Overcoming bias to become better leaders
What we learned at the Women in Gaming Workshop San Francisco
As you might know, today marks National Women in Engineering Day, a moment to raise the profile of women in engineering and focus attention on the amazing career opportunities available to girls. At Unity we’re proud to do our small part to help develop women and girls as they pursue their careers: our women in gaming series, focused on skill-building for women in technology, has taken us from Amsterdam to San Francisco for a second session. This week 75 attendees gathered for a fun and informative discussion with UC Berkeley Haas School of Business Professor Dana Carney. An affiliate of the psychology department, Professor Carney studies ordinary, non-verbal behaviors and social situations. And what’s more social than the workplace? With a focus on skill-building and developing women in their careers, Professor Carney discussed how to improve the ability to lead and influence by understanding and leveraging inherent bias.
While it was a wide-ranging talk, I wanted to share some takeaways that I hope will shed a little light on how you can use natural tendencies to hone your influential leadership skills, especially in group decision-making scenarios. She also reminded the audience several times that we are in fact “all just animals.” :)
Every day we make decisions, from a new hire to a timeline for deployment or the tools on which we’ll build our next invention. We are judged on our conviction and the ability to sway and influence others in order to make decisions collectively. In the process we often demonstrate bias, which a) isn’t always valid and b) is “evidence” that’s tough to double-down on, especially when you are asked to defend your position or convince others to follow.
Professor Carney explained that intuition is simply the brain acting on pattern recognition. By getting to the root of what factors shape and influence these patterns, we can move beyond intuition to rational thought, to foster more productive communication. In turn, you’re better positioned as an influential leader who can tap into individual strengths and draw forth critical information which adds up to — you guessed it — faster, more logical collective decision-making.
To boost your team’s collective strength and productivity (meaning…being a better leader!), keep these things in mind:
- Acknowledge bias: we all have them, and they can often carry undue influence. Rather than sweep them under the rug, put them on the table and give them a hard look. By acknowledging our potential biases, we limit their power to influence decisions.
- Diversity has real impact: diverse thinking comes from diverse bodies and experiences. It’s a no-brainer, but different opinions should be considered a strength. Seek conflict, and drive thorough discussion. Your business will be better for it: research shows businesses with more women see greater rates of innovation, rational decision-making, and increased sales and revenue.
- Beware premature consensus: Don’t feel the need to agree right off the bat. Healthy debate is more beneficial, as long as teammates trust each other. Conflict should be about the information presented, not personal relationships. As a leader, keep the team focused on a goal — getting shared information to drive a decision — we can unlock the minds of everyone present and the true benefits of group think.
Huge thanks to Professor Carney for her time, and everyone who joined us. Our next event will take place in Shanghai, and we’re back in San Francisco in September (register now). Keep an eye on the blog for updates, and we hope to see you soon!
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