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.

Rolling out your Plan for World Domination? Do this first!

bullhorn to deliver messages to employees

Is your plan brilliant? Not if they don’t hear it. Three things to consider when delivering a new plan to your team.

Eureka! You’ve done it! You figured out the master plan to explode your team’s revenues, destroy the competition, and single-handedly catapult your company to the head of the Fortune 500 list. But before you roll it out to the troops, here are three things to figure out first! (Details, details,  I know. Clearly I am a killjoy.)

The HOW:

What tool(s) will you use to deliver your brilliant plan? First, consider what you know about your team (henchmen/evil co-conspirators/devoted followers– feel free to select the description that applies to your bunch):

  • Are they readers? Note, I am not asking if they can read, (although in some audiences that is a very important question), I am asking if reading is their first choice for learning new information. Hint: if your team would prefer to listen to “The One Minute Manager” or “Who Moved My Cheese?” on an MP3, they aren’t readers.
  • If they are readers, do you need to sum up the whole idea in 3 bullet points or deliver the plan complete with a story-type framework and pictures? Do they just read “above the fold” (i.e. preview pane only) in an email?
  • Not big readers?  Can you record it in a podcast type format? Or create a video? (Don’t just read from a powerpoint if you create a video, make it interesting, after all, world domination is on the line here!)
  • Do they need an in-person meeting for the information to penetrate? (And will you need to confiscate all of the blackberries, cell phones and technical devices at this meeting?)
  • Will a webinar work? If you use a webinar, will the team multitask throughout the webinar and miss the most salient points? (See below for a Jeanne’s formula of the vector at which the quantity of multitasking during webinars obliterates any and all value of the information being presented).
  • Any special considerations? Need to accommodate an international team and reduce all “slang” and idiomatic language? (Much harder than it may seem.  Go back through these first few bullets and eliminate the American idiomatic language. Good. Now do it again. One more time. Nope, still got some in there.)

The WHO?

Give serious thought to who is the best person to deliver your message. Internal? External? Peer? Computer generated Hologram of a dead celebrity? Consider your options:

  • Should it be delivered by a trainer? Or would it be better to bring an “outsider” in the form of a consultant or third party in to deliver the message? What about having peers or respected colleagues roll it to their teams? Some of the best change teams have influential team members become subject matter experts in key areas of the change plan and help deliver that information from the team. They then become the “go to” people for the team as the team works through the change. This helps the entire team “own” the outcomes right away, and work together through difficulties.
  • If the message will take more than 30 minutes to deliver, consider using multiple presenters, if only to vary the type of voice and to keep the team awake. It is the rare individual who is fascinating for more than 20 minutes (ever notice that TED talks are short? And those folks are pretty darn fascinating).
  • If the message is vital to the ongoing success of the team’s mission, of such critical nature that life as the team knows it is about to change, make sure you rehearse that delivery several times. (Back to those TED talks folks, you do know they rehearse it right? And that they work with consultants to help them with their delivery when they make it to the “big” conference?) If possible, get some non-team members to critique it (spouses, kids and friends in other fields come in handy here) to punch some holes in it. They may not know all the technical terms but they will know when you’re boring, vague, or delivering bravado without substance. Try teenagers who are not feeling too kindly towards you at the moment. They will not pull their punches.

The FOLLOW UP:

And now that you’ve laid out your brilliant plan…

vector of listening vs absorption in a presentation

You will have a “need for speed” if laying out your master plan in a room full of multitasking listeners!

  1. How are you going to make sure that the team begins to act on what they learned? Ending a rousing presentation with “Go Forth and Conquer” is good, but not if they forget to “Conquer” because they stopped off at the 2:1 Happy Hour immediately afterwards.
  2. Is there a follow up plan to reinforce the plan within smaller groups/teams in the coming months?
  3. Is there a way to measure the participation of different sub groups in the plan? If the work flow goes Team A to Team B to Team C, nothing may be coming out of Team C but it may be because Team B isn’t playing by the new rules. Figure out how you’ll check for effectiveness.
  4. Did you plan any sort of recognition or public acclaim for those who embrace the plan and drive results? Better yet did you get the “buy in” of a few highly respected, key team members to visibly model the behaviors you’re looking for before you even rolled the plan? (For advice on who you want, read this.) You want to make sure the thought leaders and star players are on board because if the only people following the new plan are your “weaker” players, this sort of recognition will backfire.
book by Jeanne Goldie

Speed Read an Organization with our Easy Guide

Even if your plan doesn’t quite resemble world domination, you still want to work out these key items before you roll out any major changes to your team.  Need to know what else to consider before changing things up at the office? Read our 10.5 rules on turnaround here.  If you’d like our free guide, Reading the Terrain which helps you “speed read” an organization, just sign up for our weekly newsletter.

What else do you think you need to consider? share your thoughts in the comment section. Or feel free to share your plan for world domination and we’ll critique it.

The Sunday Night Dreads: 5 ways to shake them. Starting Today

 

sunday night burnout

Looking forward to Monday?

A common phenomenon for many corporate and non-profit professionals is the “Sunday Night Dreads”. A combination of burnout, frustration, fear and a sinking feeling in your stomach, it occurs when you dread going back to work on Monday. And you know you’ve hit rock bottom when the “Sunday Night Dreads” morph into the “Saturday mid-afternoon blues” or even worse, the “Saturday Ten A.M. slump.” The “Dreads” are usually temporarily cured with large quantities of television viewing, the addictive substance of your choice (from chocolate to the hard stuff), some form of antacid and a healthy sprinkling of denial until morning rolls around. But what if that’s not working anymore? Here’s a hint, it never was working. What can you do about it?

1. Change your Venue.

Sometimes it’s just time to go. Pick up stakes and get the heck out. That means replacing the dread time with resume building / networking / “asking for a conversation” time with people who are in an industry or job role that gets you excited again. Better yet, assign some time on Saturday morning to do this so you can rest easy on Sunday night with a few conversations scheduled for the following week. But before you go, read on, because sometimes your junk will just follow you to the next venue.

2. Build a Better set of Allies.

Current thinking is that you (and your income) are the average of the five people you surround yourself with the most. Your five may be co-workers, friends, drinking buddies or your family but it could be time to upgrade. I don’t recommend ditching your spouse and kids (they can get kind of sensitive about that) but it may be time to change who you socialize with. Who is doing what you want to do? How did they get there? Petulant answers like “Their father was the CEO and he bought them a position” get you nowhere, pick a different person and don’t be so quick to dismiss everyone as “not worthy”. What do they do in their day that is materially different than how you spend your time in a day? Look at your team members who also appear to be successful and very different from you. Is there something they’re doing you might be willing to try? Get to know them and see if you have some common ground. If your current set of allies is only, and perhaps with the best of intentions, reinforcing your “stuck” feeling, you need to expand your horizons. One of my most motivational moments ever was when I realized that a colleague I considered a moron was making significantly more income than I was. My normal default would be to decry the “unfairness” of it all, topped off with a soothing declaration of what a much better human being I am. Instead, I simply resolved that if that “moron” could make that kind of income, I could do much better than she/he did. And the following year I did.

3. Change One Thing this Week.

And another next week. Can you change just one small thing this week on how you spend your time or who you talk to? Maybe change the way you deal with difficult conversations at work. If you normally dodge them, confront them head on (some suggestions here). Can you take a walk/run/workout for 30 minutes? And can you listen to a TED Talk or business book during that time? Can you set aside 15 minutes to talk to someone different at work, perhaps in a different business line or with a different background?   Make one small change this week, one that takes 30 minutes or less. And then keep building on it each week. There’s some science showing that a series of small “micro” changes can actually lead to more lasting success than massive “overnight” changes. Take 2 minutes right now to write down that tiny change you’ll make this week. And stick it on a post it and look at it on Sunday night. And then do it Monday morning. And stick a reminder in your calendar for Wednesday to make sure you followed through.

4. Throw Yourself into Something Totally New, and a little Strange, that you may Suck at.

We tend to stay in one set of activities or line of learning. If we’re athletic we do sports, watch sports and coach sports. Academically inclined? They know you at the local library, Amazon Book delivery has your number and PBS counts on you for every pledge drive. What if you were to do something you were NOT likely to excel at on your first try? I’m all for playing to your strengths, and believe that 95% of the time you should, but to shake up your thinking you need to have “beginner’s brain” in one aspect of your life. If you’re an engineer take a public speaking class (maybe you’re great at public speaking, if you are, how do you feel about modern dance?). Do something that your friends, tribe, allies would say “Well that’s about the last thing I’d expect him/her to do”  Try Tai chi, play an instrument, join a Table Tennis league, learn a computer programming language, learn Tagalog. Try something where you are Rank Amateur and do it in a setting that involves other people. It will have you talking and engaging with people you normally don’t interact with and “wake up” your brain to other possibilities you haven’t considered. In a tiny way it changes the “Story of You.”  You are now a chemical engineer who also is a dancer. A marketer who is learning computer programming. A top performing salesman who speaks Tagalog.  Open your brain, change your story and see where it leads. And talk to the people you meet while you’re learning. You may find that one of them is the connection you need to start your next career adventure.

5. “If you can’t be with the job you love, love the one you’re with”, by changing it to suit your needs.

What if you could reinvent the place you currently work at to be your dream job? Can you create an entrepreneurial startup inside of the corporate structure? Create a new product or strategy that will increase revenue or reduce costs? Is there a product or project that you, the top salesperson, with an elementary  command of  conversational Tagalog, are the perfect person to take on? Is there a win-win situation where you and your employer can both grow, change and create something entirely new? We’ll be talking a lot about intrapreneurship and reinvention in the next few weeks so subscribe at right to catch the articles.

Got a friend who’s ready to “end it all” every Sunday evening? Do them a favor and forward this article to them. And let me know in the comments what you decided to do this week. (Even it was breaking into the jar of chocolate frosting in the pantry and sticking potato chips in it. Yup, been there, done that. It doesn’t work and it’s pretty disgusting after awhile. But, hey, do what you got to do).

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 at right. And no, we won’t spam you, you’ll just get our weekly update of articles.

Rule #5: Find your Allies

It takes a village, pick the right villagers to gather their pitchforks and join you!

It takes a village, pick the right villagers to gather their pitchforks and join you!

Every great caper takes a team (see The Sting, Ocean’s Eleven, Trading Places).  There may be someone leading the charge but it takes a village to pull off a victory. Smart change agents make sure they have the right villagers charging by their side. Here’s some to start looking for right now:

  1. EF Hutton: No, not the real E.F. Hutton (he’s deceased, be very, very worried if he shows up). You need the “opinion leader,” a team member with enough gravitas, experience and respect from the other team members that they pay attention when this person speaks.  In his book, The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, John Maxwell describes in “The Law of E.F. Hutton” that the person who is the “real” leader of the team is most likely not the official leader. When they speak, everyone listens.  Get this person on your side and you’ve won half the war.
  2. The Human Calculator: You know this person. They can calculate it all in their head, run data up, down and sideways and spit it out in record time. They look at data and see patterns others miss, usually saving you a few serious mistakes.  And it’s effortless for them, like breathing.
  3. The Historian: The Historian knows everything that has been tried before and may even know where the bodies were buried. Sometimes this person can be a bit of an Eeyore (“Well Sonny, we tried that in aught eight but it just didn’t fly”). The historian you’re looking for is the one who remembers bits and pieces of systems and research that were built for other projects that just might be useful and knows who worked on those projects.  You slice a great deal of learning curve by talking to people who have tried similar things.
  4. The Top Producer/Chief Rainmaker/Revenue Generating Machine: Often this person will be a contender for the EF Hutton slot but if not, they are a valuable source of feedback on what works and what doesn’t.
  5. The Fixer:  The backbone of many teams. This person can take a statement like “IT says it will take 200 hours to build the interface so they can’t get to it until next year,” roll the situation through their head and come out with “Okay, the platform they’re using in sprocket accounting is nearly the exact thing that we want and they have lots of bandwidth because we really only care about counting widgets here. They also have a student intern this summer, let’s hijack the intern and see if we can copy over the system and have the intern recode the smaller piece that needs to be changed.”  This is also the person that knows that Mary in Customer Service is dying to change her job and move into project management so she’ll volunteer her time for any task or project that might get her closer to that goal. They have lots of people’s cell numbers and can get them to answer day, night or holidays. They usually talk 800 miles per hour and you can see the wheels turning when they do.  They have lots of favors on deposit in the favor bank.  Very handy to have in your corner.
  6. The Front Person: This is your smooth talker. Speaking in perfect “corporate-speak” they are the official face of your change. They need to be well liked, reasonably respected and easily able to talk their way to those at the top of the house.
  7. The Executive Sponsor:  In an ideal world you’ll have an upper level sponsor who stands behind what you’re trying to do. You’ve convinced them of the importance of the plan and they have the will and ability to pull resources from other departments to help jumpstart your plan. They also are the first to back your Front Guy when they’re presenting to the top of the house. If you don’t have an executive sponsor, you will absolutely need to have #4 in your corner.

Draft each one of these players on your team well before you make any public announcements about your planned changes.  It’s usually going to take drinks, lunch or coffee for you to get them on board.  Be prepared to change your plan based on the feedback they give you. Let them punch holes in it and knock it around a bit. You’ll end up with a better plan.

What other team members have you found invaluable when you’re creating a change? Share your suggestions in the comments section.

P.S. If you’ve ever wanted a great explanation of exactly how Billy Ray Valentine and Louis Winthorpe III beat the Duke brothers on the commodities floor in Trading Places listen here.

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

book by Jeanne Goldie

Speed Read an Organization with our Easy Guide

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© Jeanne Goldie 2015