Are your biases in check?

November 20, 2019
By Rowan Belchers

I’ve recently worked with a number of clients on ‘Critical Thinking’ to help them better understand how they make business-related decisions. These included hiring decisions, strategy, investment approaches, views relating to culture, forecasting etc.

I concluded that good quality thinking was the lifeblood of success and that executive leaders who make crucial system-impacting decisions need to understand their biases far better than they currently do.

Positivity bias (thinking that things are better than they are) and confirmation bias (seeking evidence that supports your view and ignoring evidence that doesn’t) are the two most pervasive reasons for bad decisions.

We all have biases – they are natural. They can’t be fully eradicated but they can be watched in order to keep them in check.

Some important CEO-specific biases might include:

  • That the SA economy will bounce back.

  • That your employees will remain with you regardless of the effort you make on their behalf.

  • That your health will hold, regardless of the attention you pay to it.

  • That innovation in your business will happen naturally and that you don’t have to intentionally disrupt yourself.

  • That you have all the skills you need to succeed – now and into the future.

  • That your revenue and profit forecasts will hold true.

  • That your Strategy is competitive and success-creating.

  • That your competitors are not better than you.

  • That the 4th Industrial Revolution (and all that it means for the world of work) won’t impact you anytime soon.

  • Your marriage/family can withstand any amount of your travel, stress, distraction you bring into it.

The impact of these potentially false positions is profound. They can literally make or break a business or, at best, hold a business back from its fullest potential.

They are likely more impactful on your business than years and years worth of blood, sweat and tears in that no amount of endeavour can counteract an uncompetitive strategy. Think about that for a minute …

I’ve written about safety as it relates to Leadership before, and I feel that being clear about your CEO-specific biases falls into this category. As your thinking as a system-leader has a massive effect on your staff and customers, your thinking patterns need to be well-understood.

 If you’d like to read more about this, ‘Enlightenment Now’ by Steven Pinker is an excellent and important read.

Rowan Belchers

Rowan Belchers is the founder and CEO of Lockstep, a business leadership consultancy. Lockstep works with CEO’s, executive teams and future leaders across the African continent, partnering with clients who seek customised leadership solutions. Rowan is a highly respected advisor to CEOs with over two decades’ experience in guiding businesses and their leaders towards reaching their fullest potential. Rowan leads The CEO Project, a Lockstep initiative.
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