Our conference rooms become extremely crowded with everyone’s biases. Those biases are barriers to progress.
Business biases becomes most apparent during cross-functional meetings and critical presentations. Business bias gets you and your company good and stuck, spinning your wheels in business muck.
It doesn’t have to be that way. Let’s explore together.
Business bias is a set of opinions, or way of thinking, that heavily favors one outcome, person or group when compared with another. The prevailing thinking, or bias, usually is not equitable.
Business bias has root causes. These root causes are based on corporate culture, historical disagreements, personality conflicts, epic departmental fiefdoms, siloed business models. Certain individuals, teams and departments “seem” to be favored over others. This mindset and behavior appear set in stone, from your side of the business table.
Business bias has a particular set of dynamics as well. Conversations sound one-sided and rapidly become stalemated. Collaboration is non-existent. Employees are reluctant, if not fearful, of rocking the boat (and prodding those elephants in the room). Certain individuals, from certain departments sitting around the business table, always seem to dominate and “have their way.”
When you and your team learn to identify and understand the context of the business bias you encounter each day you are better able to anticipate it and diffuse it. Let’s take a look how.
Anticipate the sets of business bias in every conference room you enter. From your side of the business table, who are the key players with the key personas who are impediments to forward progress?
- Naysayers crawl out of the woodwork whenever there is a decision to be made. They are experts, but not decision makers. These people defeat ideas, processes or sales with their mantra: “But we’ve always done it this way.” Well, from their side of the business table, why would this statement make sense?
- Delayers are decision makers in search of reasons not to make a decision. Decisions involve time, effort and risk in order to create a reward. (Hint: they often invite the naysayers to the meeting to do their dirty work!) The delayer’s mantra: “That’s a great idea. We will put it on the agenda for consideration in next year’s budget.” Well, do they have a point?
- Derailers are folks you decide to work around, leave out of planning conversations or avoid because they intimidate you. Trouble is, these folks are decision makers in charge of finance or legal or manufacturing operations. They are the very allies you need on your side before you go into that meeting. Their mantra: “Come back when you have your details in order and we can discuss.” This one is on you.
Diffuse business bias before it ever gets up a head of steam. Business bias from these three significant personas is now a known entity to you and your team. How can you incorporate your knowledge into preparing for your next presentation?
- What happens when you walk in their shoes and sit in their seats at the business table. Is there a solid historical as well as rational basis for their opinions and mindset?
- Are there certain individuals and teams who understand these dynamics and personas better than your team does? What type of advance work and knowledge-gathering is involved?
- How might you and your team impact the outcome of your presentation if you decided to approach certain naysayers and derailers and ask for their insights prior to a critical presentation?
- How can you and your team become more proactive about the types of issues and questions which may arise? Anticipate how you can respond. Chances are this is the tack the successful teams take.
When you understand the root causes, dynamics and personas of business bias, you and your team are better able to anticipate and diffuse the typical, status quo outcome. Take the conversation in a direction that the naysayers, derailers and delayers hadn’t anticipated.
Your goal is for these folks to say: “I hadn’t ever thought about it that way before.” That is an “Aha!” moment. You re-build your own habits, and your team’s success, in the process.
Now that’s a Big Idea!
Babette N. Ten Haken builds holistic, innovative, productive and profitable teams focused on excellence in the execution of strategy. Her Playbook on collaboration hacks, including tools, Do YOU Mean Business? is available on Amazon.com. You can learn more about how to diffuse the elephant in the room in Part One of the book.