The Finance Leader Podcast

089: Become a Better Leader by Checking Your Bias

June 07, 2022 Stephen McLain Season 10 Episode 9
The Finance Leader Podcast
089: Become a Better Leader by Checking Your Bias
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Show Notes Transcript

As a leader, you will make many decisions. You will have choices to make. But how do you guard yourself against bias? How do you ensure fairness in opportunity and in how your team is treated? We must be aware of any bias we have both, conscious and subconscious, to ensure all have the opportunity if they do the hard work to improve themselves and to be ready for the next level. Further, we need to check our bias in all problem-solving activities and projects.

Episode outline:

  1. Building trust is the cornerstone of leadership,
  2. Root causes of our bias,
  3. Confirmation bias reinforces our own position, and
  4. How do we overcome bias?



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Stephen McLain:

As a leader, you will make many decisions you will have choices to make. But how do you guard yourself against bias? How do you ensure fairness and opportunity and how your team is treated? We must be aware of any bias we have both conscious and subconscious to ensure all have the opportunity if they do the hard work to improve themselves, and to be ready for the next level. Further, we need to check our bias in all problem solving activities and projects. And how do you avoid letting your experiences steer you in the wrong direction when it shouldn't be helping you? Please enjoy the episode. Welcome to the finance leader podcast where leadership is bigger than the numbers. I am your host, Stephen McLean. This is the podcast for developing leaders in finance and accounting. Please consider following me on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn. My usernames and the links are in this episode's show notes. And also please join the Facebook group I have for this podcast community. Thank you. This is episode number 89. And I'll be talking about eliminating bias in our decision making. And I'll highlight the following topics. Number one building trust is the cornerstone of leadership. Number two root causes of our bias. Number three, confirmation bias reinforces our own position, and for how do we overcome bias. The United States Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said, I think unconscious bias is one of the hardest things to get at this week, we need to have an important conversation around bias. We all have some kind of bias or how we view situations through filters that we may not even be aware of. Leadership requires fairness and understanding of any bias we may have even unconscious bias. Our bias, especially when unchecked, may lead us to decisions that are unfair and wrong and could do harm to others. We have to be aware, we have to pay attention to how we are speaking to people and how we treat them. We all need reflection time on how we interacted with others. Did we do the right thing? Can we do better bias as attributing or giving weight to unfounded positions or opinions based on the actions of one or maybe a few individuals? A bias can be built or instilled by our earliest interactions with people and ideas. And it comes from many sources like how we were raised by our friends, what we watched on TV, what we read, And the basic tenants of our life philosophy. What content are you consuming that may be altering your filter or worldview lens? bias isn't only contained to how we treat people, and how we enforce policies, but also bias creeps into our analysis and decision making when evaluating our company's strategy. When evaluating capital projects, and incremental revenue opportunities, how does our bias affect our ability to analyze a project we have to continually guard ourselves against groupthink, which is when the group of people you work with attaches themselves to an idea or a philosophy that is not allowed to be challenged. Even when that philosophy is blatantly wrong. Groupthink thrives when you cannot challenge the status quo, or challenge a basic belief in the organization. Confirmation bias leads us to seek favorable facts are ideas that support our beliefs and ignores anything that challenges us to think or believe differently. This is a common approach to building an argument. And then we conveniently leave out anything that goes against our thinking. We leave out irrelevant facts when they don't support our argument or our agenda, not only in leading people can we be biased, but also in our financial modeling our projections, and how we develop our business strategy, economic or market conditions may be different by how we believe we see them. If we don't look for opposing or challenging sources, we may lead our analysis in the wrong direction, which could lead to disaster for our company's future. Do the research and be open to being wrong about your assumptions, and what facts you are using self awareness in our thinking and in our actions will actually free us to act responsibly and with fairness, I often read through social media posts written by people different from me, and who view the world with a different lens. It serves to help me expand my own thinking regarding issues that I am not experiencing personally or seeing issues from a place that I am not at. It's an exercise to expand my knowledge and understanding about other people who have a different viewpoint. Different does not mean wrong, different can maybe get us all to a better place that we have not considered before. That's how we move forward. That's how we open minds and consider issues from many different viewpoints. Now let's talk about eliminating bias in our leadership and decision making. Number one, building trust is the cornerstone of leadership. As leaders, we must be building trust immediately and constantly, our decisions will be interpreted no matter what. So we need to have conversations tough conversations continually about performance and expectations, document your decisions and assessments. Not only would this help you record what is happening, it will also help you become more self aware of what and maybe why you are leading the way you are, be descriptive in your documentation. And if you find that you cannot justify a decision fairly, then you may have to reevaluate your process and your mindset. When we communicate more openly in our team members see that your actions match your words, you will find that a more trustworthy relationship we'll develop number two root causes of our bias. Why do we have bias? Is it baked in over the years? Where do we get our thought process? Well, we have several sources of how we think and how we perceive the world. It always begins to where and how we were raised and what influences we had as children. That includes parents, teachers, coaches, friends, church, and after school influences, what books we read, And what culture we were immersed in. These influences become our filters and lenses and how we see the world. What we consume also becomes who we are. So it's important to guard ourselves and what we read what we see and who we listen to. These influences can begin to rewire our thinking processes, and how we decipher information. It is said we are the combination of our five closest acquaintances. And I have to ask who are you listening to every day? What is influencing your thought patterns? Don't be afraid to make changes in your life. I have said before that you may need to change your inner circle many times in your life. It's important to be surrounded by the right people who have the right influence for you. Don't be afraid to remove people from your life. Number three, confirmation bias reinforces our own position. How often do you feel passionate about a project or belief that you wanted to make sure you were thoroughly prepared by researching everything about it. But as you begin, you have preconceived notions about it. So you adjust your searches based on those preconceived ideas. When you begin by searching based on a preconceived notion, the information you get back will all seem to fit what you already believe to begin with, and then you confirm your initial idea. Confirmation is when we seek out information intentionally, that supports our idea or position. This happens because we are filtering out anything that doesn't support what we are doing or where we are going. Additionally, our experiences may serve to limit our growth, especially when someone suggests an idea to try and immediately the thought comes to you. Well, we tried that and it didn't work, or this is how we do it. So we don't want to explore new ideas. Be cautious and holding tight to your preconceived notions before you really look at the raw data. And then you may find some unique insights that you had initially dismissed. Number four, how do we overcome our bias? It always begins with self awareness and checking ourselves. How do we think how do we reach conclusions? Do we go into a problem solving situation or into a decision with a preconceived notion? Or do we do the research first? Do we lay out all the facts and assumptions and maybe ask a peer or a good friend to review it? I have another important question. Are you making an attribution error? Are you blaming or pinning blame on a problem? That is not the true root cause. This is when we quickly judge a situation and attribute blame when we don't know all the relevant facts. This is the danger of having preconceived notions, and even our experiences can lead us to a wrong conclusion. We need patience when we move to making a key decision. I suggest that we all be open to using a coach to address bias in our mindset. A good mentor may be able to help us to to address bias, be vulnerable enough to allow people to challenge you and how you think and perceive the world. When we are challenged, we may be able to reach new and more accurate conclusions, and thus a better decision. When we get into a conflict with someone we can easily become defensive and retreat into our own philosophy and beliefs. We seek out information and filter it to build our case, without considering other information that may help us resolve the conflict with reason. When you begin to reinforce our beliefs by ignoring irrelevant facts that may counteract what we are being challenged with. Even when we see an oppo was in fact in our research? How often would we adjust a search to find a statistic or a study or article that serves to refute what maybe we can ignore? Now for action today, when facing a decision or if you find yourself in a conflict, how do you address any preconceived notions as part of your process? How do you account for assumptions and assure you have included relevant and real facts into your analysis? Decision Making? Are you looking for only counter argument data? Are you seeking the truth? Are you open to admitting you are wrong? Once we can Admit and accept that we are not always right, then we begin to shape our leadership in a much better direction and also, our overall decision making will improve? Don't forget to grab my free guide for you called the leadership growth blueprint for finance and accounting managers. Are you a finance or accounting professional who is also leading people, but have questions about how to lead more effectively. I know you are expected to be the technical expert in our field. Learning leadership can set you apart from your peers, which can then lead you to more opportunities. In the free guide, I talked about three leadership areas, communication, team development, and empowerment. Plus a few recommendations around challenges with the financial systems you are using to complete your work. The link to this free guide is in the post or the bio, you can also go to Finance leader academy.com. To download it. Please use the guide to help you with a few leadership wins today. Thank you. So today I talked about understanding and overcoming our bias and I highlighted the following points. Number one building trust is the cornerstone of leadership. Number two root causes of our bias. Number three confirmation bias reinforces our own position. And for how do we overcome bias. If you carefully watch, you can see confirmation bias all around us. It's on social media, it's in professional journalism. It's in the court system. It's in big business and how politicians act. If you watch carefully, people will cling to their talking points that are filled with bias and the same old thinking. So I'm asking you to be better in your own analysis and everything you do in your life, for it will open your eyes to others, and open your eyes to a better understanding and how we solve problems. Leadership is always about improvement both across the team and for ourselves. Recognizing our bias as a key skill that can help us as we go throughout our career. Senior leaders who can recognize understand and account for any bias can help build a better organization. Now a reminder, this episode has been released close to the beginning of the month, and you are probably immersed in monthly clothes. As you perform your clothes activities. How can you make it better? Has bias creeped into the process? Or in the analysis? I'm sure it has. Are we giving what the senior leaders asked us to do? Or are we challenging the status quo? Are we seeing the same tiresome slides each month? Are we seeing analysis that provokes thinking? How can we do it better? This is what I always want you to do? How can we do this better. Next week we'll be talking about the need for new startup companies to add a finance professional early in their founding. This will add an a key leader who can help understand cash flow and profitability and bring legitimacy for future investors. I can't wait to share. I hope you enjoyed the finance leader podcast. I am dedicated to helping you grow your leadership skills to change your mindset and to clarify your goals so you advance your career. You can find this episode wherever you listen to podcasts. If this episode helped you today, please share it with others and please leave a quick review so that others may find the podcast. Until next time, you can check out more resources at financier academy.com and sign up for my weekly updates. Don't miss an episode of the show. And now to lead your team and I'll see you next time. Thank you