We know from people manager assessment center data that managers play a critical role in team decision making biases. They need to help employees make the right decisions in the right way at the right speed. Team leaders need to make sure to provide team members with decision making training that teaches teams how to clarify the decision to be made, follow a consistent decision making process, and communicate decisions for greater commitment.
All well and good. But there is a missing piece: how to lessen the effect of biases that could have a negative effect on the outcome.
We think of bias as a kind of prejudice more often against than in favor of something, someone, or some group. It usually is applied in a way that is closed-minded or unfair. In the extreme, it can be inherently problematic (as in science and engineering where it is considered a systematic error) and even illegal (as a bias in hiring).
The problem is that cognitive biases are often unconscious. What teams need to do to make fair, unbiased decisions is to be acutely aware of how bias can rear its ugly head.
Top Team Decision Making Biases to Overcome
New manager training participants tell us that teams need to learn to root out the following biases that can negatively skew their decisions:
- The Bias toward the Familiar
We are almost naturally prejudiced toward those who are similar to ourselves. This bias shows up most often in those we hire or promote. We avoid those who appear different. A huge mistake. We know the value of diversity in background, thinking, and approach. The best decisions are made after an open and broad-based sharing of ideas.
- The Bias toward Action
Decisions are difficult to make. We often race to action to avoid the pain and hard work of considering all the facts at our disposal. Fair and well-considered decisions are made with patience and with a concerted effort to weigh all relevant information and perspectives.
- The Bias toward Personal Experience
Experienced and accomplished leaders are especially prone to this bias. They tend to feel that their experience is more valuable than the experience of others. Managers need to be open to others’ views so that the decision reflects a broader life experience.
- The Bias toward Security
Most of us prefer to avoid loss. In fact, studies show that we prefer not to lose over the potential of gain. This tendency battles with smart business decisions where measured risk taking makes good fiscal sense.
- The Bias toward What’s Near
This bias is reflected in our preference for those people and their ideas who are in close proximity over those who are at a distance. Think of how we are apt to pay more attention to those in the room at a Zoom meeting than to those remote colleagues on the screen.
The Bottom Line
The best defense against letting negative biases invade the decision making process is understanding how they can sabotage our thinking. Managers, do you have a process for mitigating the power of bias and improving the health of your decision making culture?
To learn more about top team decision making biases to overcome, download 3 Steps to Set Your Team Up to Make Better Decisions