Gender Diversity: The New Balanced Scorecard

G. Shawn Hunter is the author of OUT THINK: How Innovation Leaders Drive Exceptional Outcomesas well as Vice President and Executive Producer for Skillsoft’s leadership video-learning products.

 

“People who are right most of the time are people who change their minds often.”
– Jeff Bezos

 

In his wonderful book, Stumbling on Happiness, Harvard researcher Daniel Gilbert points out that often our best bet for making decisions we will both enjoy and benefit from is to ask our peers who have made similar decisions.  Gilbert’s advice before embarking on an important decision is to ask someone whom we trust, who has also made the decision we are contemplating, and follow their advice.  And as Gilbert points out, once we learn their point of view on the matter, we often refuse that advice on the grounds that our situation is different.  We reject their advice claiming, “But I’m unique! How could they possibly know what’s best for me?”

 

Research conclusion: The inability to accept outside advice and insight increases with power.

 

More recent research concludes that this inability to accept outside advice and insight only increases with power.  The more power and resources controlled by an individual, the more confident they tend to be in their decision-making and the less they tend to listen and be influenced by outside opinions and points of view.  However, in their study women were often an exception.

In two phases of the study, women tended to be more open to outside points of view regardless of their position of power within the organization.  In their study entitled “The detrimental effects of power on confidence, advice taking, and accuracy,” Kelly See and her colleagues discovered that women more often reported less certainty in their decisions than men and solicited the advice and opinions of their colleagues more.  Most interestingly, because women more often solicited the opinion and advice of their colleagues, they were viewed by their peers as more confident leaders.

So while they may have lacked confidence in their decisions, women were regarded as more confident and effective leaders precisely because they asked for advice from their peers.

How to Overcome Leadership Blindspots

 

When you first learn to drive, do you remember learning about blind spots?  The driving instructor likely emphasized it repeatedly.

I can remember my driving instructor saying, “Check your blind spot before you change lanes.  Your life depends on it and so does mine!”

They are called blind spots for a reason.  They are not visible, not readily apparent, and are easily missed.

Author Robert Bruce Shaw has just released a new book called Leadership Blindspots.  I had the opportunity to ask him a few questions about his new book and the challenges facing leaders.

 

A blindspot is an unrecognized weakness or threat that has the potential to undermine a leader’s success.

 

The Need For An Early Warning System

 

“Vision is the art of seeing what is invisible to others.” –Jonathan Swift

 

You discuss the balancing act that all leaders face.  That is the need to be both supremely confident and yet also see situations accurately with no distortion.  It’s always easy to look in the rear view mirror and judge leaders, but how does a leader know early enough to change course?Robert Bruce Shaw

Leaders need warning systems that signal trouble ahead.  Savvy leaders, for example, have a group of trusted advisors whose role, in part, is to surface vulnerabilities that a leader may overlook.  Or, some leaders assign “sentinels” to track data on emerging competitive threats and report out periodically on what they are finding.  I also describe in the book ongoing leadership practices that are useful in seeing threats early in the game, such as having regular contact with customers and front-line colleagues.  These techniques don’t tell a leader if and when to change course – but they provide the information needed to make that decision. 

 

Levels of Blindness

 

You have a chapter on this, but I want to ask:  How do you spot a blindspot if you are blind to it?

Keep in mind that there are levels of blindness.  There are times when leaders are completely blindsided by a weakness or threat and other situations when they are partially aware of a weakness or threat but fail to understand its potential impact or the need for action.  That said, you can simply ask a few people who know you well if they think you have any blindspots.  You then probe in specific areas as needed – for example, blindspots in how you view your own leadership team or the capabilities of your organization.  Ask for specific examples in each area they identify.  Another approach is to examine the mistakes you have made over your career and look for patterns in the causes of those mistakes.  If repeated over time, mistakes are valuable in pointing to an unrecognized weakness that will most likely surface again in the future.

 

Blindspots always come with a price.

 

 

Critical Leadership Skill:  Peripheral Vision

Seeing what others miss—what you call peripheral vision—is a critical leadership skill.  What techniques help improve a leader’s peripheral vision?