is best at doing is interpreting all new information so that their prior conclusions remain intact.”
To better manage your confirmation bias, you need to build your leadership muscle to be disturbed. Here is where to start:
Build a more effective leadership presence: Our presence can help people feel safe in being disturbed and it helps us weather being disturbed. For example, the leader’s presence can inform others how important it is to remain in the bias – the agreement racket (“Did you see Mark today? You’d better agree with everything he says.”). Presence includes an ability to quiet our brain andit includes the ability to manage how the body feels disturbed, so that the fight/flight remains managed even if our brain wants to go fight/flight on us.
Develop greater mastery in the language of leadership: Most of leadership is conducted through conversation (and the overused email – ugh!). Consider, how much of your conversations are descriptive of what is occurring or building incremental improvement that actually reinforce existing confirmation biases in the room? Instead, what question or two could actually help disturb people from their current bias? One hint: Avoid starting with “why” as it is the word most likely to send people into the confirmation bias.
Leadership requires influencing people to take risks and step into a new future, while honoring the successes that helped the organization reach its current success. Leadership, through thoughtful presence and language, can welcome new ideas that disturb the status quo, while also sweeping out the last brilliant idea previously once held as so dear, for others, and us, too.
Click here to download a PDF: Managing Trances in Leadership