108: Combat Unhelpful Cognitive Biases

The brain works in mysterious ways, many of which were designed to help us survive in the wild thousands of years ago. Those same functions, though, can also get in the way of us being our best as managers.

Logistically, the most obvious way to make email more manageable is to just have fewer emails coming in. But in reality, this might actually be the hardest thing to make happen because we’re not totally in control of how many emails we receive every day.

This week I walk through 3 cognitive biases and 1 cognitive state that may be inhibiting you from achieving managerial greatness and building a healthy team environment.

The full episode guide includes an overview of each topic, questions for reflection and actions you can take to overcome these unhelpful states. Get it when you join the Modern Manager community or purchase the full guide at themodernmanager.com/shop.

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Read the related blog article: Don’t Let Cognitive Biases Get in the Way of Being a Great Manager

Key Takeaways:

  • Cognitive biases are the systematic ways in which the context and framing of information influence our judgment and decision-making.
  • This Actor-Observer bias says that when something negative happens to me, I blame the situation or circumstances. But when that same negative thing happens to someone else, I blame the person – their choices, behaviors, values or personality.
  • For managers, this may impact how you view a poor performer or when a mistake or failure occurs.
  • To avoid mis-attributing something negative to the person, check in with them. Use the conversation to gather more information in order to have a more informed understanding of the context and the person.
  • The Recency Effect says that we tend to remember or over-weigh the most recent information we have access to.
  • For managers, this is particularly important when giving feedback or annual performance reviews.
  • To combat this, gather data across time so you can look for trends and have accurate information without relying on your memory.
  • The Negativity Bias says we tend to register negative content more easily than positive, and we tend to dwell on the negative more than the positive.
  • For managers, this may impact what feedback you provide, making it more likely to find criticisms and issues and not celebrating wins or sharing appreciation often enough.
  • To counterbalance this, incorporate time for gratitude into your day or week and take time to celebrate the positives with your whole team.
  • Cognitive Dissonance is the mental conflict of holding two conflicting beliefs or seeing the disconnect between two things that are true for you but don’t logically make sense together.
  • For managers, this may appear when we receive feedback or discover that how we perceive ourselves is not how others perceive us, fostering defensiveness or dismissal of others’ opinions.
  • When trying to reduce the uncomfortable state of cognitive dissonance, accept that your behavior may have been interpreted differently and that’s OK. Consider how you might adjust it to better match your beliefs and intentions.

Additional Resources:


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