To some extent, we’re all a little biased. The places we’ve seen, the people we’ve met, the organisations we’ve been a part of and the skills we’ve learnt along the way; they have all added their own special filter to how we view the world.
While these influences make us who we are as individuals - and can often work to our advantage as professionals – as leaders, these influences can lead us, and our teams, in the wrong direction.
Possessing the ability to step back and evaluate a situation to make a considered, rational and informed decision can separate the good leaders from the bad.
Here are some tips on how to be an objective leader:
1) Be aware of your biases.
While we might not do so intentionally, on a subconscious level we are always comparing ourselves to others – from appearances and mannerisms through to personality and behavioural traits.
We may bond with people that demonstrate similar traits as our own, we connect with people through shared experiences and backgrounds, and we unify together when a desired outcome is within reach.
While this might be natural human behaviour, as a leader, it’s your responsibility to ensure your own personal perceptions do not taint your objectivity.
Consider this: be aware that your background, behaviour, preferences and personality does have an impact on how you perceive situations (and other people), and try to avoid letting these assumptions become an influencing factor. Self-reflecting and seeking insight about your own preferences, behaviours and attitudes can be a very powerful way to identify, and manage, potential bias.
2) Recognise your reactions.
Your emotions can act as a powerful influencer – helping you to form worthwhile connections with other people. However, be aware that your emotional reactions can just as easily skew facts and perceptions; having a strong influence on your judgement.
For instance, let’s say you’ve witnessed bullying in the workplace at a previous organisation. Any hints of similar behaviour will most likely evoke the same emotions you felt at the time – even if the situation, intention and context is completely different.
As a result, the current situation may trigger an emotional reaction or response that is not warranted and could potentially damage relationships with your colleagues or alter how you are perceived by others.
Consider this: before you react, separate the emotion from the situation and carefully consider the facts at hand. This way, you may remain more impartial and can adopt a different perspective regarding the situation. There are lots of techniques that you can use to help manage a range of reactions in such situations. Also, don’t be afraid to ask questions to gain further understanding, or perhaps seek a second opinion for advice.
3) Cater to the individual.
While you may have honest, trust-based relationships with people in your team, remember, you’ll never be privy to all the intricacies and nuances that drive your colleagues – most people tend to keep their pain points, insecurities, preferences or motivators buried far from the surface.
It’s easy to make assumptions about people and their work performance based solely on “face value” without knowing what goes on behind the scenes.
For example, one person might perform well in a high-pressure, deadline-driven situation, while another who may struggle in the same situation, could thrive in a quieter environment where they can work at their own pace. Assuming one person is better or harder working than the other is not only incorrect, but damaging to the overall performance of your team.
Consider this: it’s up to you as a leader to find ways to best support the individuals in your team. Being aware of your people’s abilities, preferences and motivators can give you a clearer understanding of their behaviour, both as individuals and how they work together as a group.
Our psychometric tool Pulse examines the underlying preferences and drivers that influence how people respond to different situations and demands, such as change, problem-solving, challenges, and collaboration. It provides data-driven insights that identify ways to get the best out of people in your team.
4) Embrace collaborative thought.
Sure, you don’t want to get everyone involved - ‘too many cooks in the kitchen’ and all that – but there is a lot to gain and very little to lose (besides some time) by asking for other people’s feedback.
I mean, imagine if the people behind the Pepsi/Kendall Jenner ad campaign were a little more focused on seeking feedback from others before they launched the campaign? Could this have resulted in a different outcome?
But, besides avoiding crises, collaborating with your team and encouraging the contribution of new ideas will, in almost all cases, lead to a better outcome.
Consider this: create a free-sharing office environment where people’s ideas are encouraged and feedback is listened to – and if you don’t agree with them, try to remember that disagreement and constructive challenges can create better outcomes.
5) Don’t play the blame game.
When things go wrong, it’s easy to get upset, disappointed, or even angry – and it also becomes tempting to blame someone in your team for the mishap.
Anger is the easiest emotion to express – but behind anger often lies a deeper set of emotions we’d rather not deal with, such as the fear of failure or insecurity regarding your own knowledge, skillset or capabilities as a leader.
It’s a lot harder to admit that you’re responsible for your team’s actions and take it on the chin, instead.
Consider this: when you’re in a situation where things have turned pear-shaped, take a step back and objectively examine it with fresh eyes – and ask yourself what you could have done to prevent this situation from happening?
While it’s not always easy, and you’re not always going to get it right, remaining objective as a leader is becoming increasingly necessary – particularly as organisations are trying to navigate the challenges that come with the new world of work. The key here is insight – do your best to develop a better understanding of your team, and of yourself, and put these learnings to good use on a day-to-day basis.