In last week’s blog post we looked at some of the ways in which leaders can be oblivious to information just out of view. Understandably, information outside the forefront is harder to observe, but it may be the most critical to obtain. This week we’ll be looking at the final pitfall many leaders experience when making important decisions – simply not wanting to see the truth of the situation they’re dealing with.
Not Wanting to See the Truth
Oversights caused by ineffective thinking seem innocent and unintentional. However, those caused by self-serving motives deservedly draw more criticism. Emotional blind spots are problematic, but rejecting unfavourable data is inexcusable.
Some leaders believe everything must go their way, with a predetermined outcome in mind. They include only the information that supports their position and overlook anything to the contrary.
Pride also impacts perception. Some leaders think they have nothing left to learn. Additional information isn’t required because they know it all and are convinced they’re right. Overconfidence or conceit ruins their judgment.
A seasoned sales director, for example, may push aside the latest customer price target information, boasting of his successful track record. He insists his charm and negotiating skills will close the deal. Unfortunately, all the good-ol’ boys are gone, and his customers are now sharp, methodical number crunchers who can outthink him.
Taken to an extreme, a prideful bias becomes a conflict of interest. Leaders make decisions to benefit themselves, either directly or indirectly, at the expense of colleagues or the organization itself. This behaviour is typically rooted in fear of failure.
Conflicted leaders are extremely difficult to work with. The challenge increases with leaders who refuse to admit mistakes and intentionally disregard data that damage their position or self-esteem. Leaders most interested in saving face cause catastrophic problems: failed projects, staff resentment and disengagement, and declining team performance.
Some CEOs are known for inflating their reputations by acknowledging only positive achievements as they prepare to face their board of directors. Information that disfavours their leadership is cast aside.
Leaders who request assistance from a reliable colleague, mentor, or executive coach will minimize prideful bias, Dr. Bazerman suggests. Feedback from someone who monitors your style and behaviours allows you to recognize prideful tendencies and minimize the roadblocks they cause in your decision-making.
Better observation skills lead to improved insights, decisions, and results. You have only one opportunity to get something right the first time. Make it happen by seeing as much as you can.
If you would like help getting past some of your leadership biases so you can see and properly evaluate all of the available information, I am happy to help! Our leadership coaching program is completely customizable to suit your needs.