(A 5-part series on Cognitive Biases that Waste Talent)
Joe has an unexpected opportunity to prove himself in the role of an interim leader. He is a hard worker and respected among his co-workers and is anxious to do such a good job in the interim role that he will be the top contender for the role on a permanent basis.
As he is preparing to attend a meeting with higher level executives, he groans. Katherine, an Executive Director, will be there. He met her a few months ago at a networking event and stumbled over his words and basically just froze. He knows he made a horrible first impression. How can he face her again and, more importantly, how can he convince her that he is more than just that negative first impression?
Joe’s fear is based on reality. First impressions are extremely powerful and hard to overcome. This is called “attribution bias,” where someone, in this case Katherine, may always look at Joe as the awkward person who couldn’t speak a cohesive sentence. Joe is an introvert and finds that he often struggles with impromptu speaking when he is nervous, especially in social settings. But that doesn’t mean he can’t be a great leader.
While Katherine should definitely be aware of attribution biases against people like Joe, Joe has some action items as well:
- Prepare: In meetings with Katherine, Joe should understand the role he is expected to play and he should make sure he is prepared to meet, if not exceed, that expectation;
- Research: Joe should learn about Katherine so he can identify points of connection;
- Network: Joe will probably have to invest time in building a professional relationship with Katherine so she can get to know him better. This could include scheduling one-on-one discussions, developing a mentor/mentee relationship, or periodically seeing if she wants to grab lunch together.
Attribution bias is just one of the cognitive biases that waste talent in organizations. To make sure you see all five parts of this series, you can connect with me on LinkedIn, or sign up for my newsletter, where I provide links to my articles and blog posts (but don’t overwhelm you with too many emails). You can also email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with specific questions or feedback!
About the Author: Lorraine McCamley is the owner of Boldly Quiet Consulting and the author of the book Boldly Quiet: The Introvert’s Guide to Developing the Mindset of a Successful Leader. She spent years as an executive in the corporate world feeling that being an introvert was something to be ashamed of or fixed. She now coaches quiet professionals, helping them understand and embrace who they are so they can authentically and effectively lead others. Lorraine is a Gallup-Certified Strengths Coach and holds a master’s degree in Organizational Dynamics from the University of Pennsylvania.