One of these things is not like the others…and confirmation bias will make sure it doesn’t get the job.

confirmation bias part two

According to the HBR, when you only have one non-traditional candidate in your hiring pool, that candidate has zero statistical chance of being hired.

Confirmation Bias Strikes Again.

When a business stalls or encounters serious problems, it is often the very “team” that gave it strength that now is part of the roadblock to creating innovative solutions.  Most businesses tend to hire employees from very similar backgrounds, whether socio-economic, schooling, or even geography.  It can narrow their perspective and also create an effect where there is deadly “group think.”  This is usually thought to be a result of the players being so “comfortable” with each other that they don’t challenge each other’s assumptions, and tend to draw the same conclusions. (Real-life examples of the type of “group think” turnaround featured in the classic “Twelve Angry Men” are rarer than we’d like to believe.)

A recent study published in the Harvard Business Review points out an even more insidious barrier to change, even among those companies that may be trying to diversify their teams.  It’s a long, but fascinating read….and you better have at least two people with a different perspective if you want to turn that jury around.

If there’s only one woman (or ethnically diverse or non-college educated or under-represented “fill in the blank here” candidate) in your candidate pool, there’s statistically almost no chance she’ll be hiredRead it here. The good news? Adding just one other non-traditional  candidate radically increases the statistical probability that a non-traditional candidate will be hired.

We’ve talked about how confirmation bias can limit your ability to correctly identify your problems here and why project teams need diverse viewpoints. Need to see just how homogenous your team is? Grab our “Reading the Terrain” field guide here. The pointed questions will help you view a very familiar place with fresh eyes.

#3 of 3 Great Reasons why what Worked for you Before, isn’t Working Now.

rapid rise and descent of a business strategy

Your strategy was working great, then it stopped? Here’s three reasons why it may have stopped working

It was Working.

Now it’s not working.

Why?

It’s hard to continually grow success. With rare exceptions, the line to the top of the success platform is more often a series of “one step forward, two steps back, a side step, a loop de loop,” and then, finally, “up we go”. One of the most difficult things to come to terms with in both business and personal life is when something that had worked so well for you previously is now not only not working, but may actually be working against you.

So why isn’t it working?

Joined us in the middle? See Reason #1 and Reason #2

Reason #3. Your product is wearing the wrong clothes.

Your product/business/idea may be great, but it may be dressed in the wrong packaging for your intended audience. Now this isn’t usually the main driver, but can be why growth has stalled. What do “the wrong clothes” look like?

  • Your high tech/impulse purchase product isn’t optimized for mobile access, or you created a high tech mobile product for a “not very high tech” audience. You may have reached the saturation point for the people that recognized your product in the space it is in, but you may be missing a much larger market that is playing in another playground.
  • Your choice of market place isn’t reaching the maximum audience.  Are you a retail store? Are you in a indoor mall? How is your foot traffic vs the foot traffic at a strip center (and yes, it was a very different story 10 years ago)? Or maybe you’re a business website with a non-visual based business who is doing all your marketing over on Pinterest.  Blogging when your audience wants podcasts? It may not be that you’re located in a bad place, you just may not be located in the optimal place.
  • Your packaging doesn’t match what your audience’s expectations. Are you a luxury business with a pre-canned, pre-formatted word template for everything from invoices to your website that reeks of beginning Microsoft 101? Is your website loaded with “Coming soon” and a copyright date of 2011 running across the bottom?

 Well that’s just great, Jeanne. So what do I do now, Little Ms. Fix it?

Read our next article, Charging Back Uphill, Blasting out of a Stall. 

book by Jeanne Goldie

Speed Read an Organization with our Easy Guide

And in the meantime, if you haven’t already done so, subscribe to our free weekly newsletter and get a your copy of “Reading the Terrain, A field guide for speed reading the Corporate landscape” instantly. It may help you identify some critical mismatches between where you think you are and how those on the outside see your business.  And no, we’re not going to sell your email address to others. Or bombard you with insta offers. We’re just going to send your our newsletter that helps you navigate in a time of constant change.

 

 

Is your “Confirmation Bias” Backing you into a Corner?

are your confirmation biases blinding you?

Confirmation Bias + Misplaced focus = Epic Failure

Confirmation Bias is a common phenomenon where humans view large quantities of evidence and choose to give greater weight (or even all the weight) to those items that support their theories. Think of it as a recipe for disaster:

Confirmation bias + Excess focus on the areas we know best (regardless of their importance)Epic Failures a.k.a. Projects that consume a ton of energy and yield little in the way of results.

In her recent book, “The Upside of Down” Megan McArdle gives two great examples of “confirmation bias”, one dealing with the “Truthers” who claim the 9/11 bombings were a secret government project and the other example an examination of how different groups view the reasons for the recent financial crisis, each “team” selecting the evidence that support their theory and rejecting other bits of evidence.

Lately it has become easier and easier for all of us to ignore or reject information that runs contrary to our internal views. Depending on your politics you can select a news channel that will then present the news in a slant that will endlessly confirm your world view. Any dissenting opinions will be cut off, minimized or mocked.  The speed at which an internet based news society disseminates information also allows for a minimum of in-depth journalism, much less fact checking.

Unfortunately we do that inside of the business world as well. Labels such as “negative,” “nit-picky” or “impractical” can be accurate, but they can also be used to ignore dissent, or worse yet, critical red flags. As a business leader, if you’re committed to doing great things, you need to be open to listening to your critics. There may be a nugget of gold in there.

Years ago I worked at a dot com. After working there for several months, I was told we’d be launching free websites for real estate agents, then charging for them at some distant later point. Having come from an accounting background I asked some questions about the timing of the future revenues vs. the cost of extending the free sites for an indefinite time. I remember being told very clearly (and somewhat condescendingly,) that I “didn’t understand the model.” I went home that evening, questioning myself, my brain, even my ability to function in a changing world. I ran the numbers, researched other similar models, and calculated the rough costs of the tens of thousands of dollars I knew that the company was spending each day. (Our “burn rate” was to the tune of about 500K per week). I decided I was simply “not getting it” clearly a dinosaur unprepared for the new world of the internet based business model. I was 33 years old and a dinosaur.

I was wrong. I understood the model. The company, however, did not. They shut down 8 months later, having been unable to convert the “business model” into a sustainable business fast enough. The investors were unwilling to provide any more funds as well. They apparently didn’t understand the “business model” either.

As you create your plan, your vision, listen to the dissenters. Ask questions, probe for why. Punch holes in your own plan. Play devil’s advocate and picture a model that operates on entirely different assumptions than the model you chose. Why is your model more valid? Where are your confirmation biases? When you’ve uncovered them, and examined the dissenting evidence and factored it into the model, that’s when you’re ready to begin!

Need some more ideas on how to make sure your project is ready to go? Start here.

Worried about your blind spots? Read this.

Afraid you aren’t seeing the bubble you live in? Try this.

book by Jeanne Goldie

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3 Things you Must do before Every Meeting

Brandon Smith

Brandon Smith: The Workplace Therapist is In!

This week’s guest post is from Brandon Smith, aka The Workplace Therapist! His unique take on the workplace is not to be missed.

Today’s Topic: Three Things You Must do Before Every Meeting:

It is sad, really.  Every working day, the majority of us suffer from worthless and painful meetings that should have been avoided.  These are those meetings that, with a little bit of intentionality, could have been scrubbed dysfunction-free.  So what kinds of meetings am I talking about?  Consider these particularly “dirty” gatherings that could have been made clean with a little pre-meeting hygiene:

“The ‘what’s the point’ meeting” – While you sit quietly in attendance, the question “what is the point of this meeting?” plays continuously in your head like a bad Pink song.  No matter how hard you try, you can’t shake it.  The more you resist, the louder it gets.  As a result, you find concentrating nearly impossible.  When it’s all over, you leave the meeting confused and angry.  Another hour of your life gone forever.

“The birthday party” – The birthday party is a common meeting trap.  The meeting organizer starts with a small list of attendees and quickly the list grows to include everyone he or she knows.  There is little thought put into who needs to be in attendance.  Rather the thinking is something more akin to planning a festive gala.  The organizer thinks to him or herself, “The more people who come, the better.  And who knows?  They might bring food.”  You know you are in one of these meetings when you look around the room and after trying to find the commonality with you and the other fifteen attendees, you say to yourself, “why am I here?”  Pass another piece of cake.

“The ‘I’m gonna be fired’ meeting” – We all know the type.  The person who leaves you a voicemail that simply says, “Call me back.  We need to talk.”  Vague and mysterious, these individuals refuse to tell you what they want to talk about, ever.  As a result, your mind spins every time they make a request to connect.  “What did I forget to do?  Did I say something I shouldn’t have?  What could they possibly be angry with me about?”  They create an anxiety whirlwind in our minds as we begin to plot out worst-case scenarios.  When these people schedule meetings, they do the same thing.  No agenda.  No objective.  Nothing other than a meeting request.  And if the person is your boss, in the back of your mind you wonder, “Am I going to be fired?”  Wasted anxiety and worry that accomplishes nothing other than elevating your blood pressure and shortening your life expectancy.

So how do you avoid these messy meetings?  Simple.  Consider the following prescription on proper pre-meeting hygiene.  Rub-a-dub-dub.

  1. Decide the purpose or objective.  Before calling any meeting, ask yourself “what do I want to get out of the meeting?”  Most meetings are either informational (you’re just wanting to keep all attendees informed with what’s going on) or decision-making (you need folks in the meeting to reach a decision) or both.  Write down your objective in one line.  If you can do that, you are ready for the next step.  If you can’t, do you really need to have a meeting?
  2. Identify who should attend.  Less is always more when it comes to meetings.  Steelcase, a company known for office furniture, has been in the business of studying and providing solutions to make workspaces better for over 100 years.  In their workplace research, they found that the most productive meetings are with three people.  Not five.  Not eight.  Three people.  When was the last time you were in a three person meeting?  There is a natural temptation to expand meeting attendee lists.  This person may need to hear what is said.  That person could have something to contribute.  He’ll be offended if I don’t invite him.  So, before you end up with a party on your hands, seriously consider who is in attendance.  If you are struggling to narrow your list, consider the hourly rates represented in the room.  When I walk into a meeting of ten people, I don’t see productivity.  All I see is thousands of dollars being wasted.  Maybe that’s the contractor coming out in me.  Time is money.  You’ll know you have a good final list when you can say, “This is a good use of the resources I have at my disposal.”  In other words, if it was your cash, you wouldn’t hesitate to pay to have those people in the room.
  3. Send out a meeting agenda at least 24 hrs prior.  No one likes mysterious meetings.  If you’ve been reading this blog, you’ve read one of my many mantras: “In absence of communication, people always assume the worst.”  In absence of meeting agendas and objectives, people will naturally assume the worst.  As a result, the worrying begins resulting in a total waste of mental and emotional energy.  Avoid this by sending out any meeting agenda complete with meeting objective at least 24hours in advance.  This also allows you to clearly spell out what preparation you expect attendees to have made prior to the meeting (Ex: “Come prepared to discuss the attached budget,” “Come prepared to review your department’s accomplishments last week,” etc…).

The steps above are simple and obvious and yet very few meetings qualify as “clean” based on the above criteria.  So, do you and your team members a favor and show up all cleaned up and ready to go.  And spread the word.  All it takes is one badly planned meeting to stink up the place.  Yuck.

 

Brandon Smith is a therapist, professor, consultant and radio host, Brandon Smith brings an upbeat, witty approach to the challenges of workplace health and dysfunction. He blogs at www.theworkplacetherapist.com and is a regular guest on public radio.

Pull the Tooth.

rotten tooth

Ignore at your own Peril

What aren’t you doing? What are you spending all your time, your energy, your thinking, and inevitably, your business resources, NOT doing?

There’s always one thing. And it takes a ton of time and energy to ignore it, work around it,  to sidestep it. We procrastinate, or worse yet, design elaborate ways to avoid doing that one thing.

Maybe you need to cut off the client that makes you crazy. Maybe you need to fire someone. Maybe you need to admit that the plan just isn’t working. Do you need to make a sales call you dread? Remedy a customer situation that went sideways? Tell an employee they’re not cutting it? Find a new supplier? Admit that the big number you’ve kept on the “Accounts Receivable” ledger, just isn’t ever going to be paid?

What would happen if you did it today? Yes, there might be some pain, or even a little bloodshed. But in the end, you’ll be able to focus on what you need to do to go forward. And you will be amazed at all the time, energy and space “pulling the tooth” will free up.

Just do it. Today.

book by Jeanne Goldie

Speed Read an Organization with our Easy Guide

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Speed Read your Work Environment, Today

Can you see what's going on around you?

Can you see what’s going on around you?

Ever think you might be missing the forest for the trees? Once you’re immersed in an organizational culture, you sometimes don’t even notice the quirks or unique habits of your environment.

What’s funny is that on the very first day you worked in the new environment you may have even spotted some key takeaways, but most likely  you didn’t fully process them or act upon them. (Okay, you may have slightly tweaked the way you dress but that’s usually about it for most people).

Our Free “Field Guide” gives you some key questions to help widen your view beyond your department or division. It covers topics as diverse as “Power Players” “Who’s Buying, Who’s Paying, Who’s Watching”, “Revenue Streams” “People Culture” “Technology” “Bomb Dropping”  and many other areas that help you truly understand the big picture.

You can get the guide for free, just sign up for our weekly newsletter in the subscription box at the right. We won’t mail bomb you, or share your email address. You’ll get a copy of the guide and our weekly updates of new articles.

Here’s a sample section:

Radioactive Fallout (aka “We tried that before” or “Previous Adventures in Change”)  

  1. What other change initiatives have been tried recently?  Are any similar to what you have planned?
  2. What were the results? Did anything actually change?
  3. What were the other consequences of the change; were there layoffs, staff cutbacks, staff reorganizations?
  4. Is “Change for Change’s Sake” a regular occurrence? How seriously is it taken?
  5. Does the team have a “set point?” a behavior or path of action they consistently revert back to when there is a problem with a change strategy or when the official “change period” is over?
  6. How quickly does the team come up with “workarounds” to avoid dealing with change? Is this the normal pattern?
  7. What is the persistent story around change in this organization (i.e. “Always leads to layoffs”  “ Screws everything up and then they go back to how it was”  “Another round of idiot consultants here to make money and make us miserable” )
  8. Does the culture favor real change or does it prefer band aids, quick fixes, and fluff (aka lots of marketing and branding fury signifying nothing).

If you don’t know where or what the “Elephants and Sacred Cows” are at your office, do yourself a favor and grab the guide.

book by Jeanne Goldie

Speed Read an Organization with our Easy Guide

It’s Free, and it will take 30 seconds of your time. I guarantee it will open your eyes to at least one thing you may not have considered before.

And if you have a friend struggling at work, make their day better and forward this link to them!

 

Following some Mighty Bad Footsteps; How to avoid the Landmines!

Choose your actions carefully when you are the replacement for a weak leader

Choose your actions carefully when you are the replacement for a weak leader

Bob Whipple gives some great suggestions for leaders who take on an organization or department after a previously bad leader…great info!

Here’s the link.

Thinking about making a move? Size up your Corporate Landscape or any other company you may be thinking of moving to by using our free guide, Reading the Terrain. Get your copy today by putting your email address in the subscription box. And no, we won’t spam you, you’ll just get our weekly update of articles.

Humiliation, Rat Poison and a Freight Train

Getting your point across and a few things to do and NOT DO if you’re following the Fulton County Rat Poison lady and a freight train rolls through…

Never Follow the Fulton County Rat Poison Lady

Never Follow the Fulton County Rat Poison Lady

Nearly fifteen years ago I was in charge of the launch of an ambitious, somewhat controversial, government funded housing program.  The program was designed to revitalize several Atlanta neighborhoods that had struggled long after forced “urban revitalization” had been inflicted upon them (via a major superhighway or two driven right through their homes).   We were doing multiple presentations each evening, and this was the fourth of the night. The dog and pony roadshows would continue for nearly two months, five shows a night at audiences around the city, held in community centers, schools and libraries. Most of the audiences were not delighted to see my team, suspecting that we, too, might be about to ram a superhighway through their homes.  My team and I held our breath before each meeting, never knowing what we’d encounter.

When I got to the meeting, I was informed I had only 3 minutes to deliver the entire message.  Checking the agenda, I realized that I was following a representative from the Fulton County Health department.  Her topic, which was eagerly followed by all present, was on how to get rid of rats that had been invading the neighborhood after a recent sewer problem.  As an added incentive, she had brought free samples of rat poison with her and would be distributing them at the end of the meeting.

As an animal lover, I wasn’t too keen on the whole “poison the rats” bit but hey, my opinion didn’t matter. My job was to be as non-confrontational as possible in all of my interactions with the public.  So I didn’t mention that I had kept mice as pets all through junior high and stood up to begin my speech.

As I took the stage I was once again reminded that I only had three minutes. I opened my mouth to begin the semi-reassuring spiel we had perfected when faced with hostile audiences. No sooner had I introduced myself than an incredibly loud freight train came roaring through.  Endlessly.  Complete with multiple horn blasts as it crossed two nearby intersections.

I glanced over at the time moderator. She pointed to her watch. Panicking, I promptly stuck foot in mouth. I mentioned I had grown up in NY (a BIG “no-no” in the Deep South), raised my voice and plowed through with my presentation, over the noise of the train. It was a close contest on decibel level but ultimately, I won. (We grow ‘em loud in NY!)

To say it went over like a lead balloon is an understatement. Out of the corner of my eye, as I was nearly trampled by the crowd eagerly pushing past me to get their rat poison samples, I saw a member of our board who had been in the audience gently shaking her head.  I knew I had failed.  Best of all, I had to climb back into my Geo Tracker and drive onto one more presentation. One more shot at disaster.

By 7 a.m. my boss had a voice mail from the board member who had been in the audience. Fortunately my message explaining what had gone wrong was lobbed in at 11:57 the night before.  And after a short, red-faced discussion with my boss, (who fortunately had been to many similar meetings before and probably had an epic failure or two under his belt) I was able to carry on. The project launch was very successful, and the board member and I are now close friends, and can now laugh about it. Since that evening I have given presentations in front of crowds greater than 1000, containing furious stakeholders and investigative reporters all without a hitch. None has ever been as scary as driving back from my encounter with the Rat Poison Queen.

But what should I have done?

  1. I should have stood my ground quietly, and silently, while the freight train passed.
  2. Once it was through, should have looked sweetly at the time keeper and in my best adopted Southern drawl assure her that I would now keep to three minutes.
  3. Retaken control of the audience by standing silently and then beginning fresh.
  4. Delivered my presentation for the three minutes allotted.
  5. Stood back and let the crowd at the Rat Poison.  Don’t ever stand between a crowd and the main event.
  6. Later, in the privacy of the trusty  Geo Tracker, sung “New York, New York” in my best Ed Koch imitation as I drove to the next presentation. (Okay, maybe should skip that part but it did occur to me as I shook and trembled the whole way to the final presentation of the evening, knowing I needed to put in a very unpleasant call to my boss. Bravado is a New Yorker’s middle name.)

Have you ever blown a presentation?  What do YOU do when your planned presentation has a mishap? Or when your 20 minute presentation is being condensed to 5 minutes on 30 seconds notice? Have any strong feelings on the pros or cons of rat poison? Feel free to share in the comments section.

book by Jeanne Goldie

Speed Read an Organization with our Easy Guide

Thinking about making a move? Size up your Corporate Landscape or any other company you may be thinking of moving to by using our free guide, Reading the Terrain. Get your copy today by putting your email address in the subscription box. And no, we won’t spam you, you’ll just get our weekly update of articles.

Rule #7: Locate the Elephants

How do you navigate operational change when there's an elephant in the room?

How do you navigate operational change when there’s an elephant in the room?

Almost every business has an elephant or two; the problem everyone pretends isn’t there. How do you successfully create change without the elephant crushing your plans?

Elephants can take many forms. They can be a troubled department that creates a permanent roadblock, or a dysfunctional team.  Sometimes they can be a poor technology choice, where the cost was so great replacement is prohibitive but functionality is far less than optimal. Other times the elephant is the ghost of past decisions, a bad outsourcing decision, or a poor acquisition.  In a smaller firm it might be a ledger full of “accounts payable” where the elephant is that those accounts are likely to never pay, but no one takes them off the books because the reality would just be too bleak if they were removed.

In many workplace cultures, pointing out the elephant is actively discouraged.  In some rare cases, it’s career suicide. Pointing out problems can be viewed as negative, or whining, so sometimes it’s best to figure out what the elephants are, and how you’ll work around them in your strategy rather than charge the elephant head on.

Creating a strategy that derives results that may allow the group to put the elephant to rest is a win-win. If you do decide to “tackle the elephant” head on, it’s critical that you have strong supporters, a great plan and a reasonable timeline. When you create your strategy you may not name the elephant in your plan, but you need to absolutely account for it in your design.

Have you ever had to work around the elephant in the room? How did you conquer it? Share in the comments below…

Want to see all 10 Rules for Beginning a Turnaround? Start here.

book by Jeanne Goldie

Speed Read an Organization with our Easy Guide

Our Guide: Reading the Terrain: A Short Field Guide to Understanding the Corporate Landscape, will give you some great observational questions to help you identify the obvious and not so obvious elephants.  Get it free when you subscribe to our site! Simply put your email in the box at right. We will send you site updates and will not share your address with anyone.

 

© Jeanne Goldie 2015